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Jean and Leon Klatt

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Fall 2017

December 13, 2017

We've been home for about 2 months and the beautiful comfortable days of autumn have been replaced by early winter temperatures. All the leaves have fallen from the trees, and when the sun isn't shinning a gloominess hangs outside.

With the first cold spell in November our heating system failed to work when we changed the system to the heating mode. Since our HVAC system is 32 years old we discussed whether the time had come to bit the bullet and install a new system. But before doing that we decided to call a HVAC service company to diagnosis the problem. Fortunately, the service technician was very familiar with our unit - they had installed many of them in the 1980s, but Amana hasn't manufactured this unit for almost 20 years and replacement parts haven't been available for at least 15 years. He determined that the problem was a control relay in the burner module. Leon described how he had been nursing this system for many years, and he suggested I go to the local electrical parts supplier to get a replacement relay. Fortunately, they had a compatible substitute, which cost only $10.43. So for a total cost of $95.43 the heating system was fixed, and we are nice and warm - it pays to have an understanding of mechanical sytems.

We will be spending the Christmas season at home because we were unable to complete all the medical check-ups before our scheduled departure date for the Rio Grande Valley. Yes, we miss our Winter Texan family, the Happy Hours, and other social events! We set out the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Putting ornaments on the Christmas tree brought back many memories from the times when the kids were still at home; there was joy but also some sadness associated with the house decorating task.

October 7, 2017

We arrived home about 3:30 PM on September 27th. The travel home was uneventful. It feels good to be home once again.

The house was just as we had left it last May. Although the grass had been cut regularly, the weeds in the mulched areas of the yard hadn't been addressed all summer; it took five days of hard work to get these areas looking respectable again. Another day's work is required to shred all the small limbs that have fallen from the trees and were piled by the lawn care staff at two different locations in the yard - this material will become mulch for Jean's bulb garden.

We have started the fall visits to doctors and the dentist. From our perspective, our health is good.

Visitors to this web site may have noticed that it was unavailable for almost two weeks during the middle part of September. The problem was a catastrophic failure of the web site servers. This resulted in lose of all materials stored on the servers as well as all of the account information. Fortunately, the original material is also stored on our laptop and desktop computers.  Once the servers were restored and the account reestablished the web site was rebuilt by uploading the material. The only part that had to be reconstructed was the information on this web page from this summer. This latest update brings the content up-to-date.

Summer 2017

September 20, 2017

In late August Doles Orchard, Limington, ME had peaches and purple and yellow plums. There is nothing like eating a ripe peach immediately after picking it from the tree. Jean prepared and froze two peach pie fillings, which we will share with friends this coming winter. The plums were especially good; one had to bit into them with care or you were going to wear it.

On August 28th we celebrated Leon's birthday with a lobster dinner for the entire family. Lizzie claims that Grandpa got a little tipsy from the wine, which is probably true; however, the wine provided an excellent complement to the steamed mussels and clams, boiled lobsters and sweet corn, and a fresh broccoli salad. The evening finished with an ice cream and strawberries dessert around the campfire.

On September 1st we wished Lizzie best wishes as she left for Smith College. We visited her on September 16th; she gave us a wonderful tour of the campus - thanks Lizzie.

On September 9th the entire family celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary with a wonderful dinner at DiMillo's, which is a floating restaurant on Portland's waterfront. If a viewer of this web page is planning a trip to Portland, ME, we definitely recommend having a dinner at DiMillo's - the free parking on the waterfront while having dinner is an excellent feature.

With the cooler evenings we had many campfires using wood from Jeff's wood pile; we made a significant dent into his supply but there is plenty left for next season.

Late last May we taught Steve how to play the card game "Oh Hell" (The New Complete Hoyle, Garden City Books, Garden City, NY, 1947, pp. 464 - 467.). He took to "Oh Hell" and that is all we played with him and Jeff. Grandma was often the low scorer, and Steve took delight in defeating her. When all four of us weren't available Steve and Grandma played "Gin Rummy;" over the summer Grandma and Steve were about even in "Gin Rummy" wins.

Our summer in Maine is coming to a close; we tentatively plan to leave for Oak Ridge on September 25th, which, assuming problem free travel, will get us home on September 27th. The summer went by too fast. We will miss the friends we've made at Wassamki Springs Campground with whom we played games one evening each week, went to lunch at a different eatery about every week, and shared many good conversations. We look forward to seeing everyone next season.

August 20, 2017

On July 28th we celebrated Steve's 17th birthday with a pizza dinner at the "Flatbread Restaurant" located on the Portland waterfront. It is hard to grasp the fact that he will be a senior in high school this fall.

Blueberry picking at Doles Orchard, Limington, ME continues and the freezer is full. We've been having a lobster dinner about once a week.

In late July we took a three day trip to Bar Harbor, ME. We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon, and after checking in we immediately caught the bus to the Village Square in Bar Harbor to transfer to a bus that goes to Jordon Pond. The blueberry popover sundae on the lawn overlooking Jordon Pond was unbelievable delicious. The next day we took a drive around the part of Desert Island that isn't part of Acadia National Park. The population density is much greater than we had expected. Later that afternoon we hiked along the ocean shore between Sand Beach and Otter Point; the views of the rocky shore along this trail are especially scenic. That evening we stopped at the "Thirsty Wale" for what we think is the best clam chowder available in Bar Harbor.

On the second Sunday of August we had a family picnic lunch on the grounds of Peak Island Elementary School. Peak Island is about a 20 minute ferry ride from Portland's waterfront. We went out there to view a mural that Lizzie designed and created last school year with the assistance of other students from Baxter Academy for Science & Technology. Unfortunately the mural had not been mounted yet, so a return trip next summer will be required.

Lizzie joined us on the mail ferry route that serves the inhibited islands in Casco Bay; this ferry also takes supplies to the various islands. This trip takes about three hours, and was a wonderfully peaceful afternoon. Upon arrive back at the waterfront we had a wonderful dinner with Lizzie at a Japanese restaurant near the Old Port section of Portland.

Steve tried out for Gorham High School golf team. To make the team he had to shoot under 55 for nine holes - he made the cutoff, now he needs to improve his game so he gets selected for match play during the fall golf season.

July 20, 2017

We had a special experience on July 4th - we watched the Portland fireworks from the deck of the Harvey Gamage. This outing was arranged by the Baxter Academy for Science & Technology. The schooner Harvey Gamage is a tall ship based at the Portland, ME Yacht Services Yard. It is a gaff rigged topsail schooner; the sparred length is 131 feet, the beam of 24 feet, and the rig height of 91 feet. The mission of Tall Ships Portland is to encourage character building of youth through sail training, support education under sail, and promote sail training to the public in Maine. The crew during this sail were students. We boarded about 4:30 PM and departed the dock about a half-hour later and sailed amongst the islands of Casco Bay. After passing under the Casco Bay bridge we helped hoisting the sail, and our grandson got a lesson in rope coiling. We dropped anchor about 8:30 PM approximately one-half mile off the shore from the East Promenade of Portland. The spectacular fireworks display lasted about 45 minutes. We returned to dock about 11:30 PM.

On July 7th we celebrated Jean's birthday with a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Gorham, ME.

Strawberry season has ended; we have 14 quarts in the freezer that we will enjoy this coming winter. Blueberry picking has started; needless to say, we will be eating fresh blueberries for several weeks and freezing as much as the freezer can accommodate.

Since about July 4th the weather has been very nice. We go golfing about once a week, and Steve has been joining us. On our last outing Steve finally beat Leon. On the par-5 ninth hole both of us were on the green with three strokes. Steve one putted for a birdie and Leon three putted for a bogey turning a one stroke lead into a one stroke lose. Steve's scores have been getting better on each outing. Leon doesn't think he'll be able to beat Steve many more times - oh, the advantage of youth.

Spring 2017

June 14, 2017

We've been at our summer campground in Maine for three weeks. The weather hasn't been very agreeable - quite cool and wet until last Sunday when the high temperature hit 90 degrees. So we went from needing the furnace to needing AC in just 24 hours. Hopefully, things will return to near normal temperatures soon.

The first days of June were eventful. Our granddaughter Lizzie received awards as part of Baxter Academy's year end honors ceremony. Then on June 3, 2017 she graduated - see the Family/Friends Pictures web page for additional comments and pictures. Needless to say we are very proud of Lizzie's accomplishments.

May 26, 2017

We arrived at our summer campground in Maine on May 24th; the trip was safe and without any problems, although the distance seems to be getting longer each year.

The current weather is cold - high temperature of 57 - so the furnace is getting a bit of a work out. Hopefully, the weather will turn warmer soon. The forecast for the Memorial Day weekend is for some sunshine with temperatures rising to near 70 degrees.

Our departure for Maine was a week later than planned because of the delay in getting the hydraulic cylinders of the trailer landing gear rebuilt. This problem arose after we returned from Texas. The system would not hold the nose of the trailer up, which is an unacceptable condition. Based upon comments found on RV websites, the problem is caused by leaking seals in the cylinders and appears to be related to the hydraulic system manufacturer outsourcing the hydraulic system to a Chinese company; which if true, it is another example of the poor quality of items manufactured in China, but if false, the manufacturer of the hydraulic system has a serious product quality problem.

Leon also spent a day of hard work repairing the air ducts of the trailer. The flexible air ducts are constructed from thin plastic film surrounding spiral wire. Two the air ducts had major holes requiring replacement. The task required working from the cramped storage compartment. With the ducts repaired the air flow from the heat vents inside the living area of the trailer is better than it has ever been. Leon theorizes that the breaks in the heating ducts were caused when the electrical surge protector was installed at the time the trailer was built.

April 27, 2017

We've been home for approximately six weeks.

The yard clean-up took about two weeks to complete. The biggest task involved raking up the nuts from the Ginkgo tree - the crop last fall yielded seven twenty-gallon garbage cans full of nuts that were disposed of as yard waste at the city waste convenience center. The next big task was the sweet-gum balls; the front yard was raked three times yielding a total of 17 bushels of shredded material that we use as compost.

We're almost done with our semi-annual medical visits. Nothing has been discovered that will prevent us from continuing to travel with the RV. Thus, we plan to spend the summer in Maine visiting our son's family. We hope to leave for Maine no later than May 15th.

The weather was cool until about two weeks ago when the daily high temperatures rose to near 80 degrees; this allowed us to enjoy our screened in porch. The last few days have been very wet; the area is finally coming out of the drought that started last summer and continued through the past winter.

Winter 2017

March 7, 2017

During our last month in the Rio Grande Valley we attended two cultural performances at the La Joya High School. La Joya is a small community located about 30 miles west of Donna, TX. The first event was a Conjunto music audition organized by the Texas Folklife, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and presenting the diverse culture of Texas. The audition participants age span was 14 to 20 years old. Each participant played two Conjunto pieces on the button accordion - sheet music was not allowed. Additional auditions were held in several communities in south Texas, and the top performers from each audition will participate in the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest in Austin on April  22nd. The genres include conjunto, polka, and zydeco.  The winner of each genre will receive a $4,000 prize package and the opportunity to perform at the legendary Texas Folklife Accordion Concert scheduled for Houston in June. Following the auditions we attended the Conjunto concert presented by the three high schools in the La Joya Independent School District. Conjunto music is unique to the border region of Texas, but has it roots in northern Mexico. A Conjunto group is composed of a button accordion player, at least two guitars, and a drummer. The music beat is similar to the polka, making it lively and loud. It is interesting to note that the button accordion was introduced into Mexico by German and Czechoslovakian immigrants to Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century. The second event was a combined Folkloric Dance and Mariachi and Conjunto music performance by the respective groups from La Joya High School. This was an absolutely wonderful afternoon of excellent music and dance performances by very talented high school students. It is interesting to note that these cultural items are integrated into the academic program in the La Joya Independent School District, and is an overt effort to not only preserve but enhance the culture of the Rio Grande Valley. We find these cultural aspects of south Texas very enjoyable. Some of the performance was video recorded and a short edited version can be viewed on the Travel Videos web page.

We departed Victoria Palms RV Resort on March 1st and arrived home on March 4th; the trip was safe and without any problems. We took the southern route so as to pass through Louisiana so Leon could have a boiled crawfish dinner. Yes, the crawfish tasted great!

The difficult part of passing through Houston on I-10 is the traffic congestion even during non-rush hour. It took about an hour and involved stop-and-go traffic on the west side of the city. Once we got to the downtown area the traffic moved along and we cleared the eastern suburbs in about one-third the time it took to pass through the western suburbs. We can't image having to deal with this traffic congestion everyday.

We found the house just as we had left it last November. The yard needs the usual clean-up, which is our first priority to get accomplished.

January 24, 2017

We are past the half-way point of our stay in the Rio Grande Valley this winter. We have kept ourselves busy doing a lot of nothing. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and it seems that strong winds have been more prevalent this winter.

Leon has started a night stand project at the resort's woodshop but completion will accomplished at home. The woodshop will have a chili supper and a live auction fund raising project in mid-February. Leon will assist with food serving during the chili supper, which requires him to obtain a State of Texas food handling license. Leon has made two napkin holders for the auction; these items have brought good prices at previous auctions.

Jean has gone to a few water aerobatics sessions at the resort's pool. She plays cards and Mexican Train Dominoes with the other ladies of our Winter Texan Family.

Last Monday the retirees from the church we attend while in the Valley toured a winery located north of Mission, TX. This was interesting, particularly since we had no idea that grapes would grow in this climate, especially since the summers are very hot. The first weekend of February we plan to attend a Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX. Later in the month we plan to attend a Ballet Folkloric performance at UT-RGV.

We will leave for Oak Ridge on March 1, 2017. The next news update will be made after we arrive home, unless something news worthy happens between now and then.

Fall 2016

December 9, 2016

We arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX Thursday, December 1, 2016 about mid-afternoon. The travel from Oak Ridge was uneventful, except of the heavy rain we encountered as we traveled between Nashville and Memphis. The other members of our Winter Texan Family were waiting for us to arrive; it was great to greet them again. The first Happy Hour started about 1 hours after we parked the trailer.

We are working into our routine. Leon has started woodworking projects at the Resort's woodshop. Jean played the first afternoon of "hand-and-foot" this past Wednesday. We attended a Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX last Saturday afternoon. The Mariachi concerts are presented by the Music Department at UT-RGV; this Mariachi program is recognized as the best in the United States. Even though we don't understand Spanish, we thoroughly enjoy these concerts because of the multi-talented students that make up the Mariachi group - many of the group members play an instrument as well as perform the vocals. On Sunday afternoon we attended TUBA CHRISTMAS. This event is organized by the Music Department at UT-RGV and featured about 450 tube and euphonium players from the Rio Grande Valley. This year's performance marked the 28th consecutive TUBA CHRISTMAS. Most of the program consisted of familiar Christmas carols. It is wonderful to see this many young people providing something for the larger community.

The weather has been very comfortable until two nights ago when a cold front passed through the Valley. Temperatures dropped into the lower 40s with a cold north wind and rain. Today the high is forecast to be only 48 degrees. The forecast high for Sunday is 82. These large swings in temperature are typical of the winter in the Valley, so one never puts the long pants or shorts too deep in the closet.

November 20, 2016

Fall weather finally arrived yesterday morning. Since we arrived home the temperatures have been unseasonably warm with very dry conditions. We had not received a drop of rain until yesterday morning, and that was just enough to wet the driveway. The National Weather Service has classified this area of Tennessee as being in an "extreme drought." These conditions allowed us to complete the yard cleaning tasks and enjoy sitting on the back porch in the late afternoon while relaxing with a drink.  We also took several site seeing trips around the area to view the fall colors; of course, the trips were with the top down on the Miata and almost always involved a picnic lunch at a park.

The ginkgo trees in our yard are particularly beautiful this fall. We have a large specimen in the front yard, and an offspring of this tree in the east side yard. This latter tree was discovered growing in the leave mulch pile from where we transplanted it to its current location, is about 12 years old, and already is taller than our house. We also had two walnut trees and a persimmon tree removed from the back yard. Over the years these trees lost limbs resulting in unsightly specimens. We will transplant a ginkgo tree, a second offspring of the large ginkgo tree that we found growing in the leave mulch pile last spring. In about a decade this tree will provide a beautiful sight from our back porch.

All of our doctor appointments are complete, except for Leon's visit tomorrow that is a follow-up to a decrease in the dosage level of the blood pressure medication - data collected over the last month indicate the new dosage is probably satisfactory.

We also have been getting things completed for us to depart to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. All that remains are loading the trailer with food and clothes. We plan to depart November 28th with arrival at Victoria Palms RV Resort on December 1st. Most of our winter Texan Family members are already there, and we are looking forward to another winter of good times.

October 14, 2016

We arrived home in Oak Ridge on September 28, 2016, having departed Maine on September 26th. The travel home was uneventful, the kind of travel we always appreciate.

The house was just as we had left it; however, it was evident that the yard needed some "tender-love-and-care." The summer in Oak Ridge had been very dry and hot, with over 73 consecutive days from early June to mid August with high temperatures above 86 degrees . The grass had been cut but the natural areas had not been tended. So the task of pulling weeds and completing general clean-up started. Unfortunately, Leon came down with an upper respiratory track infection, probably associated with the sudden change from the weather in Maine to the fall allergen laden area of east Tennessee. So only about two hours of work could be accomplished each day. But as of the date of this entry the natural areas have been cleaned up and the place once again looks like we live here. And Leon's respiratory problems are on the mend.

We are currently completing our semi-annual medical check-ups. So far nothing unexpected has turned up.

We plan to remain in Oak Ridge until late November when we will leave for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to spend another winter at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas.

Summer 2016

August 26, 2016

We have about a month left to our stay in Maine. The weather has been unusually dry and temperatures above normal. Leon's shoulder has gotten better enabling him to practice at the golf driving range. The last two weeks we played a couple of rounds; the scores were poor but it felt good getting back on the course.

We've picked blueberries at least once a week during the past month and placed a dozen pint packages in the freeze - these will taste good this winter; if blueberries are good for a person's health then we are very healthy.

Lobster prices have remained fairly high this summer but that hasn't prevented us from having our weekly lobster dinner, which consists of steamed mussels and/or clams, fresh sweet corn on the cob, boiled lobster, and a bottle of white wine.

We have taken a couple of short trips around Maine.  A day trip to Boothbay, a former fishing village converted into a nice tourist attraction, and had a wonderful lunch on the patio of a restaurant overlooking the waterfront. Earlier this week we took a two day trip to Greenville, ME to scout out the Moosehead Lake region. Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in New England located about 150 miles north of Gorham, ME in Maine's north woods. Greenville is a small community located on the southern end of the Lake this is dependent on the tourist trade. We took a 3 hour cruise on the Lake aboard the "Katahdin," which was built in 1914 (The 63rd hull manufactured by the Bath Shipyard.) and originally steam powered but convert to diesel power in the 1920s. If one wants a place to relax with little to no distractions, this is a place to consider - not quite our "cup of tea."

Some excellent news - Lizzie received an A for the differential calculus course she took this summer from the University of Southern Maine. Congratulations for a job well done!

July 26, 2016

Post Season Baseball Update: Summer baseball season ended last Saturday. The Gorham Junior American Legion team (Our Grandson, Steve, is on the right end of the back row.) won the district post season tournament by beating Cheverus (This team represents Cheverus High School, a private school in Portland, ME.) with a score of 7 - 1; and then they beat the team from Windham, ME by a score of 5 - 0. Defensively, these two games were their best performance of the entire season. Winning this tournament qualified them for the State of Maine Junior American Legion tournament, which was played last weekend at Colby College, Waterville, ME and involved four teams in a double elimination format. The team made a respectable showing but lost the first game by a score of 9 - 7 to the team from Grey, ME and then were eliminated by the team from Skowhegan, ME by a score of 4 - 3 when the opponent batter hit a walk-off single to drive in the winning run. The team finished their season with a 12 - 8 record.

July 15, 2016

Our stay in Maine is approximately at the half-way point.

We have been busy going to our grandson's baseball games; he played on the Gorham High School Junior Varsity team, which finished the season with a 9 - 7 record. He then joined the Gorham Junior American Legion team, which finished the season yesterday with a 10 - 6 record, which qualified them for post-season tournament play.

In addition to the baseball, Steve is participating in a summer basketball league. The team is composed primarily of last year's Gorham High School Junior varsity basketball team. Their play has been sporadic, currently yielding a losing record; this season ends next week.

Lizzie is taking first term calculus from the University of Southern Maine for college credit. It is an on-line course; Leon can't image how mathematics can be taught without student-lecturer interaction. Jeff is serving as the in-house teacher.

The weather has been generally cool, except for the last few days. The locals seem to pay little attention to the temperature and they dress according to the calendar. Last Saturday during the baseball games there was a periodic light drizzle with a temperature of 57; we were dressed in jeans, sweatshirts and jackets, but many of the locals were dressed in shorts and tank-tops - it is summer!

Last week we celebrated Jean's birthday with a wonderful dinner at the Black Point Inn. This establishment, located in Cape Elizabeth, ME, dates from 1878 and is on a point of land that provides beautiful views of the ocean. The bill was steep, but once in awhile a fine dinner is the proper thing to do.

We had hoped to play a lot of golf. Unfortunately, Leon hurt his right shoulder in May (non-golf related), and the healing process has been very slow. Swinging a golf club is still painful, but we have hope that we'll be able to get in several rounds before the summer is over.

One of the things we enjoy when visiting Maine is the opportunity to pick fresh fruit. The last four weeks we've eaten fresh strawberries for breakfast and with ice cream as a dinner dessert that we picked at a local orchard. We also froze several packages to enjoy this winter. Blueberries are now ripe, and we'll be enjoying fresh blueberries for the next month; we'll also freeze some to enjoy later.

Spring 2016

May 16, 2016

Our stay in Oak Ridge this spring was short. We departed for Maine on Wednesday, May 4th and arrived at the campground a few miles from Jeff's home about 3:30 PM Friday, May 6th. We will be spending the entire summer in Maine.

Travel to Maine was uneventful, except for the problems we discovered inside the trailer once we parked it at Wassamki Springs Campground. The floor of the trailer was covered with items shaken out of cabinets and broken glass was everywhere. I-84 in New York State was extremely rough with numerous huge pot-holes; in fact, this segment of interstate is the worst we've experienced anywhere in the U.S. Obviously, the jolts to the trailer caused cabinet doors to open allowing their contents to be spilled. The broken glass turned out to be the microwave turntable, and after examination of the microwave we discovered the hinges on the door of the microwave may have been damaged. A days worth of effort to locate an appliance repair shop resulted in the decision to repair the microwave. It turned out that the door hinge only needed adjustment, and the repair shop found a replacement glass turntable - the repairs cost $60.55.

On our first visit with the kids we learned that our Granddaughter, Lizzie, and her two co-artists had their art project selected to represent Baxter Academy at a high school art show on display at an art gallery on Portland's waterfront. Baxter Academy is a STEM high school located in Portland, ME. The painting, entitled "Jellyfish," was done on a 4 X 6 foot piece of plywood. Art has always been an important part of her life, and her art ability continues to grow. We are very proud of this accomplishment.

The reason we came to Maine this early is to watch our Grandson, Steve, play baseball for the Junior Varsity team at Gorham High School. The team has a 5-4 record, and we watched them win three consecutive games before a 10-5 lose this past Saturday. Steve is one of the starting pitchers, and when not pitching plays various defensive positions. After the high school season is over he'll probably play on an American Legion team; so we'll cheer him on at many games.

March 22, 2016

Our stay in the Rio Grande Valley has come to an end. We thoroughly enjoyed the winter and are looking forward to returning next season!

We departed Victoria Palms on March 15, 2016 and arrived home on March 18, 2016. The trip home was without incident - the best kind of travel.

The house was just as we had left it last November; however, the yard was a real mess - it took Leon three long hard days to rake up the sweet gum balls, collect the dead limbs that fell during the winter, and shred the material into mulch. The first cutting of grass was completed and the lawn fertilized.

Winter 2015

February 10, 2016

Time has flown - only about a month remains of our stay in the Rio Grande Valley.

The weather the past two months has been quite comfortable; yes, cold fronts pass through about every three to five days bringing us a mild remainder that it is still winter. The average high temperature in the Valley this time of the year is 73F. The cold fronts have not brought much precipitation, which is unusual when an El Nio weather event exists in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

During the past two months Leon has spent time in the resort's woodshop making small turned items and helping service several of the machines; the latter task is an example of one making suggestions and then one gets tasked with executing the suggestions. Earlier this week the woodshop staff had it's annual fund raising chili supper - Leon was the salad chef; profits from the fund raiser are used to purchase supplies and machine repair parts.

Jean plays cards and Mexican Train dominoes with ladies from our social group.

When the afternoon temperatures are warm our social group usually gathers for happy hour. One day a week involves golf and a lunch outing. The golf scores are still poor, but the exercise from walking the golf course is an attempt to slow down the weight gain from the happy hour drinks. We have attended some of the entertainment events that the resort's activities office arranges, but we are finding that much of it is simply a variation on other entertainment we attended in past years.

In mid-January we attended the winter Mariachi concert at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. This was an afternoon of wonderful Mexican Folk music performed by very talented young musicians; this is one event we always look forward to attending. After the concert we had dinner at a German restaurant; Leon had a smoked pork knuckle - the meat was very tender and tasty, but the hog that provided the knuckle most have been giant sized. Later this month we will attend the Ballet Folkloric performance at UT and the La Joya, TX High School Folkloric/Mariachi Concert; these are two events we always enjoy - the costumes are beautiful and the music is wonderful.

December 21, 2015

It is hard to believe, but one-fourth of our stay in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is gone. We have been quite busy.

In early December we attended a Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX - this was an afternoon of wonderful Mexican Folk Music performed by very talented young musicians. After the concert our group had dinner at "The Republic of Rio Grande" restaurant - a fine eating establishment in McAllen, TX. This event has become a traditional outing organized by Leon.

On December 13th we attended an unusual event - "Tuba Christmas" held at the UT-RGV Field House. Over 350 tuba and euphonium players presented a concert of Christmas music. Schools from as far away as Kingsville and Roma, TX participated. The age of players ranged from 11 to 69. It was quite a sight when the players raised their instruments at the conductor's command at the start of the performance of each music piece. Music Department faculty at UT-RGV organize this event; this was the 27th consecutive year of "Tube Christmas".

Later that Sunday we also attended the RGV Chamber Music Society's Winter Concert, held in the sanctuary of First Lutheran Church, Edinburg, TX. This was a wonderful performance of Baroque period music that included a harpsichord solo.

December 14th we attended the "Sounds of the Season" concert presented by the McAllen Symphonic Band. The evening got all of us in the mode for Christmas, in spite of the warm daytime temperatures we are experiencing.

We have managed to play golf once a week. The scores are poor but we enjoy the exercise from walking the course and the socializing during lunch afterward.

This past weekend First Lutheran Church presented "Las Posadas." After the program we had a dinner with tamales as the entree. A group of volunteers gathered the day before the performance of "Las Posadas" to prepare the tamales. See the Travel Pictures web page for some pictures and a little discussion of tamale preparation.

Fall 2015

November 25, 2015

We are back in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; we departed Oak Ridge Thursday, November 12th with the goal of arriving at our winter destination on Sunday, November 15th. Well, travel didn't go as planned.

About 15 miles north of Carthage, TX, where we planned to spend Friday night, the truck's "Check Engine Light" came on and the engine lost power. We managed to limp to Carthage RV Park and immediately inquired where the closest General Motors dealer was located. Fortunately, it was only a few miles so we unhitched the trailer and drove to the service department. It was 4 PM on a Friday afternoon so nothing would happen until Monday morning. The engine sounded very bad and the diesel mechanic advised us to leave the truck in their shop. Mid-morning Monday the service manager called to inform us that the problem was in the electrical system that provides signals to the fuel injectors and a failed glow plug. He said they had the replacement parts and they'd finish the repairs by the end of the day. Mid-afternoon we received a second phone call from the service manager informing us that the parts supplier sent the incorrect glow plug and they won't get the repairs completed until about noon the next day. Mid-morning Tuesday the service manager called and informed us the repairs were completed. After paying the repair bill we went back to the RV park to prepare the trailer for travel.

When we arrived at the RV park it started to rain. Leon got the cable TV cable packed away just as the wind started to blow bringing rain in sheets. A check of the local weather radar indicated a break in the heavy rain would occur in about 30 minutes. Well, the rain did subside a bit but it was still pouring. We simply didn't want to spend another night at Carthage RV Park, so Leon put on a rain slick and finished the packing up. After Leon changed into dry clothes we finally got on the road about 11:15 AM.

Our goal on Tuesday was Schulenburg, TX, which we achieved about 5:30 PM. After setting up for the night, having dinner at Frank's Restaurant, attending a music jam session at the RV park's recreation center, and sharing an ice cream treat at DQ we settled in for the night. We were on the road Wednesday morning about 8 AM and arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort mid-afternoon.

Many members of our Winter Texan Family arrived before us, so the first happy hour was at 4 PM - no need to waste time to have a few drinks with dear friends!

Summer 2015

September 1, 2015

Yes, we are back in Oak Ridge, arrived home last Saturday at about 4:30 PM. Everything at the house was just as we had left it last June. All of the travel from Maine was uneventful.

Our first stop in Wisconsin was at my brother's home. While there we celebrated his 80th birthday; this was a wonderful celebration with lots of food and probably too much beer. We got to visit with most of Leon's nephews and nieces and their children, and a few of Leon's cousins. It was great sharing not only food and drinks but good conversion.

The next stop was Oshkosh, WI to visit Jean's niece, grandniece and brother. Jean's niece put Leon to work fixing a leaking faucet in the kitchen, a loose towel anchor in the bathroom, and two vinyl floor covering problems at seams. This kept Leon busy for most of two days, but the reward was a wonderful dinner at a Mexican restaurant and another dinner at a pizza place. While in Oshkosh we played a couple rounds of golf. On the last round Leon actually managed to string together four holes with scores of par, birdie, par, and bogy; however, the other five holes left a lot to be desired because his putter left him. The four consecutive holes gives Leon hope that his game may be improving and that there is a chance he may beat the guys a few times this winter while in south Texas.

August 11, 2015

Our stay in Maine is quickly coming to an end. We will be leaving August 16th for Wisconsin to visit families.

While in Maine we visited the grandkids numerous times, played many games of Mexican Train dominoes with Steve (He usually wins.), had lobster dinners with Lizzie, celebrated Steve's 15th birthday with a pizza luncheon on the Portland waterfront followed by sharing the birthday cake at home, picked fresh strawberries and blueberries (We've frozen several quarts of each for tasty desserts next winter; and if blueberries are good for you, then we're very healthy!), had weekly lunch outings with friends we've made at Wassamki Campground, and played golf at least once a week at the Gorham Country Club (Leon's game has gone to "hell;" Jean even beat Leon!) . It has been a good stay, particularly considering that the high temperatures back in Oak Ridge have been 90 degrees or above essentially every day since June 7th.

July 13, 2015

Yes, we are on the road again. We departed Oak Ridge on June 25th and traveled to Kemptville, Ontario, Canada arriving there on June 27th; the trip to Kemptville was uneventful.

The reason for the trip to Kemptville was to visit some of our Winter Texan Family members. Counting our hosts, Leslie and Don, four couples spent a week goofing-off. We hadn't seen them since March 2014, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We played cards, visited the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, played a lot of pool on Don's new pool table, enjoyed nine holes of golf at a very nice course near Ottawa, Ontario, on July 1st we celebrated Canada Day, which marks the 1867 formation of the independent country of Canada, drank too much beer, and ate more food than was reasonable. The time together was wonderful. Assuming the Canadian dollar does not lose more value relative to the U.S. dollar, we'll all gather again in late November at Victoria Palms in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

We traveled from Kemptville, Ontario to Gorham, Maine on July 5th. This trip was uneventful, although slow, particularly the part of the trip across northern New York on US-11. The campground we're staying at is about 4 miles from our Son's home. We will remain here until August 16th.

We visited the kids several times; things are fine with everyone. We watched our Grandson, Steve, play baseball on the Junior American League team representing Gorham. We enjoyed a wonderful pizza dinner with the kids at a restaurant on the waterfront of Portland, ME.

Oh yes, we had our first lobster dinner last Friday.

May 13, 2015

We arrived back in Oak Ridge on this date. The trip from Alamosa, CO took four days, and was uneventful. Everything at home was just as we had left things in late March. We enjoyed the trip, but it feels good to be home again.

May 8, 2015

We arrived in Alamosa, CO on this date with plans to spend a couple of days visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is located on the western side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These sand dunes are the tallest in North America. We had planned to hike to and possibly up some of the dunes, but the Medano Creek was full of water from snow melt in the mountains. Although the water appeared to be about ankle deep, the air temperature was only in the upper 40s making the thought of wading through many tens of yards of cold water an unattractive action. We hiked a short nature trail and simply viewed the sand dunes from a distance. We were disappointed with Great Sand Dunes National Park.

On the afternoon of May 9th a winter storm moved into the mountains, and snow fell in the San Luis Valley. With this turn in the weather we decided to forego our planned visits to Pikes Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park and instead start our trip home the next day.

May 5, 2015

We travel to Durango, CO on this date. We stopped here to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The night before our scheduled trip a large rock slide about 14 miles south of Silverton, CO caused severe damage to the railroad track. DSNGRR offered a shortened ride to Cascade Canyon; we accepted the alternate ride.

DSNGRR operates as a tourist train. It travels through beautiful scenery in the San Juan mountains and takes one back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was wonderful to see and hear a coal fired steam locomotive climb up the mountain along the Animas River.

May 2, 2015

We arrived at Cortez, CO on this date, and spent the next two days visiting Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde National Park protects and preserves the ruins from the ancestral Pueblo people. About 1,500 years ago people living in the Four Corners area moved onto Mesa Verde. These people flourished here for approximately 700 years, initially building communities above ground on the mesa. Around 1,200 AD they started constructing elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. Around 1,300 AD they left the area, and the reasons for this sudden migration are not fully known; although, drought is one of the leading theories behind this migration. Today the Hopi of northern Arizona and the Zuni, Laguna, Acoma, and the pueblos along the Rio Grande trace their ancestry to the Ancestral Pueblo people of this area.

April 25, 2015

We arrived at Moab, UT on this date. We stayed at ACT Campground located on the southern end of the city; we used this as the base for our visits to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Arches National Park located in southeastern Utah preserves extraordinary products of erosion, giant arches, windows, pinnacles and pedestals. Many of the most interesting sites can be viewed after relatively short hikes from the scenic road. Over 2,000 arches have been documented in the Park; we viewed maybe two dozen of them. The signature sites include: (1) Delicate Arch, (2) Twin Arches, and (3) Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is the longest, measuring 306 feet from base to base.

Canyonlands National Park preserves a wilderness of rock at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. The Park is divided into three regions: (1) Island In The Sky, (2) Needles, and (3) The Maze.

The Island In The Sky area is bounded by the Green and Colorado Rivers with the largest public access area. A paved road leads to a trail to Grand View Point. Along this route Mesa Arch provides a window to the rocks. We hiked the Rim Trail and Leon climbed the rocks at Grand View Point for a better view!

The Needles area is south of the Colorado River and has limited paved road access. We found the area rather disappointing. The most interesting part of our trip to Needles was Newspaper Rock, which is actually located on Bureau of Land Management property along the road to the Needles Visitor Center. Newspaper Rock contains petroglyphs of ancient people's art that spans approximately 2,000 years - from B.C. to A.D. 1,300; this site is on the U.S. Registry of Historic Places. The closest we got to the famed needles was the end of a dirt road. To view the needles required a rugged six mile round trip hike; we elected to forget the hike.

The Maze area is located north of the Colorado River and west of the Green River. There are no roads into this wilderness area.

John and MaryAnn Hooper departed for home on April 29th.

April 22, 2015

We arrived at Capital Reef National Park on this date.

Capital Reef is a giant buckle in the Earth's crust that stretches about 100 miles across south-central Utah. The buckle is called the Waterpocket Fold. It was created about 60 million years ago when rock west of a fault was forced down while rock east of the fault was forced up. The name Capital Reef derives from the white Navajo Sandstone domes near the Fremont River that resemble capital rotundas and the rocky cliffs that present a barrier to travel. Utah SR-24, which generally parallels the Fremont River, is the only road through the Waterpocket Fold. Near the junction of Sulphur Creek and the Fremont River is historic Fruita - the preserved Mormon settlement dating from ~ 1880.

Water erosion has created the views seen today. We hiked several trails in the park. The Grand Wash trail is usually a dry stream bed that cuts through the rock fold. At places the width of the cut is only 10 - 15 feet with sheer rock cliffs on both sides. An interesting hike was to the Gooseneck Overlook to view Sulphur Creek Canyon. The bottom of the canyon, which is visible in the lower left corner of the picture, is approximately 800 feet below the overlook.

April 13, 2015

We traveled to the Bryce Canyon National Park area today. Our route involved going east on Utah SR-14 from I-15; well, this involved ~15 miles of 8% grade as we climbed up to the top of the western section of the Colorado plateau; we estimate the peak altitude was 9,500 feet where a lake was still frozen. We stayed at the KOA Campground in Cannonville, UT located about 12 miles from the entrance to Bryce Canyon Park; the elevation at the campground is about 5,800 feet, the entrance to Bryce Canyon Park is at 7,200 feet, and the highest elevation in the Park is 9,100 feet. Yes, snow was still on the ground at the higher elevations.

Bryce Canyon is not a canyon, but a series of amphitheaters scalloped into the Claron Rock Formation; this rock formation is the upper most formation on this part of the Colorado Plateau. The amphitheaters are carved by creeks running from the rim to the Paria River, which drains to the Colorado River. Most of the time the creek beds are dry, but when precipitation falls on the plateau they fill with water and in the process cut the amphitheaters, or side canyons, and also cut back the edge of the rim in a process known as headward erosion; the rim is receding 1 - 4 feet per century. The erosion produces formations called "Hoodoos," natural bridges and windows, which are unique to this particular place.

On our first attempt to view the Park from the viewpoints along the scenic drive the temperature was in the mid-20s and a snow storm moved over the area. The Park received about 3 inches of snow and at our campground we received a heavy dusting. After the cold weather moved out we hiked below the rim; the trail was about 3 miles long and the elevation change was around 550 feet. The hike allowed us to get close and personal to the Hoodoos. The climb back to the rim was rather steep, but everyone survived.

April 8, 2015

Today we arrived in the vicinity of Zion National Park for a 5 night stay. Even at this time of the year the closest we could stay was a KOA Campground west of Hurricane, UT. This resulted in an hour drive to the south entrance of Zion National Park. On the trip from Grand Canyon we entered Zion at the east entrance, which required us to drive across the Park. The scenery was spectacular, but Leon didn't get much of a chance to view things because the road was a long series of down hill switch backs and included a 1.1 mile transit through a tunnel that cost us an extra $15. The tunnel fee was due to the width and height of our trailer, which requires them to block all on-coming traffic while we drove down the middle of the tunnel road - the height limit is 13' 1. A couple of days later we drove the road to the east entrance with our friends, and after several stops along the way we got wonderful views of the cliffs in the east side of Zion.

Zion National Park is totally different from Grand Canyon. At Grand Canyon one generally looks down; at Zion one generally looks up because you are at the bottom of the Canyon. The sandstone cliffs are 2,000 - 3,000 feet high and are some of the highest in the world. On top of the sandstone is limestone, with peaks often reaching heights of 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. All of these wonderful views was produced by the Virgin River, a very small stream that over a few million years made the views we stand in awe of today.

We hiked some of the trails in Zion, but elected to forgo the hike to Angels Landing because it is rated as the most difficult hike in the park and at our age discretion is probably better than valor. Leon hiked some of the Narrows Trail, which involved walking in the Virgin River; the water temperature was 46 degrees, so it wasn't long before his feet started to feel numb.

April 1, 2015

We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park today for a seven day stay. Our dear friends, John and MaryAnn Hooper, joined us at the Trailer Village Campground; we will be traveling together for about the next six weeks as we tour the five national parks in Utah.

The big event at Grand Canyon was Leon's trip on a mule to Phantom Ranch located at the bottom of the canyon along Bright Angel Creek on the north side of the Colorado River. Seeing Grand Canyon from the bottom was one of Leon's bucket list items. The mule ride down the Bright Angel Trail started about 8 AM on Friday, April 3rd. The distance from the coral near Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch is about 10.8 miles. The trip took about 5 hours including a stop for lunch at Indian Gardens, which is approximately the half-way point.

The early cabins at Phantom Ranch date from 1922; today the Ranch has over-night accommodations for 92 people. Most of the people that stay at Phantom Ranch hiked to the bottom of the canyon - the mule rides are limited to 10 guests. Leon's cabin had a single queen size bed. The stay at Phantom Ranch included a steak dinner and breakfast.

The ride to the South Rim was up the South Kaibab Trail; the length of this trail is approximately 7.8 miles, and, of course, is much steeper than the Bright Angel Trail; the ride took about 5½ hours. We stopped about every 15 minutes to allow the mules to rest.

Other activities while at Grand Canyon included: (a) hikes along the South Rim Trail, (b) attendance at Easter Sunrise Worship Service at Mather Point, (c) a 1 mile hike down the South Kaibab Trail, (d) a mile hike down the Bright Angel Trail, (e) viewed the IMAX Movie "Grand Canyon - The Hidden Secrets," and (f) a wonderful dinner at the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge our last evening in the park.

The visit to Grand Canyon was wonderful. Two things will also be remembered as negative: (1) the crowds of people were very large - it wasn't summertime, and (2) while Leon was taking some pictures along the Bright Angel Trail someone took his 15 year old hiking stick that he had leaned against the canyon wall - hope the person enjoys it!

March 31, 2015

Yes, we're on the road again. Our objective of this trip is to visit several of the National Parks in the desert southwest. We departed Oak Ridge on March 25th and, assuming everything goes according to plan, we will return home about June 1st.

The first non-overnight stop on the trip was Albuquerque, NM - arrived the afternoon of Saturday, March 28th. On Sunday we visited Old Town in Santa Fe. While walking into the plaza we came upon a multi-church Palm Sunday worship service, which we joined. After a short service on the plaza the different congregations marched to their respective sanctuaries. We joined the Episcopal group to celebrate Christ's march into Jerusalem. After the worship service was over we visited some of the shops bordering the plaza. One shop had numerous wooden bowls for sale constructed using techniques Leon uses to make segmented bowls; these bowls gave Leon an idea of the price he should place on any bowls he may plan to sell. Later that afternoon we had dinner at a fine restaurant north of Santa Fe that Leon found during his many business trips to Los Alamos, NM.

On Monday morning we visited the Petroglyph National Monument, which is located on the west side of Albuquerque. See the Travel Pictures web page to view a couple of pictures of the petroglyphs. Monday afternoon we visited Old Town Albuquerque and had dinner on the patio of a restaurant next to the plaza. Jean thought this was the restaurant that we had dinner at when we traveled through Albuquerque in the late 1970s as part of a family trip.

Winter 2015

February 16, 2015

We returned home on February 7, 2015 - the trip north was uneventful, and everything at home was as we had left it.

During our stay in Florida we did several activities with Leon's brother Ron and his wife Ruth: watched the NFL football playoff games only to see the Packers loose in the National Conference Championship game but then watched Seattle give the Super Bowl trophy to New England , took a wonderful boat ride and had lunch at a lake side restaurant, and finished the day with a couple of drinks at another lake side establishment, traveled together to Blue Springs State Park to see the manatees, and had several meals together. It was good to have this time together.

We also did a few things ourselves. We had the audio system in the truck repaired, drove to the Gulf Shore of Florida, toured The Villages retirement community (which numbers over 100,000 people and the construction of additional homes continues), played a few rounds of golf, took a couple of hikes in the Ocala National Forest, and went to the local produce market every Thursday morning - the Honey Bell oranges sure are juicy. The Travel Pictures web page contains several pictures from our stay in Florida.

The weather during our stay in Florida wasn't very good. The historical average high temperature for January in the greater Orlando, FL area is ~70 degrees, but only on a couple of days did the actual high temperature reach this value. If we ever decide to spend part of the winter in Florida again we'll need to go further south.

January 8, 2015

We left Oak Ridge on January 5th and arrived at Tara Village, a small mobile home/RV Park near Leesburg, FL, about 1:30 PM on January 6th. We plan to use this place as the base from which we'll tour parts of central Florida. My older brother spends the winters at a mobile home park within walking distance of Tara Village, and we'll probably spend considerable time together.

This morning the temperature was only 34 - so this is sunny Florida - but it sure beats the 7 temperature back in Oak Ridge.

Fall 2014

December 5, 2014

We are at home in Oak Ridge with our Christmas tree decorated and Santa with a couple of reindeer on display outdoors. It probably will surprise readers of our travel log to learn that we will not be spending this winter in Texas. We made the decision last spring to do something different for winter 2014-2015; we have spent the last ten winter seasons in the Rio Grande Valley and things were getting a little stale, although, we do miss our Winter Texan family.

In early October we spent four beautiful days camping and playing golf at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, TN.

In early November we traveled to the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast. The trip south involved a two night stay at Cloud Land Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn, GA and another two day stop at Sherling Lake Campground, Greenville, AL. At Cloud Land State Park the hike along the west edge of the gorge cut through the mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek involved some beautiful scenery but it totally wore us out - needless to say we slept very well that night. While in Greenville we had planned to play some golf at Cambrian Ridge, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf trail in Alabama. However, the green fees were much more than we were willing to pay - yes we're cheapskates! We finally arrived at Fort Pickens Campground on November 9th; this campground is located on Santa Rosa Island on the Gulf of Mexico shore south of Pensacola, FL and is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore. The weather the first part of that week was wonderful and we managed to play golf twice. The weather turned cold the second half of the week and reading occupied most of our time. During the week we made several trips to Joe Patti's Seafood Market to purchase fresh seafood - the oysters and shrimp were wonderful, and for us the fresh seafood is one of main attractions of the Gulf Coast. When our stay at Fort Pickens ended we traveled to Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL for a visit with a couple from our Winter Texan family who are spending the winter at Gulf State Park. We shared an oyster meal, a shrimp dinner, and many drinks along with wonderful conversation - thanks Cheryl and Bill. Oh, we even extended our stay by one day to play another round of golf.

Summer 2014

July 14, 2014

Our summer plans now involve spending most of it a home. Last week we spent four days at the Mt. Pisgah Campground located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the base of Mt. Pisgah. The campground elevation is about 5,000 feet, and we went there to get some relief from the heat and humidity. The temperatures there were very comfortable - a sweet shirt felt good in the evening. It has been near 90 degrees every day with dew points around 70 degrees in Oak Ridge for quite some time. Having spent the last 12 years away from Oak Ridge we have forgotten what the heat and humidity of East Tennessee are like. Oh, for those interested, we didn't hike to the summit of Mt. Pisgah - did that on a couple of previous stays at the Mt. Pisgah campground. We did celebrate Jean's 74th birthday with a wonderful dinner at the Mt. Pisgah Inn, which has spectacular southern views of the mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which is part of the U.S. National Park System, is a very beautiful drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia; we recommend this to everyone, but take your time to enjoy the views.

July 2, 2014

I met with my doctor on July 1st to go over the test results related to my recent "transient global amnesia" event. All the blood test results were normal, although my vitamin B12 was near the low end of the normal range, and the doctor recommended that I take a B12 supplement. The sonic scan of my carotid arteries indicated that if there is any blockage it is less than 40%, which is about the limit of detection for a sonic scan and it means that my carotid arteries are of no concern. The CT scan of the head was normal, and most importantly showed no signs of a stroke. So the bottom line is everything is okay and the original diagnosis of "transient global amnesia" stands. We're both very glad to get this news.

Spring 2014

June 4, 2014

Surprise, we're back home. After spending most of the day visiting Graceland we headed west. By Friday evening we had made it to Shamrock, TX, which is located along I-40 about 15 miles west of the Oklahoma-Texas border. Saturday morning shortly after getting up Leon suddenly couldn't remember where he was, didn't know where he was going, and had no memory of having crossed Oklahoma the previous day. This condition lasted about 30 minutes after which Leon felt fine - tired but the memory problem had disappeared. This frightened both of us! So we leisurely took showers and had breakfast. Finally, we decided that the best course of action would be to return to Oak Ridge and make an appointment with Leon's doctor. We arrived back in Oak Ridge on Monday afternoon. Leon was able to get a doctor's appointment for early Tuesday morning. The visit with the doctor provided a tentative diagnosis of "transient global amnesia." This event is not life treating and leaves no known side effects. Medical science doesn't know what triggers these events and seldom do they reoccur. That news was a great relief. However, a couple of other tests are being scheduled to verify that some underlying medical condition is not the cause of the memory problem. Needless to say, our trip out west and all other travel has been put on hold until all the additional test are completed and the results reviewed with Leon.

May 29, 2014

We're on the road again. We started the 2014 Summer trip on May 27th. We plan to travel west to visit the Grand Canyon and the canyons of southern Utah as well as some sites in Colorado.

We've been passing through Memphis, TN on our way to Texas for about a dozen years, and we finally decided to stop and spent a day touring Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. We consider his mansion a modest home, considering the fame he achieved and the fortune he accumulated as a popular music performer. As we watched videos from some of his live performances one can not but appreciate the clarity of this voice.

Our next major stop will be Albuquerque, NM.

March 23, 2014

Our stay in the Rio Grande Valley is complete. We departed Victoria Palms on March 15th. We arrived back in Oak Ridge on March 19th. The trip was safe and uneventful. Our first stop on the trip home was Schulenburg, TX for an overnight stay; during this segment of the trip we had the wind at our backs. The next day we traveled to Carthage, TX for a two night stay. The driving on this segment of the trip was a bit difficult because of very strong cross winds.

On March 17th we toured the "Texas Country Music Hall of Fame & Tex Ritter Museum." The tour took about two hours. An interesting aspect of the tour was how many of the people inducted into the Hall of Fame came from broken homes and very poor economic conditions; this certainly explains many of the lyrics of country music. We purchased CDs of Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves hits, two of the major performers on the country music scene from the past. Tex Ritter attend the University of Texas - Austin, performed on Broadway before moving to Los Angeles where he had leading and supporting roles in many western movies. Tex Ritter is probably most remembered for his many recordings of hit country music tunes; he was the fifth inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the first male inductee. Jim Reeves was born near Carthage, TX. Jim Reeves' early recording career didn't lead to much success. His big break came when he was a last minute substitute on the "Louisiana Hayride" radio program, broadcast on KWKH from Shreveport, LA, when Sleepy LaBeef failed to appear. In 1954 Reeves' debut single "Mexican Joe" made number one on the country music charts. He recorded many songs that not only made the country hit charts but also the popular music charts. His career came to a tragic end on July 31, 1964 when the plane he was piloting crashed near Nashville, TN. Through efforts of his widow, Mary, and producers Chet Atkins and Own Bradley, many of his previous recordings continued to make the music charts for many years after his death; .e.g., in 1980 duets with Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline entitled "Have You Ever Been Lonely" and "I Fall to Pieces" were electronically created from individual master recordings by the individual artists and became top ten hits. Jim Reeves was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, which honored him by saying "The velvet style of 'Gentleman Jim Reeves' was an international influence." He was one of country music's most important performers.

After having some BBQ at Daddy Sam's BBQ restaurant, located a few blocks from the Hall of Fame, we relaxed. On Tuesday we traveled to West Memphis, AR and stayed at the Tom Sawyer RV Park, located on the western bank of the Mississippi River. Wednesday we pushed hard to get home, finally arriving about 6:30 PM. The house was just as we had left it last November. The yard, well, it will take a few days of hard work to clean up the fallen twigs and small limbs that accumulated on the ground over the winter.

Now for an interesting item:

On February 26, 2014 Leon received an e-mail informing him that he was a member of a multi-organizational team to receive the 2013 Secretarial Honor Award at a ceremony to be held at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Headquarters in Washington, DC on March 3, 2014. This award stems from the Caustic Side Solvent Extraction (CSSX) project that Leon managed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from late 1999 until his retirement in early 2002. The project involved the development and demonstration of a chemical separation process to remove the radioactive cesium from the high level waste stored at the DOE Savannah River Site, Aiken, SC; this wastes dates from the Cold War era. The project team involved staff from ORNL, Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, the Savannah River Site, and several commercial companies. Shortly before Leon retired, DOE selected the CSSX process for implementation at the Savannah River Site. The cesium product from the CSSX process, which comprises 98% of the radioactivity in the high level waste, will be made into glass logs for long term storage in a geological repository. In 2008 a modular system that implemented the CSSX process went on-line, and over the next four years ~4 million gallons of high level waste were processed. Since then the chemists at ORNL have made improvements to the CSSX solvent, which will allow higher processing rates at the Savannah River Site and will also allow it to be used to process the high level waste stored at the Hanford, WA site; some of this waste dates from World War II. The joint implementation of the improved CSSX process will save the U. S. tax payer billions of dollars in environmental remediation costs.

After some discussion and encouragement from our son and members of our Winter Texan Family we decided to attend the award ceremony. We flew from Harlingen, TX to Washington, DC on March 1st to provide at least one day of sight-seeing. Late Sunday afternoon it started to rain; this rain turned to freezing rain late Sunday night followed by snow early Monday morning. These weather conditions caused the entire federal government to close on Monday resulting in the award ceremony being cancelled. Click on the link to see an image of a lifeless capital city. We returned to Texas Tuesday evening more than just a bit disappointed.

On March 18th Leon received an e-mail notifying him that the award ceremony has been rescheduled for April 7, 2014. We are considering making the trip to Washington, DC to receive the award and possibly do some site-seeing. Since we can easily drive to Washington in a single day, we'll make the trip via car and stay in a hotel near one of the metro-rapid transit stations.

Winter 2014

January 20, 2014

We are just past the half-way point of our stay in the Rio Grande Valley. The weather in December and the first half of January has been colder than normal; the average high temperature this time of year is 71 degrees. However, we've been fortunate that the low temperatures only got close to the freezing point on a couple of occasions. We've burned through four 40 pound tanks of propane, which is one tank more than we used all of last season. Needless to say the past six weeks didn't have many days when shorts were the proper attire. The weather seems to have changed the past week with a series of Pacific weather fronts passing through.

We started the Christmas celebration with attendance at the Navidad Mexicana Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Pan American; it was a wonderful performance - we always enjoy the live mariachi concerts. This was the third year that we helped make tamales at the church we attend while in the Valley. The next day we attended the La Posada program followed by a meal with the tamales as the main course. We finished the evening singing Christmas carols. Christmas Eve involved a wonderful candle light service with excellent music. On Christmas day our social group had a pot-luck dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.

Last weekend we attended the "Sound and Splendor of Mexico" Mariachi concert at UT-PA. The special guest at this concert was a nine year old girl from Edinburg, TX who won a performing competition in San Antonio; her performance was unbelievably wonderful- she brought tears of joy and amazement to our eyes.

Leon continues to volunteer as a monitor in the resort computer room; most of the effort is fixing computer problems for guests at the resort. Many of the problems are trivial, but occasionally a real challenge shows up. Leon gave up teaching computer classes this year because he wanted more time for himself. Leon also volunteers as a monitor at the resort woodworking shop. He also is working on a variety of projects this season - a bent wood plant stand, segmented bowls, pepper mills and salt shakers, and simple bowls.

Jean is working to finish a lap quilt that she started a couple of years ago. She will display the quilt at the Creative Arts show that will be held in the resort's ballroom on February 12th. Jean also plays cards with a group of ladies every Wednesday afternoon.

Golf takes up at least one day each week. Neither of our games shows much improvement, but that is not the primary reason we play golf - the real reason is the walking exercise and going out to eat afterward.

Fall 2013

November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving is approaching, and, as you probably guessed, we are once again back in the Rio Grande Valley. We departed Oak Ridge on November 5th. Our trip south included a five night stop at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL. This park is very large with 496 campground sites and easy access to the beach. While there we met a couple from our Winter Texan Family, and during our time together we thoroughly enjoyed walking the beach, sharing seafood meals, and drinks.

We left Gulf Shores on November 11th and traveled to Sinton, TX with an overnight stop in Sulphur, LA. We stayed three nights at the Rob & Bessie Welder Park, a recreation area run by the City of Sinton, TX. On the first day we went to Mustang Island and toured parts of Port Aransas. While in Port Aransas we walked along the break water of the harbor and talked with several of the fishermen. We observed an individual catch a Red Drum that weighed 30 - 35 pounds - it took the fisherman about 40 minutes to land the fish. He took several pictures and then released it, because it's size indicated it is was a sexually mature specimen and thus not a legal catch. We had a seafood lunch at what appeared to be a popular watering hole in Port Aransas. On the second day we played nine holes of golf on the course that is part of the recreation area - Jean had a good round but Leon's was not his best.

We arrived at Victoria Palms Resort, Donna, TX shortly after noon on November 15th. We were the first couple from our Winter Texan Family to arrive - most of the remaining members of the Family arrived the following week. We all are waiting to see how things will go this season after the Encore Group purchased the resort last season. New rumors are heard just about every day, but time will tell if any of them have any merit. Some areas clearly show that Encore wants to cut operational costs.

Our stay at Victoria Palms is for four months. Jean will play a lot of cards with the gals, and Leon will spend a lot of time in the woodshop making a bent wood plant stand, turning segmented bowls, and making wooden pepper mills and salt shakers. Of course, we are looking forward to many happy hours, golf outings, attendance at several Hispanic cultural events in the valley, and numerous meals at area ethnic restaurants.

Summer 2013

August 24, 2013

Our travel back to Oak Ridge was uneventful. We arrived home on Thursday afternoon about 5 PM. At our last overnight stop we were awaken early in the morning by a large group of ducks foraging for food next to our trailer - we shared some bread with them.

The trailer is almost unpacked. The truck needs routine service, and Leon needs to complete a couple of trailer maintenance tasks before we depart on our next trip.

The house painter finished his job while we were away. This completed the house maintenance that we started last spring, which included a new roof, installation of vinyl soffit, and aluminum wrapping of the fascia. The outside of the house looks very nice. The yard is in excellent condition; there was abundant rain this summer and the temperatures were not unusually hot. We are hoping the humidity decreases so we can enjoy the outdoors; fall in east Tennessee is always a beautiful time of the year.

August 17, 2013

Our stay in Maine for this summer is virtually over; we will leave Wassamki Campground about mid-morning August 20th. Yesterday we took Lizzie to lunch at a Japanese restaurant; she really likes sushi, and we had a wonderful time together. She is growing into a wonderful young lady. Sunday we will have our last lobster dinner for this season with the kids. Last week we finally tried steamed clams, and they were wonderful so we'll have a few pounds with the lobsters. The next update of our travels will be provided after we arrive home.

August 4, 2013

The "Beast of The Northeast" little league tournament concluded today. The Southern Maine Monsters were seeded number two. They played the first bracket game Friday evening and won. Saturday afternoon they played one game and won. Their opponent in the semi-final game was the same team that defeated the Gorham 12U Cal Ripken All-Stars team in the finals of the State of Maine Tournament. The semi-final game started late Sunday morning. Our grandson was given the ball and he pitched a complete game winning by a score of 6 - 2; Steve got some real satisfaction from this victory. The championship game started about 45 minutes after the semi-final game; their opponent in this game was the number one seeded team. This game turned out to be a real pitchers dual with the Southern Maine Monsters winning by a score of 3 - 2. A picture of the team with the winners trophy can be viewed on the Family/Friends Pictures web page. For the seven games of the "Beast of The Northeast" tournament the Southern Maine Monsters outscored their opponents 65 - 7.

This tournament marked the end of Steve's little league baseball career. He will move up to the next level of competition with all the play occurring on the diamond with 90 foot base paths. He plans to start playing on a AAU team from South Portland early next spring.

July 29th, 2013

Our stay in Maine is past the half-way point. The weather this summer hasn't been the greatest - an above average amount of rain and many hot and humid days. Activities included playing golf when the weather permitted, having home prepared lobster dinners, picking strawberries and blueberries, playing a lot of Mexican Train Dominions with Steve and Jeff, watching little league baseball, reading a couple of long novels, and shopping trips to the L. L. Bean store in Freeport, ME. Jean has worked a little on her lap quilt and started knitting a prayer shawl.

Steve and two other boys from the Gorham, ME 12U Cal Ripken All-Star team were asked to join a team from South Portland - the Southern Maine Monsters. The team entered the "Beast of the Northeast" tournament held in Westbrook, ME; Westbrook is located a few miles from our campground. A total of 19 teams are in the tournament. Last weekend the Southern Maine Monsters finished pool play winning three games by a combined score of 37 - 2. In the last pool game Steve made three absolutely spectacular defensive plays at first base - the coach even remarked that Steve has reflexes as quick as a cat. The pool play decides the seeding for the elimination part of the tournament; the Maine Monsters will probably be seeded very high.

On July 30th we are taking Steve to a Boston Red Sox baseball game; this is part of Steve's 13th birthday present (See the Family/Friends Pictures web page for some birthday celebration pictures.). Jeff will be going with us, and we will ride the AMTRAK train. Leon will have at least one beer at Fenway Park; we suspect Steve will want a hot-dog. July 31st UPDATE: The Boston Red Sox defeated the Seattle Mariners by a score of 8 - 2. Yes, Leon had only one beer at Fenway - at $8.50 a pint one can't afford anymore - and Steve got his hot-dog. It was a good evening.

July 11, 2013

The Thrill of Victory; The Agony of Defeat.

The Gorham, ME 12U Cal Ripken All-Star baseball team experienced both of these emotions during the State of Maine Tournament. On Saturday our grandson, Steve, gave us another excellent pitching performance in the team's first game of the tournament striking out 11 batters to get a win by a score of 8 - 1. Two and one-half hours later they played their second game and got another win by a score of 8 - 1. After these two games things looked very good for them to make the championship game. Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon they lost to a talented team by a score of 7 - 4; this defeat put them in the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament schedule. Monday afternoon the game was against the team they had beaten in their first tournament game; they won this second encounter by a score of 13 - 2 with the game ending after four innings in accord with the 10 run mercy rule of little league baseball. The Trill of Victory! This victory put them in the championship game against the team that put them in the losers bracket. Steve was given the ball once again, and he delivered another brilliant performance striking out 10 batters. However, two errors in the infield turned out to be very costly and the team lost by a score of 5 - 3. The Agony of Defeat. So the team ended the season as State of Maine runner-ups (Steve's runner-up trophy) in the 12U Cal Ripken Little League.

For the District and State Tournaments Steve pitched a total of 17 innings and stroke out 35 batters - a truly outstanding performance, and we are very proud of our Grandson (Steve on the mound).

Most of the boys on the 12U Cal Ripken team have played together for four years. During this time they won two State of Maine Tournaments (9U in 2010 and 11U in 2012) earning the privilege of playing in the New England regional tournament each of those years. They played in the State of Maine Tournament championship game every year.

July 4, 2013

Yes, we've been watching our grandson, Steve, play baseball. On Saturday, June 29th we were treated to an absolutely magnificent pitching performance by Steve. It was the second game of the 12U Cal Ripken District 2 Tournament and they were playing a talented team from Andy Valley. Steve walked the lead-off batter and then proceeded to set down the next 18 batters with 14 strike-outs and four ground balls to the in-field - three to first base and one to third base. Steve's team won by a score of 6 to zero.

On Monday, July 1st they played in the District 2 Championship game against Andy Valley, who advanced to the championship game thru the losers bracket of the double elimination schedule. Kyle King, the team's other prime pitcher performed superbly. Steve's team won the game by a score of 3 to zero. For the District Tournament the Gorham All-Star team outscored their opponents 30 to 1. This championship allows the team to move on to the State of Maine tournament, which starts on July 6th.

June 28, 2013

Our spring was very busy and according to the calendar summer has arrived.

After we arrived home in March we discovered that the roof at the junction of the house and porch was leaking with the water falling on the concrete porch floor. After examining the shingles and checking their age we decided to replace the entire roof. While the roofers were working Leon climbed up on the roof and noted that the house needed repainting. This raised the issue of what to do with the soffit, which was plywood and paint always peeled from it, particularly in areas that receive reflected heat from the first story roof. After getting a bid for painting that included a lot of labor to scrap, sand and repaint the soffit we decided to have the soffit replaced with vinyl and wrap the fascia with aluminum with the goal of eliminating this particular house maintenance issue. Selecting a color for the soffit also meant a new color for the house; we chose Savannah Wicker for the vinyl soffit, fascia, and the house with a Red Bluff color for the accent areas. So after 37 years we won't be able to tell people we live in the yellow house on Carnegie Drive. The contract for the soffit and fascia work included removing and reinstallation of the gutters. While the vinyl installers were working Leon cleaned and repainted the gutters. This part of the house repairs were completed in late May. The painter started as the vinyl installers finished reinstalling the gutters. His task included a lot of scrapping and sanding of the siding that is above the first story sections of the house. The new soffit and paint colors look very nice - Jean says the house finally looks modern.

The last of several medical test reports was received on June 11th; everything is fine with both of us, - just getting older, but what else is new!

With the good health news we were finally in a position to get ready to spend most of the summer in Maine. We cleaned the Texas dirt from the trailer and truck, packed for summer travel, and left Oak Ridge on June 18th. We arrived at Wassamki Springs Campground, Scarborough, ME the afternoon on June 20th. The trip to Maine was uneventful, except we drove in heavy rain the first day of travel. We will spend two months in Maine before returning to Oak Ridge in late August.

The weather since our arrival has not been the greatest. Earlier this week we needed air conditioning, and two days ago cooler temperatures arrived along with rain. Total rainfall this June ranks the 10th highest since records have been kept. Oh, sunshine, where are you?

Our summer activities will revolve around visits with our son's family, playing golf at a few of the local courses, enjoying several lobster dinners, relaxing and catching up on some reading, and watching our grandson, Steve, play baseball. Steve was selected to play on the 12U Cal Ripken All-Star team representing Gorham, ME. He is one of the prime pitchers on the team. District tournament play starts today.

Spring 2013

April 11, 2013

The winter has passed with such speed that is it almost impossible to believe that spring has arrived; however, we've got to believe the calendar.

We had a wonderful winter. The weather was generally warmer than prior winters in the Rio Grande Valley; unfortunately, it probably was the driest winter we experienced in the Valley - only rained one day in four months and that rain was less than a quarter of an inch. Needless to say, the resort had more of a brown look and the citrus trees at each site were very distressed. We enjoyed the Christmas concert performed by the University of Texas - Pan American Mariachi group. In February we also attended the Ballet Folkloric performance presented by the Dance Department at UT-PA. The Mariachi - Folkloric performance by the La Joya High School students was truly outstanding - the talent displayed by this young people defies description. Again this year we assisted with the making of tamales at First Lutheran Church, Edinburg, TX. The tamales are the entree for a meal after the celebration of the La Posada - an ancient Mexican tradition that re-enacts Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem; the music sung during the performance is in Spanish, which we don't understand, but it is very beautiful. After the meal following the La Posada we sang traditional Christmas choirs. We have come to feel very much at home at First Lutheran Church. We also played a lot of golf. By the end of the winter Leon's game was showing real signs of improvement. Jean has good and then some not so good outings. Leon continued his involvement with the Computer Club - taught a class of "Introduction to Windows," gave a lecture on the Windows 8 operating system, and served as monitor in the computer room. Leon also spent a lot time at the resort's woodshop. Projects completed were (1) a bent wood plant stand for use on our porch, (2) turned several bowls, (3) completed a segmented bowl with a saw-tooth pattern of contrasting woods as the feature ring (click the link to view a photograph of the Feature Ring Bowl), and (4) learned how to make pepper mills and salt shakers. Leon also served as a monitor at the woodshop. Jean was very faithful in attending the water aerobics sessions - she regained most of the movement in her right shoulder that she injured a year ago at Curves. Jean also played cards with the ladies in our social group, did some knitting, and joined the occasional Mexican Train dominoes game. Of course, happy hours occurred frequently.

We departed Victoria Palms on March 16th with plans to stop in New Orleans and Gulf Shores, Alabama. As we traveled north the yellow saga and other scrub plants of the Texas country side were in full bloom, and by Saturday evening Leon's sinuses were running like a river. On March 17th we stopped near Lake Charles, LA to have an evening meal of boiled crawfish, which were delicious. That night the sinus problems got much worse and we decided the best option was to get home as quickly as possible. Jean came down with a cold the last night on the road. We arrived in Oak Ridge on March 20th. The travel home was without incident. The house was just as we had left it last November. Unfortunately, the weather in east Tennessee had temperatures well below normal, in fact, it spit snow for parts of two days shortly after we arrived home, so we spent most of the next couple of weeks inside recouping from our illness. Jean has completely recovered and Leon's sinuses are not as troublesome.

Fall 2012

November 25, 2012

We left Oak Ridge November 13th and arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX about 6:30 PM on November 15th. The trip south was uneventful, other than failure of the refrigerator in our trailer. The presence of yellow colored salt below the boiler chamber was proof positive that the cooling unit developed a leak. A new cooling unit was finally installed yesterday afternoon, resulting in a considerably smaller checking account balance. During the installation of the new cooling unit we discovered the cause of poor cooling performance of the refrigerator ever since we purchased the trailer - the manufacturer failed to apply thermal caulk on the cooling coils which resulted in poor heat transfer between the refrigerator compartments and the cooling unit. Friends loaned us a small household refrigerator while we waited for the necessary repair parts to be delivered and installed. With the refrigerator repaired we're finally set for the winter.

The grass and citrus trees show that it has been very dry in south Texas for quite some time. Good soakings of the grass and trees has already resulted in noticeable recovery. The current weather is comfortable, but generally overcast. We're hoping for a warm winter.

Three couples from our social group have arrived and others are expected in the next few days. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a turkey dinner at the resort restaurant. Thus far, we managed one golf outing - many more will occur during the next four months.

Leon got settled in the woodshop earlier this week. A bent wood plant stand for our porch and the turning of both solid and segmented bowls are the planned construction projects. Jean will be knitting a shawl as part of the Prayer Shawl Ministry at our church in Oak Ridge.

Summer 2012

August 25, 2012

We arrived home on Wednesday, August 22nd. The house was just as we had left it, and the yard isn't in too bad a shape considering how hot the summer had been in Oak Ridge, even the weeds in the flower beds aren't too bad.

Our trip home involved visits with friends from our Winter Texan family that live in Kemptville and Miller Lake, Ontario. Both visits were wonderful times together sharing a few drinks, relaxing and playing games. We arrived in northeastern Wisconsin on August 1st and used Leon's brother's yard as a campground. We attended the Klatt family reunion on August 4th and the Kromm family reunion on August 5th. On August 9th we arrived in northwestern Minnesota to attend the reunion of cousins on Leon's mother's side of the family. All three of the reunions were wonderful events - certainly worth all the miles we traveled. Our next stop was Mt. Pleasant, IA to visit the "Old Thresher's Museum," which specializes in the steam powered era of farming on the prairie. The museum itself was a bit disappointing; one really needs to attend the threshers reunion that is held over Labor Day weekend each year to see all the steam tractors in operation. From Iowa we traveled to northern Illinois to visit three addition members of our Winter Texan family. We played some golf, had a few drinks, attended part of the Chicago air show, and shared several meals together. Now we all are waiting to meet once again in the Rio Grande Valley in mid-November to play the winter away.

July 22, 2012

Our summer visit to Maine is just about over; we will be leaving on Tuesday, July 24th to spend some time visiting friends in Ontario, Canada and then on to Wisconsin and northwestern Minnesota to attend family reunions.

The summer has involved visiting our son and his family, watching our grandson, Steve, play baseball, chasing the white dimpled ball around the field, picking fresh strawberries and blueberries, eating several lobster dinners, reading, and relaxing. The weather has been very nice with only a few days requiring use of air conditioning and just enough rain to keep everything reasonably green; we definitely have missed the heat impacting so much of the U.S.

Golf has been both rewarding and frustrating. Jean's game has improved while Leon's game has gone down hill - lost all control of the short iron approach shots to the green and missing putts by the diameter of the ball. Jean is now giving Leon a challenge; we still enjoy playing and being outdoors, at least that is our excuse for playing golf.

Spring 2012

June 6, 2012

Our Summer 2012 travel has started. We left Oak Ridge Thursday, May 31st and arrived in Maine Saturday afternoon. The trip provided some unneeded excitement - a tire on the trailer blew as we were going around Wilkes Bare, PA. Changing the tire, making temporary repairs to the underbelly covering at the rear end of the trailer, and purchasing a spare tire cost us about 3½ hours of travel time. We travelled in heavy rain all day Saturday, and the weather in Maine continues to be wet with temperatures significantly below normal. Nice weather is forecast to move into the area starting this weekend, which will allow us to watch our grandson's little league baseball games.

March 30, 2012

Our stay at Victoria Palms has come to an end; it was a wonderful winter and we have very little idea of where the four months went - working on projects in the woodshop, teaching computer classes, serving as a monitor in the computer room and woodshop, playing Mexican Train dominoes and card games, golf outings, and happy hours occupied much of the time.

We left Victoria Palms March 18th. Our first stop was Schulenburg, TX where we spent part of Monday touring two of the painted churches; these churches were built by German and Czech immigrants, and the current buildings date from the late 19th century (see Travel Pictures). This is also the polka music area of Texas, and we are considering planning our next trip to Victoria Palms so we can attend a Saturday evening dance at a restored 1890 dance hall in Schulenburg.

We arrived back in Oak Ridge on March 22 about 5:30 PM. The trip home was uneventful, except for the fact that we drove in heavy rain during the segment of the trip from Carthage, TX to Birmingham, AL, which is 1½ days of travel. The house was just as we had left it last November. With the warm winter weather the grass and weeds in the lawn definitely had a head start. After consider whether we should rent a few goats to get the lawn trimmed down a bit, Leon simply decided on the lawn mower option; however, before the cutting could start all the dead branches that fell from the trees during the winter were picked up and shredded into four bushels of mulch. Once the lawn was cut the sweet gum balls in the front yard had to be raked - this produced another 9 bushels of mulch. Finally, fertilizer was spread; now we need to wait for some rain and stand back as the grass grows.

We haven't decided where we'll spend the summer, but our thoughts are leaning toward spending it in Maine to watch our grandson, Steve, play baseball, have several lobster dinners, and play some golf. Meanwhile we'll finish the yard cleaned up, plant flowers, do a little wood working, and chase the white dimpled ball around the field.

Winter 2012

February 5, 2012

Our stay at Victoria Palms has only six weeks remaining; the time has passed so rapidly. Golf generally has occupied two days a week; Jean's game continues to improve, but Leon's game seems stuck at a stroke or two less than double bogey. Although, he did have an 88 yard pitching wedge shot to the green that found the hole; this shot would have made the Golf Channel highlights! Jean plays cards with other ladies one afternoon each week, and joins impromptu games of Mexican Train Dominoes. Leon has taught an "Introduction to Windows" class, assisted with a photo-editing class, and continues to serve as a monitor in the computer room and woodshop. Leon's woodshop projects include: (1) three segmented bowls, (2) one solid wood bowl from a sassafras plank, (3) a bent wood hall tree, and (4) two napkin holders that will be donated to the woodshop's fund raising auction. We've attended two Mariachi concerts at the University of Texas - Pan American, and we plan to attend a performance of the Ballet Folkloric. Last Friday Leon joined six other guys from our social group for a fishing trip on the Gulf of Mexico. We caught our limit of Red Snapper; the limit is 4 fish that must exceed 17 inches in length (see Travel Pictures) - the fish fry is scheduled for next Wednesday evening. Yesterday we attended the kite festival on South Padre Island; it is amazing to see kites dancing to music. Of course, happy hours are held whenever the late afternoon weather is comfortable. We will leave Victoria Palms on March 18th.

Fall 2011

November 19, 2011

We departed for the Rio Grande Valley on November 15th to spend another winter at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX. We arrived at VP late Thursday afternoon, November 17th, with just enough daylight to complete the essential hookups. The trip south was uneventful, for which we are very thankful. A few members of our winter family had arrived and others will be coming in between now and the first of December. We are looking forward to a wonderful winter of happy hours, golf, woodshop and computer activities, and just enjoying the time together with friends.

Summer 2011

August 25, 2011

We arrived back in Oak Ridge on August 22nd. The trip home was uneventful, and the house was just as we had left it last June. The yard is very dry but not in as bad a shape as we expected considering how hot the summer has been; a good soaking rain will bring it back to life.

Our trip from Maine involved a three day stop in Stowe, Vermont, which is located in the Green Mountains of northern Vermont. This was a very relaxing visit in a beautiful place. We drove up Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, and then Leon hiked to the summit while Jean waited for him at a scenic lookout - the hike to the summit was more rock climbing than hiking. We also made a brief visit to the Trapp Family Lodge. The lodge's architecture is typical of that found in Innsbruck, Austria. The lodge was built by the von Trapp family that was featured in the musical "Sound of Music". We also stopped at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory for a treat.

Our next stop was Clayton, NY to visit the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. We took a boat tour of the islands - actually there are 1863 islands with approximately one-third of them in the United States. As part of the tour we stopped on Heart Island to tour the Boldt Castle. This castle was being built for George C. Boldt's wife, Louise, who unfortunately died before it was finished. The castle remained in an unfinished state until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired it in 1977. Parts of the first two floors have been finished; the remaining structure will be restored to the conditions that existed when construction was stopped in 1904. See the Travel Pictures web page for photographs of the castle..

We toured some of the country side in the greater Watertown, NY area - diary farming is the primary agricultural activity. We also visited the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, which is located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and at the head waters of the St. Lawrence River. The day was finished with some wine tasting at the Thousand Islands Winery; of course, we bought some wine to enjoy at home.

August 9, 2011

Our stay in Maine is rapidly drawing to a close - the visit was wonderful. We watched Steve play many baseball games, we played golf twice a week exploring four different courses in the greater Gorham, ME area, had several lobster dinners, picked strawberries and blue berries at Doles Fruit Farm, Limington, ME and froze several quarts of each berry, toured part of the White Mountains in northeast Maine, bought some summer clothes at L. L. Bean, Freeport, ME, and, of course, played many games of Mexican Train Dominoes with Steve and Jeff. We also had a couple of campfires at our campsite with roasted hot dogs and blue berry pie; Steve doesn't like pies, but Grandma's blue berry pie was a definite hit with both Steve and Lizzie.

We will be leaving Maine August 15th. We plan to spend a little time in northern Vermont and then travel along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River until we intersect I-81 at which point we will start the trip back to Oak Ridge.

July 14, 2011

The State of Main 10U Cal Ripken All-Star baseball tournament was played July 9 - 12, 2011 in Belgrade, ME. The tournament format was double elimination. The Gorham team lost their second game putting them in the losers bracket; this made the road to the championship game a very difficult task. They won three games playing double headers on two consecutive days. By the time they got to the championship game the boys were tired and the pitching arms were sore. Steve's team lost the championship game to a well rested team from Marshwood, ME by a score of 8 to 0. Everyone from Gorham can be proud of how well the boys played; their record was 7 and 2. See the web page Family/Friends Web Page for a few pictures from the tournament.

June 30, 2011

Update on Steve's baseball: Steve's team played well in the championship series in the Gorham recreation league, but eventual lost. The 10-year old Cal Ripken All-Star from Gorham won the district tournament, outscoring their opponents 20 to 2. See the Family/Friends Web Page for a few pictures from the tournament. The State of Maine tournament starts on July 9th.

June 18, 2011

We arrived in Maine on Wednesday June 15th; we will spend most of the summer visiting our son's family. The trip to Maine was uneventful, and we are very thankful for safe travel.

Our son and his family are doing well; Jeff is optimistic about his job, and Maureen will continue to teach at the University of Southern Maine. Lizzie wants to start piano lessons this summer; we sure hope she enjoys this effort to learn music and how to play it.

Our grandson, Steve, is playing baseball in the Cal Ripken League through the Gorham, ME recreation department. On Wednesday evening his team started play in the season ending single elimination tournament. They won this game and then won again on Friday evening. Steve played very well, going 5 for 6 at the plate and scored each time he got on base. Monday evening they start play in the league championship play-off, which is a best of three series.

Steve was selected to play on the 10-year old Cal Ripken All-Star team representing Gorham, ME. The first game in the district tournament is June 26th; this is a double elimination tournament. Last year his 9-year old team won the corresponding district tournament and then went on to win the State of Maine tournament. The 10-year old team is comprised of most of the boys from the 9-year old team, and we hope the this new group of boys have similar success.

Spring 2011

March 28, 2011

We departed Victoria Palms on March 15th and arrived home on March 18th; the trip was safe and uneventful, and we found the house just as we had left it last November. The winter in the Rio Grande Valley was wonderful. We played golf, shared many happy hours, pot-luck dinners, and games with friends. Leon taught two classes of "Introduction to System 7," each class consisted of six session held over a two week period.

During the winter Leon used the woodshop at Victoria Palms to build a pair of chairs for our home kitchen. Since this was his first attempt to build chairs, the project did present some new challenges. The product of Leon's effort can be view on the Wood Craft web page.

Since arriving home effort has been devoted to getting the yard cleaned up and shrubbery trimmed. The first several days we were home the weather was very nice with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s, but last Saturday a cold front passed through bringing cloudy skies, rain, and temperatures about 10 degrees below normal for this time of the year. Needless to say, the weather is still too cool to plant flowers.

Winter 2011

January 17, 2011

It has been quite a while since an update of travel news was posted, so this one will cover the past few months.

During October and November we stayed home and relaxed, dealt with the fall clean-up of the yard, and completed our semi-annual visits to the doctor and dentist; these visits showed our health continues to be good.

We left Oak Ridge on November 29th to travel to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The trip south was uneventful, and we arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort about 5 PM on December 1st. This is the fifth winter we'll be spending at Victoria Palms. We were the last of our social group to arrive, and the first happy hour started about 45 minutes later. We tentatively plan to return home in late March.

Over the next few days Leon selected time slots to serve as a volunteer monitor in the computer room and the woodshop. Most of the work in the computer room involves solving problems guests at the resort are having with their computers. Monitoring in the woodshop involves checking out tools, insuring users are using the power equipment safely, and advising users on how to accomplish their tasks. Each activity consumes one afternoon a week. Leon's woodshop project this winter is building two chairs for use in the kitchen at home. Leon also prepared material for the "Introduction to System 7" course offered to resort guests through the Computer Club. The first class started last Monday; guests have shown considerable interest in this course and the enrollment for the second session closed in about 5 days, so a third session will be started in late February.

Golf occupies at least one day a week. This season we are going to the Pharr, TX public course because Llano Golf Course is still undergoing major repairs from the summer floods in the Rio Grande Valley.

Of course, happy hours are part of the social activity. Leon completed the video of our summer trip about three weeks ago, and last week Wednesday evening the first public viewing was held. Many people provided very complimentary comments, and for several of our Canadian friends it provided a pleasant reminder of their travels to the Canadian Rockies.

Summer 2010

October 1, 2010

We arrived back in Oak Ridge on September 30, 2010. The house was just as we had left it, and the yard was in better shape than we expected considering how hot and dry the summer had been.

Our summer trip covered approximately 13,000 miles including a cross country trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. The last month was spent in Gorham, ME visiting our son's family, playing a little golf, and watching our grandson play soccer. We had a wonderful time; now the task of making a video from the still pictures and raw video we took begins; hopefully, Leon will get it completed before we travel to the Rio Grande Valley to spend the winter. See the Travel Pictures page for a few of the pictures from our trip.

August 25, 2010

We arrived at Wassamki Springs Campground near Gorham, ME early the evening of August 23rd; we will stay here until September 25th. Since leaving the Crater Lake area of Oregon we covered about 3,200 miles in a total of 10 days, which included a two night stop west of Ottawa, Ontario to visit friends from our Winter Texan Family.

August 13, 2010

Today is our last day at Crater Lake National Park. This morning we took a hike to Watchman Overlook to get a panoramic view of Crater Lake and the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Tomorrow morning we start our trip across country with the goal of arriving in Gorham, ME on August 24th.

August 10, 2010

We arrived at Diamond Lake RV Park yesterday afternoon about 2 PM; this RV Park is about five miles from the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park. Today the Rim Drive, a 33 mile road that encircles the Crater Lake, is the scheduled activity.

July 30, 2010

Today we started our tour of the Washington and Oregon coast. The weather at the coast is cool - temperatures varying between 50 and 58 degrees - with an over-cast sky. We plan to spend two to four days at each stop as we work our way down the coast along highway US 101. From there we will visit Crater Lake National Park with plans to hike to the rim of the lake - we'll see if these old folks can make it up the steep trail to the rim.

July 29, 2010

Today we took the ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuce to Victoria, British Columbia located on Vancouver Island to visit the Butchart Gardens. The gardens are built in a former limestone quarry, and are the creation of Jennie Butchart, wife of Robert Butchart, who made his fortune in the cement business on Vancouver Island. Today these gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada. Walking around the garden was a visual feast.

July 22 - 28, 2010

One of the personal surprises during our trip occurred late the afternoon of July 22nd when our son, Jeff, and our granddaughter, Lizzie, met us at Shadow Mountain RV Park, which is located about 15 miles west of Port Angeles, WA. We spent the next four days visiting sites in Olympic National Park. We hiked up to Hurricane Hill, which has excellent vistas of the Olympic Mountains to the southwest, Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Victoria, British Columbia to the north; Lizzie thought the views from the top of the ridge were great. During this hike we saw a black bear, and two black tail deer from a distance of about 10 feet. The next day we visited the Hoh Rain Forest and hiked the two short trails; the day was very sunny so the rain forest didn't have the mysterious preconceived visual appearance of a rain forest. After the visit to the rain forest we drove to Ruby Beach and walked along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Our hike to the Humes Ranch Homestead was anticlimactic after the previous two days. Our last hike was to the falls on the Sol Duc River; the return trip on the Lover's Lane trail took us through old growth forest - the huge Fir, Cedar, and Hemlock trees are absolutely magnificent. We had a wonderful visit, and the trailer felt empty after they left.

July 19, 2010

Today we visited the Pike Place Market on Seattle's Waterfront and had a lunch on the waterfront. The traffic in Seattle is considered to be the worst in America. After driving into downtown Seattle during the non-rush hours we agree with this assessment; consequently we decided to forego further visits to Seattle - some readily available information about public transportation would be useful to tourists.

July 18, 2010

On July 18th we drove down to Mount St. Helens to view nature's recovery from the May 1980 volcanic explosion on the north slope of the mountain. Although the explosion is considered a small volcanic explosion, it is impressive to see the area impacted and how nature is recovering.

July 17, 2010

Today we spent the day visiting Jean's nephew, who lives in Tacoma. Lunch at a waterfront restaurant involved a plate of salmon and chips with a couple of pints of locally brewed beer.

July 15, 2010

July 15th was a beautiful day without a single cloud in the sky, so we decided to make our trip to Mount Rainier. At the Sunrise Visitors Center the mountain appears just an arm's length away and doesn't appear very high, but the summit is over 8,000 feet above the visitors center and the line of sight to the summit is seven miles. One could readily see the trail used by climbers up the Emmons Glacier leading to the summit of Mt. Rainier.

July 14, 2010

We arrived south of Tacoma, WA today. The three weeks we spent touring the mountains of Canada was a wonderful experience.

July 12, 2010

Our visit to Vancouver, BC involved a lot of walking as we toured parts of the city. Vancouver is a beautiful city that appears to be quite livable - a good rail system and public places along most of the waterfront - but it is expensive. We had lunch at the Season In The Park Restaurant in Queen Elizabeth Park - the same place Presidents Clinton and Boris Yeltsin had lunch during their April 1993 Vancouver summit meeting.

July 10, 2010

From Yoho National Park we traveled to Vancouver, BC with overnight stops at Revelstoke and Kamloops, BC. At Revelstoke we drove to the summit of Mount Revelstoke to view the alpine meadows - the Glacial Lilies were just beautiful. At Kamloops we purchased replacement batteries for the trailer - both failed since we left Oak Ridge.

July 8, 2010

With our stay in Banff at an end we traveled to Yoho National Park for a couple nights at the Kicking Horse Campground, which was the site used by workers that built the Canadian Pacific Railroad line across the Kicking Horse Pass. We watched a train traverse the Lower Spiral Tunnel, which as part of a figure eight track route and the Upper Spiral Tunnel replaced the original treacherous 4.5% grade track on the west side of Kicking Horse Pass, viewed Takakkaw Falls, and hiked around Emerald Lake.

June 30, 2010

We arrived at the Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta, Canada on June 24th; this will be our home until July 8th.

The Canadian Rockies are spectacularly beautiful mountains. Glaciers carved these mountains over thousands of years leaving a landscape with sharp edges, steep cliffs, large U-shaped valleys, glacier carved cirques, and blue and turquoise colored alpine lakes. The mountains are an arms length away from you.

We have hiked several trails and seen some beautiful waterfalls; in Johnson Canyon, which is estimated to be only 8,000 years old, we saw 7 waterfalls in 1½ miles. Yesterday we drove to the Icefield Center and took the obligatory guided tour on the Athabasca Glacier. This glacier is fed with ice from the Columbia Icefield, which dates from at least the last Glacial period in North America.

We visited Lake Louise and had lunch in the Lake View Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise; once in a while we spend a little money to get a glimpse of how the other part of the world lives. Lake Louise is fed with melt water from Victoria Glacier, which is located on the upper steep eastern face of Mount Victoria; this lake is advertised as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we wouldn't argue with that claim.

The views from the golf course at Fairmont Banff Hot Springs Resort were too tempting and we decided to play the Tunnel Nine course. Yes, the green fee was high, but to see the mountain views while walking the course was worth it. A couple of days later we celebrated Jean's birthday with a wonderful dinner at a intimate restaurant in the Fairmont Banff Hot Springs Hotel.

June 21, 2010

We traveled to Butte, MT on Saturday to tour the historic mining town and the Berkeley Pit. Mining for silver, gold and copper started in Butte in the mid-1800s, and the hill that Butte is built on is often referred to as "The Richest Hill on Earth." The Berkeley Pit is an abandoned open pit copper mine that operated from 1955 to 1982. The pit dimensions are 1¼ miles east to west, 1 mile north to south, and ~1800 feet deep. The amount of copper removed from Berkeley Pit would be sufficient to pave a four-lane highway four inches thick from Butte to 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, UT. Since mining stopped at the Pit, ground and surface water has been slowly filling it along with all the surrounding underground mines resulting in the largest Superfund site in the United States. Montana Resources, which operates an open pit copper mine adjacent to the Berkeley Pit is recovering about 400,000 pounds of copper per month from the water. ARCO, a subsidiary of BP, is the responsible party for the environmental monitoring and remedial action at Berkeley Pit, the Anaconda smelter site, and 120 miles of the Clark Fork River. In about 10 years the water level in the Pit is expected to rise to the natural water level, which will then require continuous pumping and treatment of the water to prevent further contamination of the Silver Bow Creek, which is the head water of the Clark Fork River.

June 16, 2010

We arrived in Gardiner, MT on Saturday afternoon about 2 PM. We are staying here because we couldn't get a camp site inside Yellowstone National Park; the Park Service is already taking reservations for Summer 2011. Gardiner is located at the north entrance to the Park, which makes for long drives to see most sites within the Park. This is our third visit to Yellowstone and we still enjoy visiting the unique features therein. The forest is recovering very nicely from the 1988 fires. Based upon memory that is seven years old, the number of people visiting the Park seems to be larger than it was during our visit in 2003.

Today we toured the Lamar Valley, which is located in the upper Northeast section of the the Park. As we drove along the Lamar River we came upon hundreds of Bison on the far side of the River. The herd went on for a couple of miles, and the sight conjured up images reported in the written histories of the Great Plains that claim Bison herds stretched in all directions as far as the eye could see.

See the Travel Pictures page for some of the wildlife we observed in Yellowstone National Park.

June 10, 2010

We arrived in Cody, WY yesterday afternoon about 4 PM. The trip across the Big Horn Mountains was a good pull for the truck; the average descent grade was 5% for about 20 miles with an elevation change of about 5,400 feet. The ascent was steeper in several sections with reasonably flat sections to allow the engine and transmission to cool before attacking the next steep section.

Prior to leaving the Black Hills we visited Wind and Jewel Caves. Jewel Cave is the most interesting and we recommend anyone traveling through this part of South Dakota to visit Jewel Cave; plan about two hours for the tour and, if you can, make reservations prior your visit.

On our way to Cody we stopped at Devils Tower. This is an interesting geologic formation, certainly one of a kind in the United States and possibly the world. While hiking around the base we observed climbers descending the formation. We had originally planned to spend two nights at Devils Tower but one can see everything at the site in one afternoon.

See the Travel Pictures web page for some pictures of Jewel Cave and Devils Tower.

May 31 - June 6, 2010

We started our summer trip, which will cover a lot miles and about 15 weeks of time. We left Oak Ridge the morning of May 31st and arrived about 4 PM Thursday afternoon at Custer State Park, which is located in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota. This part of the trip was uneventful, the best kind of travel.

While in southwestern South Dakota we plan to visit sites and do things we didn't get the chance to accomplish during our trip west in the Summer of 2003. Yesterday we took part in the Volksmarch to the top of the arm of the Crazy Horse Carving; this hike was about 6.2 miles round trip with an elevation change of about 500 feet. Each year on the first weekend of June the Crazy Horse Memorial allows the public to hike to the world's largest mountain carving in progress. During the span of seven years we can see some progress on their effort to block out the horse's head. The face of Crazy Horse was completed in 1998 and is 86 feet high. Maybe our great grandchildren will see the completed sculpture.

We will stay in South Dakota until June 8th, then on to Devils Tower and Cody, Wyoming for a couple of nights at each location and then on to Yellowstone for a week.

Winter 2009 - 2010

March 29, 2010

We arrived back in Oak Ridge yesterday afternoon about 2 PM. The trip from the Rio Grande Valley was uneventful. The house was just as we had left it last December.

During the trip we spent one day visiting the painted churches in the Schulenburg, TX area. This area of Texas was settled by Czech and German immigrants in the 1840 - 1860s. The most beautiful ones are four Catholic churches dating from the 1860s to early 1900s. Originally the churches were part of small communities, which have since disappeared.

We also toured the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX; this brewery was founded by the Czech and German residents in 1909 and is Texas' oldest independent brewery. The founders wanted a beer that tasted like European beers and to achieve this goal they hired Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian brewmaster. As part of our tour we tasted several of their hand-crafted brews. Shiner Bock is probably the brewery's most popular brand, but their Hefeweizen, a classic Bavarian wheat beer, is very good.

After stopping near Lake Charles, LA to get a dinner of fresh water crawfish, we made a slight detour to visit the Biloxi, MS area to get a first hand view of the recovery from hurricane Katrina. We drove the coastal highway between Biloxi and Pass Christian, a distance of approximately 50 miles. Very little rebuilding has occurred. The gambling casinos have rebuilt on land along the shore, a few high rise condominiums are complete, but very little reconstruction of the residential areas has occurred. According to an article in the Biloxi tourist guide, approximately 4,500 homes in Biloxi were destroyed by the hurricane, but only 430 permits for new homes have been issued. Two factors are responsible for the lack of residential building: (1) the inability to obtain insurance, and (2) all new homes must be built on stilts. These stilt homes are best characterized as eye sores compared to the old houses that formerly lined the shore.

March 3, 2010

One of the interesting activities in the Victoria Palms Woodshop is the construction of segmented bowls. Leon thinks these are beautiful and he thought it would be interesting to make one. Today Leon finished his first attempt at making a segmented bowl under the guidance of Daryl Sullivan, Cedar Falls, Iowa. The bowl is a simple design and made with walnut and maple woods. During the construction of the bowl one gains a new appreciation for cutting accuracy. Thanks to Daryl for the guidance and the loan of tools to accomplish the project. A picture of the bowl can be viewed on the Wood Craft web page.

February 20, 2010

This week Leon finished the construction of a Tea Table. The table will be placed in our living room next to a window near the fireplace. Go to the Wood Craft web page to view a photograph of the table.

January 17, 2010

We've been in the Rio Grande Valley for six weeks. The weather has been cool and wet, compared with averages for the Rio Grande Valley. The middle of last week we had a hard freeze, which took a serious toll on the subtropical plants; damage to the local citrus crop is still unknown. Because of the cool and wet weather the sugar cane harvest is behind schedule. But things are looking up, the weather forecast for the next week predicts temperatures in the mid 70s with little to no rain.

Yesterday we were part of a group of 14 from our social group that attended a Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Pan American, Edinburg, TX. The program started with a Mariachi ensemble comprised of 11 and 12 year old students from the Rio Grande City Middle School - what a wonderful performance, the girls that did the vocals just knocked our socks off. The three University Mariachi ensembles gave an outstanding performance - wonderful talent and dedication among all of the musicians. We thoroughly enjoy the Mexican folk music, and to see it performed so well is a wonderful experience. The day concluded with dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Alamo, TX.

December 8, 2009

We arrived safely at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX on December 4th at about 3 PM. We drove in rain on Wednesday as we traveled from Hazen, AR to Buffalo, TX and snow on Friday as we traveled the last leg of our trip from Schulenburg,TX, fortunately, the pavement was warm enough to melt the snow upon contact.

When we arrived at Victoria Palms the temperature was 44 degrees with a strong north wind. Saturday morning there was heavy frost on everything. The weather turned warm on Sunday, and we broke out the shorts. Today the high was 84 degrees - this is why we come to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter.

We were the last of our winter social group to arrive, and for us the happy hours started on Friday at 5 PM.

Summer 2009

November 12, 2009

We went on two camping outings in October, one week at Lake Junaluska, NC and four days at Cumberland Mountain State Park, TN. We met friends at Lake Junaluska, celebrated with our God daughter the birth of her third child, and Leon played some golf when the weather permitted. We had friends from Oak Ridge visit us at Cumberland Mountain State Park, the campfire stew was excellent, and Leon played nine holes of golf at The Bear Trace Cumberland Mountain Course. Although this course is not particularly long, it is challenging, requiring rather accurate shots on several of the holes; needless to say, Leon wasn't always accurate.

The fall colors are essentially gone, except for the ginkgo tree in our front yard. Go to the Travel Pictures page to view a picture of it as well as some pictures of interesting toad stools.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the time for us to prepare for our departure to the Rio Grande Valley is upon us. We will be returning to Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX with a planned arrival on December 4th.

September 6, 2009

We arrived back in Oak Ridge yesterday afternoon about 6 PM. Everything at the house was as we had left it last June. The number of trucks on the interstate highways seems to be greater than there were last June; if this impression is correct, the nation's economy is on the road to recovery.

Since my last entry we've do a few things, and I will share them in reverse chronological order.

On September 4th we visited the Gettysburg Civil War Battlefield. Leon has read several books on the Civil War, and from this reading gained a good understanding of the significance of the battle that took place there July 1 - 3, 1863. However, the guided tour of the battlefield provided a visual impression of the magnitude of the engagement and how little chance the Confederate forces had of winning the battle. For anyone interested in Civil War history this place is a must visit.

On September 2nd we visited the Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. We thoroughly enjoyed viewing once again some of the paintings produced by the most well known American artist of twenty century. If you are ever in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, we recommend spending a day at this museum.

This summer our grandson, Steve, got interested in golf as a result of watching the tournaments on television. To capitalize on this interest, Leon took Steve to the driving range to practice hitting some balls. Leon also played several nine hole rounds of golf with Steve as his caddy; both of us thoroughly enjoyed the time together. Steve did admit that the game is more difficult that it appears on television. A measure of how much Steve enjoyed the golf outings, Steve gave Leon a birthday present of five dollars to buy a bag of tees - the money was from his own funds; I will always remember this gift and the time we spent together. Oh, by the way, Steve says Grandpa is not much of a golfer! Unfortunately, I have to agree with his assessment - heck I get more strokes for the dollar.

August 1, 2009

We arrived at Wassamki Springs Campground on July 28th as planned. We had a wonderful three weeks at Bar Harbor, even though the weather was less than ideal. We celebrated Steve's 9th birthday on July 28th - the cash gifts he received are burning holes in his pocket. Last evening we took the kids out for pizza at a restaurant in Westbrook, ME - this was a real hit with the kids; Lizzie wants to have pepperoni pizza with the family at this restaurant on her birthday.

July 23, 2009

Our stay in Bar Harbor has been extended for a third week; we will leave on July 28th to return to Wassamki Springs Campground to be near the kids until early September. We are still exploring the less popular sites on Mount Desert Island. Last evening we attended a free music concert presented by the Bar Harbor Festival String Orchestra at the Blackwoods Campground amphitheater; the music was wonderful and included pieces by Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, and Tchaikowsky.

July 15, 2009

We've enjoyed our first week in Bar Harbor so much that we decided to stay another week. We are investigating some of the less popular sights around Mount Desert Island. Yesterday we took a ferry ride to Little and Great Cranberry Islands. Both of these islands have year round and summer season residents - certainly places to be away from the chaos of Bar harbor and places to find peace and quiet. Today we hiked to Bar Island at low tide to view the village and the harbor from the summit of Bar Island.

July 10, 2009

Jeff, Maureen, Lizzie, and Steve arrived in Bar Harbor yesterday afternoon for a long weekend. We will tour parts of Acadia National Park and have blueberry pot-over at Jordon Pond House. The weather is just beautiful.

July 7, 2009

Today we traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine for a week long stay. Last evening we celebrated Jean's 69th birthday with dinner at a nice restaurant in Bar Harbor. The weather is very cool - we had to run the furnace this morning to get the chill out of the trailer. Jeff and family will join us on Thursday to enjoy the area. The wild blueberries are ready to pick.

June 26, 2009

We left Oak Ridge on June 13th to start our summer travel. Our first stop was the DRV factory in Howe, IN to have repairs to our trailer completed that resulted from the tire failure last December. While the trailer was being repaired we visited our dear friends in Shelby TWP, Michigan and Winter Texans in Corunna, Ontario. We picked up the repaired trailer on Wednesday and started our travel to the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario to visit additional Winter Texans - this was a 2½ day happy hour. Thanks, Tim and Nancy! Sunday morning we started travel to Maine, finally arriving at Wassamki Springs Campground late Tuesday afternoon. All the travel was safe and uneventful, which we always thankful for.

Things at our son's home are fine. Steve has already spent a night with us in the trailer. Later today Leon will show Lizzie how to operate his video camera; Lizzie wants to make a movie.

Spring 2009

May 27 - June 1, 2009

We spent an enjoyable five days camping at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, TN. The campground at this park is very nice and we always enjoy the time spent there. We hiked a couple of trails, and we had Friday evening dinner and Sunday noon buffet at the park restaurant - the buffet style service cost $10 for seniors. The Travel Pictures web page has some pictures.

March 25, 2009

Our visit with Leon's brother was enjoyable in spite of Leon having the worst pollen induced sinus attack he has ever experienced. Leon's brother has a nice mobile home in a small but nice mobile home community; their boat slip is only about 75 yards away.

Because of Leon's sinus problems we traveled straight home from Florida arriving in Oak Ridge on March 18th. The house was just as we had left it last December. Getting out of all the pine and live oak pollen has definitely provided the sinus relief Leon was expecting. The past week was spent cleaning the yard. Today we are getting rain, which should make the grass really grow after being fertilized yesterday.

Winter 2008 - 2009

March 7 - 10, 2009

We departed Victoria Palms RV Resort about 9 AM on March 7th. We arrived in Eustis, FL about 4 PM March 10th. We will spend a week here visiting my oldest brother.

February 17, 2009

Today Leon completed the construction of a Butler's Tray Table. Go to the Wood Craft web page to view photographs of the table.

Fall 2008

December 14, 2008

We finally were able to leave Oak Ridge for out winter trip on Saturday, December 6, 2008 and arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX about dusk on Wednesday, December 10, 2008. On our trip south a blown tire on the trailer Sunday afternoon introduced some excitement that we didn't need. We had to spend 1 days in Nacogdoches, TX waiting for tires to be delivered from Houston. We got on the road again about 3 PM Tuesday.

All of the social gang we met the past two years were waiting for us. Tomorrow Leon will go to the woodshop to start working on a Butler Tray Table, and then meet with officers of the Computer Club to discuss the revised Introduction to Windows class that he'll teach in January.

November, 2008

Thanksgiving will be spent with our dear friends, John and MaryAnn, in Shelby Township, MI - we've been sharing Thanksgiving with them since 1971 and we think this event can be classed as a joint tradition.

We're in the process of getting the trailer ready for our winter stay at Victoria Palms RV Resort in Donna, TX. We hope to leave on December 4th; Happy Hours will begin on December 7th.

October, 2008

The fall colors this year are just wonderful. We spent four days in early October at Bandy Creek Campground, Big South Fork, Oneida, TN and another four days in late October at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, TN. We cooked our first stew and chili over a camp fire during these outings - both efforts were successful.

Summer 2008

September 2 - 17, 2008

We visited Leon's brothers and attended Leon's 50 year high school reunion on September 6, 2008 - it was a wonderful event that provided a chance to catch up on events in the lives of class mates. After the reunion weekend we visited friends in Whitewater, WI and Shelby Township, MI. The final trip home was uneventful, we arrived home on September 17th and everything at the house was in good order.

August 29 - September 1, 2008

We visited the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan. In the late 1800s and early 1900s this area was boom country from copper mine operations. Calumet, Michigan had a population of about 30,000 in 1910; today the population is about 1,000. However, you can still see the glory of days past in the buildings in downtown Calumet. We also drove to the northern end of highway US41; Jean was there as a kid and she remembers the road ending in the woods - it still ends in the woods. We visited Copper Harbor, walked along the lake front in Houghton, toured the Mineral Museum of Michigan on the campus of Michigan Technological University and the Quincy Mine No. 2 Hoist House. The Quincy Mine site is part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park, which is working to preserve the copper mining history of the region. See the Travel Pictures page to view some pictures.

August 25 - 28, 2008

We visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, MI. About 15 miles of the Lake Superior shore is a series of high sandstone cliffs that are painted by minerals deposited by water seeping through the rocks. We spend part of one day taking short hikes and another day on the boat cruise, which is really the only means of viewing the eroded rock formations. See the Travel Pictures page to view a few photographs.

August 11 - 14, 2008

We traveled from Maine to Wisconsin to visit families and attended Jean's 50 year high school graduation reunion. The trip was uneventful - the best kind of travel. Jean's reunion was August 15 - 16 in Oshkosh, WI; Jean caught up on events of some of her class mates that she hadn't seen in many years.

August 4, 2008

Today we took the Amtrak train between Portland, ME to Boston, MA to be a tourist in Boston for a day. We spent the day walking the Freedom Trail, which is about 3 miles long with stops at 16 historic landmarks related to the American Revolution. We had lunch at the Cheers Bar and Grill located at Quincy Market. The high lights of the walk were Old North Church and the Bunker Hill Monument. Go to the Travel Pictures web page to view some pictures.

July 18, 2008

On the afternoon of July 18th a very severe thunderstorm suddenly appeared. A microburst event with winds around 70 mph occurred near the campground causing many trees to be blown down. Fortunately, we were one of the few units that didn't lose an awning.

The three pictures below were taken about two hours after the storm ended. The first picture was taken near the campground recreation center, the middle picture was taken in the western end of the campground, and the third picture is the park model unit located across the street from out camp site. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Storm damage at Wassamki Campground Damage done by a tree struck by lightning Tree on unit across the street from our site

July 8 - 14, 2008

We spent the week at Bar Harbor (Mainer's pronounce it "Baa Ha Ba") visiting sites in Acadia National Park. Each day we undertook a different activity. We started with a picnic lunch at Otter Point and then hiked to Sand Beach along the shore. We rode the Island Explorer bus to Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor for lunches at local restaurants. We rented bicycles and rode the Carriage Trail to Jordon Pond House followed by a Pop-over blueberry alamode dessert. We window shopped in Bar Harbor, and also hiked around Jordan Pond. Oh yes, we picked wild blueberries on the top of the hill at the Bar Harbor Campground; the berries were so plentiful that the ground was blue in most places, and we have a dozen packages in the freezer and we took about a gallon back to the kids.

June 14 - July 7, 2008

Most of our time was spent visiting the kids. Steve really likes to play Mexican Train Dominoes, and he fully understands the strategy of the game - at age eight he is ready to take on the RV players. Lizzie still spends time drawing but the media has changed to the computer to draw fanciful animals to post on her "Neopets" web page. We had one lobster dinner. Leon fixed BBQed baby back ribs; Steve and Lizzie initially didn't want any ribs, but when they were essentially gone they wanted to try them and now Leon needs to BBQ a second batch. We celebrated Jean's birthday on July 7th; she received simple hand crafted gifts from Lizzie and Steve, which were greatly appreciated.

June 11 - 13, 2008

We left Oak Ridge on June 11th to start our summer travel. Our first stop was Scarborough, ME at Wassamki Campground, about 4 miles from our son Jeff's house. We arrived mid afternoon on June 13th. The grandkids are fine.

Winter 2007 - 2008

March 25 - April 3, 2008

We left Victoria Palms on March 25th for a leisurely trip home. Our first stop was a two night stay in Rockport, TX to visit friends who spent the winter there. Our next stop was a two night stay in Sulphur, LA. We toured part of the Creole Nature Trail. Five years ago we had a picnic lunch on the beach at Holly Beach, LA, which is located on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. At that time Leon remarked that Holly Beach is a scruffy town waiting to be blown away by a tropical storm. Well, hurricane Rita did just that in September 2005! Today only nine structures are in some stage of new construction - there is nothing to rebuild. Our next stop was a two night stay at Natchez, MS. Natchez in the 1850s contained more millionaires per capita than any other city in the US - cotton was king. Almost all of the antebellum houses from this time period have been preserved, and even today these are still grand houses with many of them containing their original furnishings. We took a driving tour and visited four of the houses. The last part of our trip home was a three day drive up the Natchez Trace, a motor parkway that connects Natchez and Nashville that closely follows the historic trace. A stay at the campground on Davis Lake is an example of why we enjoy RVing; the view out the back window of our trailer was spectacular, such experiences are virtually impossible when staying in a motel. We arrived in Oak Ridge the afternoon of April 3rd; the house was just as we had left it last November.

March 3, 2008

The winter is passing quickly. The weather this year has been very nice with temperatures suitable for shorts most of the time. We shared the thrill of victory with friends and Leon taught introduction to Windows computer classes.

Packers scored Victory in the snow Computer class

Our dear friends, Mary Ann and John Hooper, spent two weeks with us in February. We had a wonderful time. Some of the activities included: several happy hours, attendance of performances by entertainers at the resort and the "Ballet Folkloric" at the University of Texas - Pan American, golf, tours from Rio Grande City to South Padre Island, lunch at Arturo's in Nuevo Progresso, Mexico, and a little time to relax.

Happy Hour with the gang Lunch at Arturo's MaryAnn's tee shot John's tee shot  The Nineteenth Hole

January 19, 2008

Approximately six weeks have passed since we arrived at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX. Many of the friends we made last winter have arrived, and the happy hours have been numerous and wonderful.

Jean is learning how to make baskets using long leaf pine needles; she started the second basket last Monday.

A pine needle basket is being fabricated. The finished pine needle basket

Leon is involved with the computer club serving as a monitor in the resort computer room one morning a week, and he is teaching a six session class entitled "Introduction to Windows."

Last week Leon started using the resort woodshop to construct a small coffee table for our trailer. When set up the table is 16" H x 18" W x 24" L, and when folded up the package measures 7 x 4 x 24. A composite photograph of the table can be viewed on the Wood Craft web page

Thus far, we've made one trip to Nuevo Progresso, Mexico to buy rum - with all the happy hours another trip will be required very soon to replenish the supply.

December 16, 2007

Today we attended an absolutely wonderful Mariachi concert at the University of Texas - Pan American. This music dates from the 1880 - 1890s originally played by string ensembles; the trumpet was added in the 1930s. The music is very joyous with a wide range of tempos. A Mariachi group typically consists of violins, trumpets, and a variety of guitars. Many of the group members also do vocals - truly multi-talented musicians. We're sure we'd enjoy the music twice as much if we understood Spanish.

November 28 - December 1, 2007

We left Oak Ridge on November 28th for out trip to the Rio Grande Valley to spend the winter at Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, TX. The trip was uneventful, which is the best kind of travel. We arrived at Victoria Palms just before noon on December 1st and were greeted by friends from last winter - partying started at 4 PM that afternoon.