March 25- 27th:  We took the Hawk on her maiden voyage to Bodega Bay.  It was a relaxing weekend and we practiced using all of the equipment and features.  It was wonderful and an opportunity for us to say goodbye to one of our favorite places in California.

April 1st through 26th:  There is so much to do and prepare for in a move and then add on moving cross country in an RV with 4 cats to the mix.  It was a lot.  Aside from packing up an entire household, we had to set up a storage facility in Pennsylvania to receive our stuff.  We asked Julie’s sister to take a day off from work to meet the truck at the storage facility. We had to set up a mail forwarding with the post office and retain a forwarding service to hold our mail and send to us the important stuff at RV parks that we were staying more than a few days.  We had to get all of medical records from all of our providers and the cat’s records from our vet.   We sold a lot of stuff and gave so much away to friends and Good Will.  We had to retain all of the Contractors to do the work on the house, meet with the Real Estate agent, pick out samples at Abbey Flooring, Lowe’s Home Depot, etc.   Because I didn’t want a going away party, we were meeting with friends for goodbye dinners, brunches and lunches.  Very emotionally draining and tiring.  Thank God Julie is retired; she did a majority of the detail work.

April 27-28th:  The packers and movers came.  It was really hard watching all of our belongings being boxed up by strangers and loaded into a moving truck.  The wide gamut of emotions is hard to explain.   Then comes the worry and the what if’s, the doubts and the second guessing decisions.  We had an enormous amount of help and support which made this bearable, but it was so hard on many levels!

April 30th:  We moved out of our house and into the RV.  When we drove down our street for the last time, we both sobbed.  So many good memories in that house that we spent 24 years together at.  So many dinners, parties, singing, laughter, great times with friends and family and so much fun.  We loved and lost such wonderful pets there.  It was so bitter sweet.  Even though we are entering a new and exciting chapter of our lives, the letting go of the past was very difficult and was a big adjustment for both of us.

4/30-6/6:  We moved into the RV at Midway RV Park in Vacaville.   We had to leave our home for the Contractors to do the work on the house to get it ready for sale:  new paint, new flooring, etc.   Why Vacaville you ask?  Sacramento doesn’t have a lot of RV places that are safe and clean; most of them are scary and not a place we would feel comfortable at; Cal Expo, the only exception, had no openings.  Midway RV Park was quite nice, the people were amazingly helpful and kind, and we felt safe there.  We had hoped that the work would be done on the house by mid-May but it wasn’t done until the end of May.  The Contractors did such a great job on the house and we had an offer in 3 days!  The sale is currently in Escrow as of this writing (6/23/16.)

5/21:  Went to my last SF Giants game. So sad to say goodbye to AT&T Park and garlic fries.  Such a rich tradition going to games with Bridget.  I will miss this so much but I will do it again someday!  San Francisco has such a special place in my heart.  I will always love it and hold such wonderful memories close to my heart.  Even though the goodbyes to friends have been hard, these wonderful people will remain my friends forever.

5/27-5/30:  Jazz Festival in Sacramento.  Julie and I have gone to this wonderful Sacramento tradition together for 24 years.  It was hard being there this year for obvious reasons.  So many of our friends that we used to enjoy the festival with don’t even go anymore.  It has changed so much and in our opinion, not for the better.  We love the traditional big band stuff (Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, etc.) and now it is a mixture of rock, blues, zydeco, etc.  I love all kinds of music and attend other musical genre festivals regularly, but for that weekend every year I knew that I would be surrounded by the beautiful standards from the 1920’s through 40’s.  The significant changes and the lack of the traditional big band and Dixie land sound made it a little easier to say goodbye to that ending tradition in our lives.  I will so miss all of the wonderful friends we have made there and we will miss Sister Swing, my favorite group, the most. I understand why the changes need to happen; most people who love that music are either gone or pretty old now so the support is no longer there, but it doesn’t make it easier.  So now we will go to New Orleans to get our Jazz fix instead.  Not a bad trade off!

5/31/16:  My last day working in the office was May 31st.  It was also a difficult day for me leaving such good people.  I have amazing bosses and co-workers.  They had a very sweet and kind send off with a wonderful get together.  I still can’t believe that one of my goodbye presents were tickets to the Bills/49ers game in Buffalo on October 16th.  So incredibly thoughtful and the perfect gift for me!!!!!  I will continue to work for SAMGI, but will do so remotely.  I am taking a significant amount of time off as we travel across the country, but back to full time status once we land in Pennsylvania.

6/1/16:  We were having dinner with a good friend (yet one more goodbye on our list of many) on June 1st and our Mazda was broken into in the parking lot of Outback Steakhouse.  The low-life thief bashed in the window and took Julie’s backpack out of the backseat that contained her computer, IPad and cash from the sale of our second car.  It was so upsetting, and we felt so violated.  The parking lot was well lit and we parked under a pole that had a sign indicating surveillance video.  The thief had no fear.  The Manager at the restaurant was able to pull up the video but the video didn’t show the license number on the car so the person knew exactly where to position their car so as not to be seen.  On top of everything else and the enormous stress we were already under, we really didn’t need a burglary!  We ended up staying in Vacaville a few extra days to get the Mazda window repaired and to get items replaced: IPad, etc.  We worked directly with our computer guy by phone, and he set us up with a brand new Dell that he is currently preparing for Julie.  He will ship it to Buffalo and it will be waiting for her there when we arrive there.

6/6/16:  We pulled out of Vacaville and we were on to our first stop on our journey which was in San Juan Bautista (near Salinas/Gilroy), at Betabel RV Park.  It was not too far for our first trek.  It was a clean and safe park, and the people at the front desk were so nice and customer service focused.  We stayed there for a few nights.  We knew we needed to slowly break in the cats to this big change in their lives and routine.  We knew they were missing their former big house.  This campground was just a campground to rest up in (as we surely needed it) and we did just that!  Since we drove for just a short time, we had them in their little pet taxis.  We have cages for them for the longer drives that will contain water, a litter box and a comfy sleeping pad to rest on.  The cats are doing so well; we were a bit worried about how they would do and in the beginning they didn’t really like being in the RV, but they are little troupers.  I know that they really don’t like it much, but they are trying!

6/9/16:  We then were on our way to Pismo Beach.  However, on the way to Pismo Beach, a car blew a tire in the car in the lane next to us.  The rubber from their blown tire rolled under the RV and damaged a water/sewer line.  We had an RV repairman come to our site and tell us he needed to order a part.  We were without water and sewer for 36 hours.  The park had great amenities (clean showers and bathrooms) which was a great help!  When the part came in, we put the cats in the hot car with me, and Julie drove the RV to the repair lot for a 2 hour part installation. I turned the car on and air conditioning on periodically to make it tolerable for all of us.  In the next RV site there was a dog fight, and the cats went nuts.  It was just an all-round horrible experience, but the RV was repaired and the cats settled down so we all survived!

The Pismo Beach RV Park was really nice; right on the ocean.  They had a great restaurant and general store.  Everything was clean and well maintained and Pismo Beach is a very cute town.  We stayed there for almost a week. We met so many wonderful people there who were so kind and helpful to us, and always willing to answer questions and offer assistance.  We are finding that RV people are really special.

6/15:  Our next stop was Santa Barbara at El Capital Ocean Mesa RV Park.  We pulled in to the park, but 2 hours later were evacuated due to the Santa Barbara fire.  We were a bit freaked out to say the least.  Julie immediately called other campsites in the area and we found a site in Buellton at Flying Flags Resort.  Buellton was 20 minutes North of Ocean Mesa and north of the fire.

We actually liked Flying Flags even better than Ocean Mesa, so we survived that horrible experience with a positive as well.  We met so many wonderful people and shared RV stories with many of them.  What the fire taught me, though, is that it is too much (with 4 cats) for one person in an emergency/crisis.  I called my bosses and told them I couldn’t fly in for a meeting I was supposed to attend a few days later.  I felt bad about missing it, but was really concerned about leaving Julie alone should another crisis arise.  Thank God I have great and understanding bosses.  Flying Flags had a big campfire every night, live music, a hot tub and a pool, so I finally was able to relax a bit.  Boy did I need that after the first couple of weeks of events!

6/22/16:  We were on to Malibu at the Malibu RV Park.  Although the site is pretty (right on the water) we decided we would only stay one night as opposed to two.  There was a different “feel” here than at the previous parks, and we just didn’t feel safe there.   We called the campground in San Diego and they were able to take us a day early, so we left on the 23rd   to join our friends, Jaye and Mary who had already made it to San Diego.  Jaye and Mary are making the trek across country with us.  It will be wonderful having their support and friendship as we set on this journey and into the next phase of our lives.

6/23/16:  We drove from Malibu to San Diego.  The GPS said it would be a 3.5 hour drive, but we were in the car and RV for over 8 hours.  It was a really long day and we were all exhausted!  The cats did well in their little “cages.”  They had water and a litter box, and we stopped along the way to feed them.  Southern California traffic is very intense, much different than Northern California.  They drive faster and are much more aggressive and it feels like there’s so many more cars on the road.  We were really tired.  We were on the I-805 (San Diego Freeway) and I was immediately behind Julie who was driving ahead of me in the RV.  We were in the middle lane - only because the right lanes were exiting to a different freeway.  We typically stay in the far right lane because we don’t drive over 55mph with the RV. Cars were going 65-80 mph around us, but the car in front of Julie came to a complete stop and put their flashers on.  A 36 foot rig can’t just merge into the next lane easily because they need much more space to maneuver.  Cars were piling up behind me in our lane and trying to merge into the faster lanes to the left.  It was scary and very dangerous.    I put my flashers on too so the cars behind me knew to stop. We sat there for 20 minutes until the tow truck came to assist the disabled car ahead.  That wonderfully kind man let Julie and me into the lane by stopping in the lane next to us.  I think he knew I was with the RV.  I wish I had the presence of mind to see what tow company he was with so I could call and compliment him to his employer.  Such a scary experience, but I guess this is part of the RV driving life in busy and congested traffic.

We arrived in San Diego at Sweetwater Canyon RV Park.  What a great place!  Jaye and Mary thoughtfully had dinner prepared for us when we arrived, so all we had to do was set up our rig.  Such a gift!  We will be in San Diego for a week and lots of fun awaits because we are going to the beaches, Naval Park, Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Seaport Village.  This will be fun.  The cats are happy to be free to roam the rig and not be locked up in their cages.

Setting up and taking down (preparing to depart) is quite an undertaking and typically takes an hour with both of us working.  There’s things to do on the inside:  stow away and secure any loose items on any surface, prepare the cat carriers, put litter boxes, water bowls and sleeping mats in each of the carriers, retract the slide outs, retract the satellite antenna from the roof, make sure all windows and fan pop tops are closed, retract the levelers (these metal thingies that come down from the bottom of the rig that settle into the ground,) make sure all lights are turned off, place cats in their cages.  On the outside:  empty all tanks, disconnect all hoses (water, electrical and sewer) and stow them in the basement storage compartments, remove “chocks” from the tires (these little rubber thingies prevent the rig from moving,) stow away the tire Legos (these plastic blocks that sometimes need to be placed under the front tires to lift up the front of the cab for leveling,) check all doors to make sure all are locked.  We have prepared checklists for things to do upon arrival and departure; it really helps to be living with a pilot whose entire work life depended on checklists. 

6/24:  Mary’s daughter, MaryAnn and her partner, Danny came down as they live in Chino.  We had a great dinner together, made a fire and told stories and laughed a lot.  It is not too hot here so the weather has been very comfortable.  Jaye found a brown recluse spider!  OMG – that was creepy and scary but we are out in nature so who knows what else we will find!!!

6/27, 28, 29 and 30:  We went to the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and the San Diego State Fair.  What fun we had! 
Even though I’ve been to the Wild Animal Park and Zoo before I still enjoyed it like it was my first time.  So many animals, so little time.  I love everything about those beautiful places.  It is hard to walk around in extreme heat with bad knees so we rented those mobility scooters with a shade top.  That made for lots of laughing and a way to beat the heat and save our barking knees! 

7/1:  Getting ready to leave takes longer than we anticipate.  We planned on leaving at 10a but we didn’t get everything done until 10:30a.  Lucy got out of the RV and gave us all a heart attack.  She is typically afraid of the door but she knew we were traveling again and she didn’t want to go.  She went underneath the RV and Julie had to climb under there to get her.  I can’t get down there with this knee of mine.  Poor little Lucy; it’s been so hard on the cats.  It’s ironic because we thought having them with us in the RV would be better than the belly of an airplane.  For the most part, the cats are doing well but I worry so much about them and they don’t like being in their carriers and moving.  Once we arrive, they adjust. 

We had a few incidents along the way.   Jaye and Mary had a problem with their tires but it ended up being something in the back of the trailer which affected the brakes.  Julie missed an exit and pulled into the little triangle area by the exit.  I had to stay there until it was clear and let her in.  Maneuvering a 36 foot rig is not as easy as it appears.  I have developed a sensitivity to RV travelers and big rig trucks.  From now on, I will always let them in ahead of me and will always give them plenty of space.  I try to be a polite driver but now I have become even more so.  You know the old saying:  “walk a mile in my shoes!”`

7/2:  Barstow is an interesting town.  The terrain looks like Mars with desert hilly landscapes that are brown with little vegetation.  It’s very dry and very hot.  The town itself is very dilapidated with a lot of closed up and boarded up businesses.  It’s very sad because it was a thriving part of Route 66 at one point, and now it looks very depressed and similar to a ghost town.  Tomorrow we are going to the Route 66 museum and a real live ghost town which is close to here.  We signed the Escrow papers today via a notary here that the Title Company set up for us.  The sale of the house closes on 7/7.  Still can’t believe that we sold the house; bitter sweet for sure.  I made a nice salad for dinner with chicken, strawberries, almonds and a homemade dressing; everyone liked it so the recipe was a great success!

7/3: We went to the Calico Ghost Town today.  There is a lot of Route 66 history here.  It’s a very desolate place but kind of interesting.  The Ghost Town looks like an old western town.  Very cool.  It was very hot today which made it seem even more like an arid western town.  Kind of eerie.  It looked like a movie set to me or Bonanza.

7/4:  Packed up a bit today because we head out tomorrow.  Driving to Kingman, AZ. and staying overnight one night there.  Went to dinner at a 50’s diner named “Peggy Sue’s.”  So cool.  The place had wonderful pictures on the wall of movie stars that have eaten there, and artifacts from the 50’s and a store that had the coolest memorabilia.  The menu was a throwback to yesteryear.  There was a Trivia game on the table with questions about oldies:  movies, music, etc.  So fun!  There was an Elvis poster about a concert he did in Buffalo, NY – what a coincidence!!  So cool.  We were singing and harmonizing to the music that was playing in the restaurant:  Buddy Holly, Elvis, etc.

7/5:  Attempted to leave Barstow but Barstow would have none of that!!!!  We couldn’t retract the Direct TV antenna

(it is a big satellite dish) that is mounted to the roof of the RV.  Mary climbed up there to see if there was some manual retraction device or instructions, but no luck.  We can’t drive with it extended for obvious reasons.  It adds a couple of feet to the top of the rig and that would not be a good thing.  Besides, in high speed traffic, it could come off and fly into something or someone or me driving behind the rig.  Very dangerous!  So we spent 4 hours dealing with calling the manufacturer, Jayco, repair people, etc.  We finally got ahold of tech support for the manufacturer, and they gave us the instructions to retract it and we were able to manually retract it.  We decided, however, to stay another night in Barstow and leave on the 6th.   We were all so tired from the ordeal that we ended up taking long naps!  We were relieved that the Barstow RV Park could accommodate us for the extra night.

7/6:  We left very early in the morning (7:30a.m.) and drove from Barstow to Kingman, Az.  The Arizona landscape is so different from California!  It is very beautiful also but in a very different way and so desert like.  It was weird crossing the state line knowing that California is not our home anymore.  It brought a flurry of emotions including some sadness, but also excitement and openness to the adventure ahead.  The Sunrise RV Park campground in Kingman was very quiet; we were only staying for a quick overnight and then on to our next stop which is Holbrook, Az. so we didn’t even hook up everything.  We are planning on 500 miles per week which would be 250 one day and 250 the next day with a 5 day break in driving.  We are doing that because it is very hot and all of the animals need a break from being in their cages.  Although they are in their own little mansions, they really don’t like being cooped up, and the bumpy roads scare them.  They are fine when we are parked and they have their special places inside the parked RV.  Julie is a trooper because she listens to their loud meows as we drive along.  Julie has been doing so incredible driving the Hawk.  She is used to being in control of big machines (like a DC-10) but this is very different.  She is very patient and handling this like a pro!  I am so proud of her.

7/7:  We left Kingman at 7:00a and drove to Holbrook, Az.  We stopped at a truck stop and Jaye was walking from inside to her car and some woman almost backed into her.  If she wouldn’t have banged on the car, she would have been hit.  It was so unsettling and we were all thankful to be safe and sound.  It is so helpful having Jaye and Mary as our wing women.  They are so supportive and such wonderful friends.   When we got to the Sun Valley RV Park in Holbrook, we were so tired.  Driving in general is tiring, but because we are so new at this it is even more so because our awareness is heightened.  Everyone took a nap upon arrival.  The family that owns the campground are such friendly and wonderful people.  They have only owned the park since January and are putting tons of energy into fixing it up.  They have a sweet little general store that sells Indian artifacts so I bought some things in there.  I love family businesses and always try to support them (as opposed to the Walmarts of the world!)  They are a family of 13 that moved there to buy the RV Park from Oregon.  They are doing a wonderful job of fixing it up and I am sure that it will be even better when they are done with their renovations.  We decided to press on with another day of driving tomorrow to get us to Albuquerque, NM.  We will stay in Albuquerque for 4 days and then press on to Colorado from there. Our house in Elk Grove closed today so we are officially homeless except for the Hawk.  Neither of us have ever been homeless before, so this is different for both of us.  The Hawk is our temporary home for now and we are enjoying the ride!   We noticed today that our refrigerator wasn’t keeping things very cold during our drive.  When we are not plugged into the electrical in the parks, the refrigerator is powered by the propane or battery power during driving.  However, it was up to 50 degrees which is warm.  The drinks, cheese and fruit were okay but we ended up throwing the sliced turkey and mayo out just to be safe.  Julie fixed it; it needed some adjustment to the settings.  She read the operating manual and was able to figure it out.  She is so good at that stuff which is great because I don’t have a clue.

7/8/16:  We had planned on leaving at 7a to press on to Albuquerque.  I woke up with the worst headache which ended up giving me a nasty upset stomach so there would be no early departure.  I laid back down and after the Excedrin kicked in and a brief nap, we were on the road at 10:30.  We try to stop at truck stops to gas up the RV; they are typically easy to maneuver around in.  We stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop and it was so tiny and claustrophobic that I had to direct traffic to get Julie in and out of the gas pump lane.  That was not fun!!!  It was an absolutely beautiful, scenic drive with the red jutting rocks and the Painted Desert landscapes.  Breathtaking!  We arrived in Albuquerque at about 3p.  We were all so hot and tired.  The RV Park that we are staying at in Albuquerque is a resort!!! It’s called Enchanted Trails and it’s right next door to a Camping World which I must admit is becoming a new fetish shopping destination.  The shopping fetish is not as bad as Staples and Office Max but it could become as bad if I let it.  The RV Park has a pool and a hot tub and a general store.  The woman at the desk was so sweet and welcoming.  We jumped in the pool after we settled in.  That was wonderfully refreshing!  I forgot what it felt like to be cold.  We all decided we would go to the Casino that we passed along the way – Route 66 Casino.  They had a buffet that was unbelievable.    I put $20 in a poker slot machine and won $55.00.  I pressed “cash in” and walked away with my winnings.  I know my family would think that I was crazy, that I didn’t sit there and continue to see if I could win even more but I am not a gambler so I was fine with a $35.00 pay out.  I figured I would blow the $35.00 in the gift shop!  We talked to the Indian woman in the gift shop who told us what to see in Albuquerque while we are here.  We left with a $98.00 tab – so I overspent my $35.00 winnings!!!!

7/9 and 7/10:  We went to old town Albuquerque and swam in the pool both days.  Fun town with cute shops and lots of Indian stuff.  I love the Southwest artifacts and culture.  It is stifling hot here, though.  100 degrees feels different here than in Sacramento – much hotter.  We all feel tired because it sucks the life out of us.  We went to Camping World and bought some window sun shades to help keep the heat at bay inside the rig.  It’s a big tin can with little insulation. The internet doesn’t work very well so I went to a Starbucks because I am still working a couple of hours a day.  It really isn’t that much time and I get my email done and follow up on pended stuff but at least it’s something.  One of my biggest fears is the air conditioning not working or the electrical going out in the rig.  I worry about my little furry babies.  Because of that, we don’t leave them alone for long in this heat.  Julie and I were just getting ready to go into the pool for a bit and the air conditioning died.  Jaye went to the office and found out the whole block was out.  We thought about getting all of us in the car and putting the air conditioning on in there but decided to wait a bit to see if it would be fixed promptly.   It’s not that easy to get 4 cats into a car.  We opened up the windows of the rig to get air in.  We were shocked to discover that it didn’t feel as hot as our fears had imagined.  The AC went back up in about 15 minutes, and we were all fine.  Another adventure and another fear tackled!  We jumped in the pool and played catch with the football.  I still can throw like a boy and am quite proud of that.  At least my jock past still works on the upper body. The knees?  Another story entirely.  We drove into old town and saw a bit on historic Route 66.  Very retro and kind of neat.  We have been eating so much Mexican we decided on an Italian place.  I wasn’t sure about Italian food in Albuquerque, NM but the meatballs were pretty good.  J  Julie’s new laptop arrived in Buffalo.  My computer guy shipped it to my niece’s house.  YEAH!  One more thing from the theft crossed off of the list. 

7/11:  Packing up day before traveling.  We try to get ahead into stowing stuff.  I can never understand how a small space can get so cluttered.  I went to Supercuts to get a haircut.  I told the young woman to cut it all off and she did just that.  It’s the shortest haircut I think I have ever had.  All of my dyed hair is gone so I am facing my real color.  I have been dying my hair for so long I didn’t know what my real color was– well it’s salt and pepper – more salt which makes sense because I tend to salt my food and don’t like pepper.  I am consistent if nothing else.  Did some errands and jumped in the pool.  Jaye and Mary made some pulled pork in the crockpot which was delish (to quote Rachel Ray.)  We played some cards and Julie won both games.  She cheats, so I’m not surprised.  I took her winnings away from her before she used it for laundry money!!!  We went to sleep early because we wanted to get an early start.  Driving from Albuquerque to Trinidad, Colorado tomorrow.

7/12:  We put in 257 miles today on our trek from Albuquerque to Trinidad.  Beautiful scenery along the way.  We typically stop once or twice to gas up.  Maneuvering in those truck stops is always great fun.  I try to pull in and guide Julie in.  I sometimes direct traffic which means telling those big 18 wheelers where to go and how to get there.  It’s quite comical because they listen to me.  Don’t mess with Uncle Guido!!!  We landed in Trinidad and the RV Park we pulled in was so creepy and not well maintained.  White trash hell.  We left in a big hurry.  We found another one down the road called Summit RV Park – a bit better than the first one but not by much.  We were tired and it was 3p so we didn’t care.  We took naps- we need daily naps on driving days.  It just tires us all out.  Poor Julie: she has to listen to crying cats; they eventually settle down but they don’t like bumps.  We stopped at Walmart and then went to a Mexican place down the street before getting to bed early.  Not the best Mexican – I sure do miss my Super Taco – the best Mexican in Elk Grove.  They miss me too; I used to go there at least once a week!!!  I don’t work on driving days; I just don’t have the energy.  Tearing down, driving and setting up is all I can muster.  Tomorrow on to Loveland, Colorado.  Now the fun begins.  I went on a cross country trip from Buffalo to Colorado in 1976 with a group of friends and a priest in an old Cottrell school bus (long story.)  Anyway, one of the highlights of this trip was a place called Estes Park in the Rockies.  I always said I would go back there someday.  Well, the someday is now!!  I am so excited to return to it.  To be honest, I can’t really even remember it, but I remember the impression it made on me and that it was incredibly beautiful!!  It made such an impact on me – sheer beauty.  I will have my guitar and sing every John Denver song and take it all in.  Can’t wait!!!!!  This is what I have been waiting for………………..

7/13:  We pulled out of Trinidad on our way to Loveland, Colorado – about 253 miles of driving.  I-25 is a really beautiful drive.  Lots of truckers who tend to be polite drivers.  About 60% into the trip, a beep went off from my dashboard (Mazda CX-5) and a little icon light came on.  I called Julie (in the RV ahead of me) on the walkie talkie.  I tried not to have a neurotic breakdown and attempted to stay calm but I was a bit unnerved.  We didn’t need yet another issue to deal with.   Being emotionally reactive is my norm; I fight it every day.  For Julie, blinking lights in a cockpit were part of her training, so she goes into pragmatic Captain Sangiorgio mode – a mode foreign to neurotic me.  She goes right to FedEx Procedure Manual Policy 463, page 18 and very calmly handles the crisis and I go to “we’re all going to die.”  We are so different!!  Anyway, she advised me to call our Mazda dealer in California for an explanation of the light, so I did.  I explained the light to our dealer rep who knew me and remembered me well.  He said “aren’t you in Pittsburgh?”  “No; that’s the other side of the state.”  Lol.  I said “we are only in Colorado on our way.”  He said it was a tire pressure indicator.  He said to get off of the freeway and come to a stop and then manually press a button to see if the light would go away.  If it didn’t go away, I had a tire pressure issue, and should not drive at high speed until the cause was determined.   Julie and I found a parking lot big enough to accommodate the RV.  We were in Larkspur, Colorado.  Much to our dismay, the light didn’t go out.  Julie got out the tire pressure gauge and my rear passenger tire had 20 PSI – 50% less than the 40 PSI it should have been.  We tried to get ahold of Jaye/Mary who were ahead of us on the freeway, but couldn’t reach them due to cell coverage issues.  We have the mondo AAA service so we called and after about a half hour, the guy came and pulled out a piece of metal from the tire with 4 prongs in it.  As soon as he removed it, the tire went completely flat.  He towed the Mazda to a Big O Tire Company about 6 exits from there.  I got into the RV and drove with Julie and the screaming felines to the Big O parking lot.  They were screaming even louder because I was in the RV and they heard my voice and expected me to rescue them from the huge tin can of torture.    Big O repaired the tire, and we were good to go.  AAA was free (or part of our service agreement) and Big O didn’t charge us for the tire repair either.  They also checked all 4 tires as well.  It was so incredibly kind.  Needless to say, Julie and I were exhausted from the whole experience and couldn’t think about going on to Loveland from there – another 100+ miles.  We just didn’t have it in us.  Driving through Denver, we passed Mile High Stadium!!!  I started to cry.  I will miss Peyton Manning so much; football just won’t be the same without him.  I guess I will have to eat Papa John’s Pizza.  Yeah; right.  Is that even pizza?????  Lol We passed the sign for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  So cool.  We still hadn’t heard from Jaye and Mary and we were trying hard to get ahold of them but there was no cell phone coverage.  They were trying to get ahold of us too.  We just couldn’t reach each other.  It was scary.  I was worried that something happened to them because we are always communicating back and forth and this was the first time we couldn’t connect.  They were worried about us too.  We finally called the park and found out that they hadn’t checked in yet.  That really made me nervous then.  We explained what happened to the park staff and that we wouldn’t be arriving after all; they said that they would tell them when they arrived.  Jaye drove through the mountains until she got enough bars of signal coverage to call me.  I was ready to drive to Loveland just to find them – it was a bit unnerving.  We found a campground in Larkspur called Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park.  It looked like something out of a cartoon.  So kid friendly and fun with Yogi Bear statues everywhere and Rangers all around. I loved it!!!  So cute and our site was fantastic.  I went right to sleep when we got there; naps are becoming so commonplace after stressful drives.  I was so tired.  Julie woke me when she was hungry and we went to the BBQ that they had on the grounds.  It was really good food and we needed to eat.  We were both starved.  We ended up talking to the chef for 45 minutes.  What an interesting guy!  He moved to Colorado from Florida and he and his family live in an RV on the grounds.  He is Cuban and was originally from Chicago. Such a fascinating person with such great stories.   I could have talked to him all evening.  We went to sleep by 9p.  We were both spent.
7/14:  Decided to sleep in because we didn’t want to drive through Denver rush hour traffic; Loveland, Co. is an hour north of Denver.  .  Julie came to a stop on the road again ahead of me.  A big bear scampered across the highway.  Thank God that beautiful creature made across without being hit by a driver.  Driving through Denver, we passed Mile High Stadium!!!  I started to cry.  I will miss Peyton Manning so much; football just won’t be the same without him.  I guess I will have to eat Papa John’s Pizza.  Yeah; right.  Is that even pizza?????  “Denver Won’t Score Touchdowns Now” (sung to the tune of the “Nationwide Is On Your Side” jingle) Lol We passed the sign for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  So cool.  We went to the pancake breakfast at the park where Yogi Bear and BooBoo come and interacted with all of the campers.  We took our picture with them.  Too cute!  Such a fun place with such good energy.  There’s something about kid friendly parks.  Pure joy!  We ended up pulling out about 10:30a and pulled into Loveland at about 1:30p after one fuel stop.  The park that we are staying in is named River View Park right on the Thompson River – so beautiful.  The people in the office were so warm and welcoming.  They have a community bonfire on Friday nights and a live concert on Saturday night.  I am looking forward to those events.  Jaye and Mary drove up to Estes Park but I still had to do my 2 hours of work.  Julie and I went out for Chinese and then I drove her back to the site so she could nap.  The Internet and Cell phone coverage are not good at the park so I went to Starbucks in town to work my 2 hours.  When I returned, Jaye and Mary were over and we planned our trek for tomorrow.  We are sleeping in, I am going to Starbucks to do my 2 hours of work, and then up into Estes Park we go.  Such a beautiful place and I am so excited!!!!! 

7/15:  Slept until 9a.m.  Just need the sleep.  Went to Starbucks to put in my 2 hours of work.  Ran some errands.  We all left for Estes Park about 3p and had a beautifully magnificent drive into Rocky Mountain National Park.  Just breathtaking views, and we were all in awe of the beauty and wonder.  The Rockies are hard to describe.  They just take your breath away.  We saw a bear on the side of the mountain scampering on the rocks, and 2 elk on the side of the road that came within 2 feet of the car.  Massive and amazing animals.  Estes Park itself was different than what I remembered.  It’s a cute little town with tons of adorable shops.  We bought some cute little things in a Bear Shop.  We will spend a lot more time in this park, but it was fabulous for our first visit.  We headed on back to the RV Park and Jaye made some ribs and we had a great dinner.  There was a community bonfire at the park so we talked to some wonderful folks around the fire pit.  It was a little chilly and it felt weird (but wonderful) to wear a sweatshirt since we were so hot in Arizona and New Mexico.  It rained a little today and it felt so good to have rain – miss it!!!   Tomorrow we are doing the city of Loveland which has a whole lot of lakes and cute shops.  So much to do and see here.  Glad we are staying for a while.

7/16:  Julie got up early and did laundry.  I cleaned up a bit.  We left for the Loveland Visitor’s Center to see what was going on in town that day.   The women who worked there were so friendly.  We told them our whole story and they loved it!  One of the women is married to a man from Buffalo.  She said his family lives in Lancaster, NY.  A lot of my family lives in Lancaster too.  When I told her my brother was the Principal of Lancaster High School, she was even more shocked at how small a world it really is.   We talked to them for a long time; such nice people.  They said to go to the Rib Festival and the Cherry Festival so we did and it was pure fun.  Great music as the live bands played all day long!  We loved downtown Loveland.  So cute.  This is a town I could live in.  It’s at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park so incredible views in every direction but it has Sushi and Target!!!  What’s not to love?  We wanted to get back to the RV Park as there was a band playing there.  We listened to the Bluegrass music until 10p and headed on back to the cats.  We left them alone too long today.  They missed us.  It’s only in the 80’s temperature-wise so we don’t worry about them too much.  Even if the air conditioning goes out, they will be fine in those temperatures.  Tomorrow on to Rocky National Park for more natural beauty!!!

7/17:  We went into Rocky National Park and rode/walked around all day.  We stopped at all of the Ranger Stations and talked to Rangers.  They are always so pleasant and full of knowledge.  We have the Senior Park Pass so we get into all National Parks for $10.00 a year.  Such a deal!  There are no words to describe the beauty and magnificence of the Rockies.  All I can say is everyone should go at least once.  So much to see and its majesty is just incredible.  We brought a picnic and sat near a lake where we had full view of the Stanley Hotel.  The Stanley is where they filmed the Horror movie, The Shining.  Julie loves these kind of movies but they creep me out.  She wants to do a tour of it so we will do that this week sometime.  Everywhere we drove and at every turn, all we could see were snow covered mountain peaks in every direction.  All different and gorgeous and unbelievably breath taking. I was brought to tears so many times by the sheer intensity and splendor.  We saw a movie in one of the Visitor Centers.  There is so much being done for preservation that it gives me hope that we will continue to appreciate this for many years to come.  We were all so tired by the end of the day, but it sure was worth it!  We saw Mountain Goats on the side of this amazing rocky mountainside.  I still can’t understand how they don’t fall.  Their sure footedness is unbelievable.  I can go to these mountains every day and never tire of it.  So incredible!  I feel so blessed to have this wonderful experience.

7/18:  We went into Estes Park and did a day of shopping.  Very cool stores and shops.  They get into Ice Cream here for some reason.  There were about 8 Ice Cream shops on a 2 block stretch.  I bought some souvenirs, T-shirts and gifts for my family.  Jaye and I played Corn Hole at one of the bars along the way.  That was fun!  I throw the bean bag like it’s a softball because once a pitcher, always a pitcher.  It’s funny how that athletic side of me comes out in a moment’s notice.  Turning 60, but I still can get a bean bag in a little hole in a wooden platform.  I had to laugh at that.  Good thing I didn’t have to run bases or I would be in the E.R.!  We had a late lunch at this funky Mexican (yes, Mexican again!) place so we were too full for dinner.  I told Julie I want Sushi for my birthday dinner; I can’t see another chip with salsa.  We stopped at a Cherry Pie Place that had the best cherry pie every.  It was thunder and lightning and raining.  There was a beautiful rainbow.  I sure do miss rain and am excited to be living in a place that has the seasonal changes again (minus the snow that is!)  Looked for Mountain Goats on the mountain side but I think the thunder and lightning scared them off.  We got back to the campground, made a fire and sang campfire songs.  We made S’mores because that’s what campers do!!!  Lol We all slept like rocks – get it rocks!  Rocky Mountain High!!!!!  Lol Tomorrow we are going to have a picnic at Mary’s Lake.  Mary is very excited to go to her very own lake!!!

7/19:  I went to Starbucks early to do my 2 hours of work.  Julie dropped me off and picked me up so she could do some errands.  We packed a picnic lunch and drove up to Mary’s Lake – about an hour’s drive into the Rockies.  So beautiful!  We had a great day at the lake and it was very relaxing.  We came back and took a nap.  These daily naps are becoming commonplace.  Jaye made some pasta and meat sauce and we had a nice dinner and played 4 games of cards.  I won most of the games and cashed in on my winnings.  Jaye kept telling me I was as good as my mother but there is no way I play as well as she played.  She knew what everyone had in their hands; I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own cards.  I won out of sheer luck – not because I am skilled or have my mother’s superior card playing skills.  I can’t believe she will be gone a year.  This year flew by.  I turn 60 in 5 days; I can’t believe that either.  It thundered and lightning again pretty good, and rained pretty hard.  I love the different weather!  The movie we watched at one of the Visitor Centers said that the mountains create their own weather patterns.  Awesome!  Tomorrow I think we are going to have a down day.  We haven’t stopped and it’s catching up to me.  I feel pretty tired and Julie wasn’t feeling well today so may be a day of rest is on the horizon.

 7/20 and 7/21/16:  Finally figured out why we have been feeling so tired.  We are at 7,500 feet above sea level!  Oxygen deprivation.  Takes some getting used to.  The price we pay for beautiful surroundings.   We sure do live in a beautiful country.  We have much to be proud of as long as we don’t follow the Presidential election!!!  We definitely needed some downtime so we ran errands, played cards, made fires, sang songs with the guitar and drove down roads we hadn’t discovered before.  We tried to find a bobcat sanctuary but we never did find it.  One of the things that’s interesting about this town is the wood carvings we see everywhere – just so beautifully and artfully creative.  I made a shish kebob dinner that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.  Next up is “RV prepared” sauce and meatballs.  My grandmother will sure be proud of if I can pull that one off!  That will be a challenge for sure!!!!!  We planned our trip for the next round which will be through Nebraska and Iowa.  We leave on Monday, July 25th.   Should be lots of corn.  We are talking about stopping in Detroit on the way to Buffalo to see the Motown Museum.  Hopefully, we can make that happen.  Living in such small quarters takes some getting used to but we are doing it.  Each day we learn something new and everyone we talk to has been so helpful.  It is a wonderful experience so far.

7/22 and 7/23:  Rested a bit.  Still needed more day trips into Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  It’s only a 30 minute ride into the park from our RV Park and it’s a beautiful ride.  So glad we were able to stay in Colorado for 10 days.  It went by fast, but it sure was worth it.  Cannot get enough of this place.  The shopping is wonderful and reasonably priced!!  There was a leather store that had only things under $30.00 and it was real leather!  We found a store that had the coolest backpacks, and Julie bought one so she can carry her new IPAD in it.  Julie made a reservation for a Spooky Ghost Tour at the Stanley Hotel.  What a gorgeous building built right on the side of the Rocky Mountains.  She enjoyed it.  Several movies were filmed there.  I didn’t go on the tour.  Too much of a chicken and there was only one ticket left (great way to get out of it!!!!)  Tomorrow is my 60th birthday.  I can’t believe I am 60.  I get senior discounts now.  Yikes!!!

7/24:  I am now 60 years old.  My birthday was wonderful.  I told Julie I wanted to be in the Rockies for my birthday and that’s where we are.  The best present ever.  We started the day with a wonderful breakfast at a funky diner.  I had Parisian Eggs Benedict – pretty gourmet and yuppie and quite good.  We drove the park and saw different sides of these vast mountains, more shopping and enjoyed the many phone calls, texts and birthday wishes from family and friends.  I wanted Sushi for my birthday dinner.  I was a little hesitant about eating sushi in a “land locked” state but it was delicious.  Very different rolls and quite tasty.  I had popcorn lobster California Roll and Shrimp Tempura with mozzarella.  Yes; you heard correctly.  Mozzarella sushi!!!!  Now we’re talking.  A little bit of Italian mixed in with Sushi?????  I’m all about it.  It was a great birthday dinner.  They had cake, balloons, presents and cards which made me feel so special.  All in all, a great birthday celebration.  I am looking forward to a new chapter in my 60th year in a new place and a new home.  The adventure of a lifetime!!!!!!!  My mother is gone a year tomorrow.  I still can’t believe she’s gone; how fast this year flew by.  We also pull out in the morning on our way to North Platte, Nebraska. 

7/25:  I woke up so emotional and sad.  It really hit me about my mother.  She died a year ago today after battling pancreatic cancer.  It was so hard watching her wither away because she was always so feisty and strong.  She and I had our battles, but I finally came to appreciate her and I really miss her great sense of humor.  Sometimes I would be so mad at her, but she did the best that she could.  I always felt like I was the big disappointment because I quit nursing school and didn’t continue teaching as a career.  She was proud of her “teacher” children (my 3 siblings that is) but I never took the “expected” road and I never felt like she understood me or my choices.  I was the black sheep for leaving Buffalo.  People ask me to describe my mother for them and I say she was a cross between Dorothy and Sofia on the Golden Girls.  Quick witted, sarcastic, incredibly funny, charming, engaging, very bright and stubborn.  She could play cards better than anyone I know, and I still don’t understand how she knew what cards everybody around the table had in their hands.  She was the best Italian cook ever.  Her homemade pasta and bread were incomparable.  She still made pizzelles (waffle anise cookies) for the kids (her great grandchildren) right up to the end.  I always thought she should have opened a restaurant.   She would say whatever was in her head; she had no filter whatsoever.  When she would go to the school plays of my nieces and nephews, if one of the singers were singing off key (not my nieces or nephews) she would say in a “not so soft” voice “He’s no Frank Sinatra!!!”  We always hoped that the relatives of that child were not in earshot!  Lol    I would call her every morning on the way to work and every day I still pick up the phone to call her one year later.  I really miss her.  My family went to Mass in Buffalo in her honor today.  I wish I could have gone too.  Because I was so upset in the morning, Julie asked Jaye and Mary if we could stay another day in Colorado, and depart on the 26th.  We didn’t feel like I could drive 4 hours under the circumstances.  Julie took me into the mountains again; I needed the solitude.  Such a holy place.  We stopped at a Catholic Church and it was very peaceful and so serene.  There was a statue of St. Francis – I love everything about that great man.  I am what’s commonly referred to as a “lapsed Catholic.”  I love the rich traditions of the Church and the spirituality, but the rules and regulations make me crazy – the dogma is not what Jesus (or St. Francis) intended.   Anyway, my not being a practicing Catholic was another disappointment for my mother; she was a very devoted and strict Catholic.  She watched Mass every morning on TV; I am sure she prayed for my soul.  Going to the mountains was just what I needed.  We went for a nice dinner and to Starbucks to return calls/get Internet and then back to the RV to begin packing up.  Departing tomorrow for world famous, incredibly scenic and picturesque North Platte, Nebraska.   Got corn?

7/26, 7/27 and 7/28:  We pulled into North Platte, Nebraska and into the RV park.  People are so friendly here.  Everyone smiles at you and greets you and holds the door open for you.  They are just happy people.  We were told to eat these things called Runzas and we did try them.  They have meat and vegetables baked inside a homemade dough.  They were interesting – like Pierogis.  Every way we look are lots of corn fields, cows, tractors and hay.  It is the heartland of America for sure.  The RV Park is on a little lake with paddle boats and fishing.  Jaye caught a fish.  We went to dinner at this steak place.  They are so laid back that we were there for 2.5 hours but not because there was anything wrong; they just are not in any hurry.  They just take their time here.  It’s so refreshing! We are pulling out on 7/29 to go to Omaha, NE but we are only staying there one night, and then on to Iowa.  Laundry, errands and Walmart since we are here in North Platte for a few days.  We still have to keep working at keeping the RV clean, as it gets messy quite fast.  It is an organizational challenge.  Lots of thunder, lightning and heavy rain here which the cats are not a fan of. Their eyes were huge and they were looking at me and waiting for me to fix it.  A severe rainstorm is much different in an RV.  The sound of the rain on the roof is quite intense and it is a bit unnerving.  Poor little angel kitties; I wish I could explain all this to them.  They will be much happier when we move into a new house that doesn’t move – when we buy that new house, that is!  The people that run this RV Park are very nice and helpful and accommodating.  We changed our plans a few times and they were so flexible. We head out tomorrow on our way to Omaha.  We are only staying one overnight in Omaha.  We are really making our way East now.  It’s really happening; we are getting closer to our ultimate destination!  I am looking forward to two weeks in Buffalo with my family.  I haven’t been home in a year and the kids get so big so fast so a year is a very long time!  We should be in Buffalo between the 10th and the 15th.

7/29,7/30,7/31:  We stayed in Ashland, Nebraska at an RV Park called Pinegrove RV Park which is in between Lincoln and Omaha – closer to Lincoln.  What a great place!  We only planned on staying for a day but we ended up staying for 3 days.  More to do here than we thought.  There were young men that worked in the RV Park store and I have never seen such polite and well raised young men in my life.  So incredibly charming.  We played cards in the clubhouse and there was a full bar.  They had a pool and there was a Nascar Racetrack right next door.  “Gentlemen:  start your engines.”  The race noise was so loud!!!!!  I know now why these states are called the Heartland of America.  Everyone has a big “heart.”  They are the sweetest people.  We ate at a steak house that hosted a Testicle Festival – no comment on this.  I ordered the Ribeye if you’re wondering what the dining fare was.  The restaurant looked like a big dance hall but the food was beyond good.  Everyone is so kind and patient and sweet.  Julie went to the Strategic Air Command Museum.  You can take the girl out of the Air Force but you can’t take the Air Force out of the girl.  There were B-52 bombers on display.  Just not my thing but she was so excited to see it.  We drove through the most beautiful State Park.  So well-kept and so clean.  The lodge in the park reminded me of the Ahwahnee at Yosemite and they had a brunch that we thoroughly enjoyed.   The town even had a Wildlife Refuge with a herd of Buffalo!!!!    We saw a turkey family with 9 baby turkeys following the Mom.  Too cute!  Nebraska has a lot of corn fields but it also has a lot of natural beauty:  green rolling hills.  I was impressed.  Jaye and I sang Karaoke at the poolside Karaoke night.  We sang “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.  Everyone in my family thinks I am crazy for doing this RV trip so the song fit right in!  I told my sister my next trip will be to Bangladesh.   She is ready to admit me to a Psych Ward.  I am the adventurous one in the family; what can I say?  Even the roads on the freeway are nice in Nebraska.  They just know how to do it well.  Tomorrow we are on to Amana, Iowa.

 8/1:  We drove I-80 from Ashland and it was supposed to be a 4 hour drive – about 260 miles to Amana, Iowa.  It ended up taking us 7.  There was some construction and we encountered quite a rain storm with lots of wind and thunder and lightning.  I worry about Julie driving the tin can (otherwise known as the Hawk, our RV) because it is like a wind sail.  When it is windy, I get stressed and worried.  We pulled into a rest stop when the worst of the weather hit and waiting it out a bit.  We have this app called “My Radar” which looks like the Doppler on the Weather Report on the News.  You can see the yellow and orange moving across where you are.  The cats don’t like weather any more than we do.  As we were driving to Amana, I was talking to a friend on the phone who knows the area well.  She was raving about the area and said we should stay more than one day here to see all the shops.  Apparently, there is an Amish Community here and lots of crafts, furniture and antiques, etc.  So we are staying 2 nights here to check it out.  It sure is pretty here – lots of green and old buildings.   We didn’t get settled into our site until after 6p with the long drive.  Julie and I found a German restaurant so she could eat some Schnitzel or something like that.  No way for me!!!  I had shrimp.  I wasn’t in the mood for trying something new.  Lol   We took a ride and checked out a Brewery which we will go back to tomorrow to get some beer to bring back with us.  We didn’t get back to the RV until 8p. and I still had to put in my 2 hours of work.  I was so tired!!!!  Driving all day is tiring enough.  Add some weather and you’re toast.  Tomorrow is another day in historic Amana, Iowa.  I want to check out some of the local culture.

8/2:  We drove around Amana and went to a lot of the shops.  Very cute town.  It was so humid today.  Not used to humidity anymore; it just sucks the life out of you.  I am not a fan of humidity; never was when I lived in New York.  The other thing that humidity brings is mosquitoes which thoroughly enjoy me.  Sometimes my legs look like I have chicken pox but it’s the bites.  No wonder I feel tired; they have stolen all of my blood!!!  The shops are darling and there is a lot of crafts and all kinds of interesting things that we didn’t have in California.  I never saw an Amish person.  Apparently they are 40 miles south of Amana. 

The Amana Colony is seven villages on 26,000 acres (11,000 ha) located in in east-central Iowa.  The villages were built and settled by German Pietists, who were persecuted in their homeland by the German state government and the Lutheran Church. Calling themselves the Community of True Inspiration (German: Die Gemeinde der wahren Inspiration), they first settled in New York near Buffalo!!!!! in what is now the Town of West Seneca (lots of family still in West Seneca!!!)  However, seeking more isolated surroundings, they moved to Iowa (near present-day Iowa City) in 1856. They lived a communal life until the mid-1930s.

For eighty years, the Amana Colony maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing very little from the industrializing American economy. The Amanians were able to achieve this independence and lifestyle by adhering to the specialized crafting and farming occupations that they had brought with them from Europe. Craftsmen passed their skills and techniques on from one generation to the next. They used hand, horse, wind, and water power, and made their own furniture, clothes, and other goods. The community voted to form a for-profit organization during the Great Depression, the Amana Society, which included the Amana Corporation.

Today, The Seven Villages of Amana are a tourist attraction known for its restaurants and craft shops. The colony was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.  So we were tourists in this tourist attraction!  Tomorrow we leave for Portage, Indiana.

8/3:  We left Amana and began our journey to Portage.  Along the way, Jaye let us know that Po-Po, one of their cats was in distress so we stopped at a truck stop to see what was up.  He was crying louder and more often than usual. He was fine after a while and we pressed on.  However, about an hour in, my tire pressure light went on again.  Not again!!!!!  So we all pulled off to see what was up.  The tire pressure was indeed low so we drove to a tire place and had it looked at.  The family owned business took about an hour and evaluated the tire and determined that it didn’t have a leak but it wasn’t sealed correctly so he sealed it properly.  Yikes!!  By then, we still had another 2 and ½ hour drive and I was exhausted already and still had to work.  We decided to stay in a campground near where we were so we stayed overnight in a KOA in Utica Ill.  The park itself was very nice, clean and well kept.  The only problem was that we were parked in the last row with a road on the other end.  Thank God it wasn’t a very well-traveled road so the noise was to a minimum but there was a big cow pasture across the street.  That made for an enormous amount of flies all over the windshield.  Truly gross.  Very humid here too.  It was just a quick overnight so we weren’t too bothered by it.  I must admit I am getting a bit road weary.  I just want to get to Buffalo now.  I haven’t been home in a year and I really miss my family.  Not too much longer.  Tomorrow we drive to Yogi Bear Yellowstone Park in Portage, Indiana which is only a bit longer than 2 hours.

8/4:  I worked a bit in the morning before we left.  We were feeling relieved that the drive was much shorter than our usual four hours.  The drive from Utica, Ill. to Portage goes right through Chicago traffic.  Just shoot me!  The truckers were even more aggressive than I’ve ever seen before.  One was riding my bumper.  If I had to stop for any reason, he would have hit me and I would have been dead.  There is no reason for that; I was in the right lane doing 60 so it’s not like I was driving too slow.  The traffic was horrendous and I worry about Julie in the RV ahead with all of these 18 wheelers on either side of her.  The lanes are not wide enough in my opinion but I am not a Civic Engineer and they didn’t ask my advice.  I have always been a fan of Chicago.  It’s a great city with a lot of culture and great food and wonderful people.  My opinion changed a bit on this drive.  The drivers make New Yorkers look like Mother Theresa.  Rudest drivers I’ve ever encountered.  One car moved across 4 lanes and cut Julie off to make an exit.  I thought he was going to hit her.  RVs can’t stop like cars and they need much more braking distance.  I rolled down my window on I-80, pressed on my horn and screamed at him at the top of my voice.  What a jerk!  I am sure that did wonders for my blood pressure, but it’s just not okay to drive so recklessly.  We got off to get gas and we were turning into a truck stop.  There was a blue sports car in between Julie and myself.  Julie went to make the turn and apparently wasn’t going as fast as the idiot sports car driver wanted her to so he went around her and cut her off right in the middle of the turn.  She doesn’t have the same views as a car – no rear view mirror at all and 36’ to see behind her on either side.  I was so wound up from the previous experiences that I went right up to him with my finger in his face and basically told him he was selfish, self-absorbed and thoughtless who drives like a moron.  I was so done!!!  He said he didn’t like the way I was talking to him and I said “Well, I don’t like the way you drive so we’re even.”  Julie was freaking out because she was worried I would be knifed to death.  I had so much adrenaline I could have easily taken him out, so I wasn’t worried.  The Pacifist in me took a mini-break for a bit of road rage.  I just had to let him know; I don’t think it would make a difference and change his driving but I felt better knowing that I let him know it wasn’t okay to put people at risk that way.  He is going to hurt someone if he keeps driving so aggressively.  We drove through Gary, Indiana, the birthplace of Michael Jackson.  I got a lump in my throat.  So talented and what a loss – so young.  I miss him and his great music.  I listen to his music often and am in awe of it.  Died way too young.  Gary is not a great place, and it is very run down.  So sad.  It was a great city at one time.  When we arrived in Portage, Julie and I were so tired and it was such a short drive but so stressful and crazy.  The park is another Yogi Bear place.  This one is not nearly as nice as the one in Colorado so clearly they are all very different.  We are so tired and weary.  We didn’t even want to go out to dinner so we had take out.  I can’t wait to have a huge kitchen again to cook big meals in.  Very soon!!  We leave for Sandusky, Ohio on August 5th but Jaye and Mary said maybe we should stay in Portage another night to get some rest given the horrible drive that we had.  We agreed and changed reservations.  So we leave for Sandusky on August 6th.

8/5:  We slept in and surely needed it.  I worked, Julie did errands and we drove around a little to see the area.  Very run down area which is so sad.  We went to the Santana cover band concert at the park and watched some of the Opening Ceremonies for Rio.  GO MICHAEL PHELPS!!!   He is unbelievable.  GO KERRY WALSH!!!  I love the beach volleyball.  I will surely miss Misty May-Treanor this year – she and Kerry were the best women’s beach volleyball team ever!  We played cards and I won more money!   I am financing the laundry costs with my winnings.  Lol Tomorrow we pull out so we had to get everything ready to pull out of Portage for Sandusky, Ohio.

8/6:  The drive to Ohio was a breeze compared to what we’ve experienced up to now.  We drove on a Saturday which made a huge difference -  no typical commute traffic and there are far fewer big rigs on the road.  We also took Route 20 for part of the way which was so pleasant compared to 75MPH crazy I-80.   The advantage for taking the state routes that are also regular streets/roads as opposed to highways is you really get to see how people live – a taste of America so to speak.  We arrived in Sandusky and I was so excited that we were now on East Coast time!!!! Yeah!  One step closer to the final destination.  Camp Sandusky is where we are staying and it is a very family friendly place. It feels weird to be on the other side of Lake Erie but we are a stone’s throw away from home.  Sandusky is an interesting place.  We drove down to the waterfront and ate at this cute little restaurant right on the water.  Buffalo’s waterfront is so beautiful.  This one was okay but it needs some TLC. 

8/7-8/8:  We drove around Sandusky a bit.  Lots of bikers here – and biker bars.  Harley Davidsons parked everywhere and they are just so loud; they hurt my ears.  I am getting old is all I can say. The original MargaritaVille is here so of course, I had to go.  Very loud music (again, age will do this to you) but the food was really good.  The waitress was a hoot and she talked to us for a long time.  Everyone is so interested in our story – they all want to do it someday.  It is pretty cool what we are doing and we are very fortunate to be able to see a lot of the country along the way.  We went to this ice cream place that is a dairy that also sells yogurt, butter, milk, etc.  Toft’s Ice Cream is pretty well known around here.  The line was out the door.  I ordered a single scoop in a bowl and the serving size looked like it could feed the entire neighborhood.  Wow!  I brought it home, put it in the freezer and I eat a little every night.  It’s the ice cream order that keeps on giving.  Very creamy, smooth ice cream.  I am venturing to say that it is not made with low fat milk.  It tastes too good to be good for you if you know what I mean.  We went to a Cheese store that has 150 kinds of cheese.   We talked to the owner who is a very sweet woman.  We bought some cheese and this weird sausage Julie wanted to try.  I’ll stick with the cheese and crackers.  We also went to an Orchard.  Julie loves plums but she never buys them because they don’t taste good enough for her.  She is a bit of a critic when it comes to food, cooking and quality.  Well, this Orchard had the best plums she has ever tasted.  She loved them and bought a whole bunch of them.  I am not a plum fan – they are always too sour for my taste buds.  We went to a Deer Park.  I never heard of such a thing but what an interesting place!!!!  There were deer, peacocks, elk, goats, sheep, mountain goats, pygmy goats, ostrich, etc. and you could pet and feed them.  I was in my glory.  I spent over $25.00 on food because I kept buying more.  They were pretty aggressive with the food, the animals climb all over you and have no fear, and they ended up eating the paper bag the food came in as well!!!!  We laughed and enjoyed it tremendously.  I never tire of animals.  They are just so wonderful – doesn’t matter what kind of animal.  I love them all!  We went back to MargaritaVille for more Margaritas (not me; I’ll have a diet coke please) and the chips and mango guacamole was the bomb!!!! We are going to try and go on a boat ride if we can pull it off.  I couldn’t wait to shower because I had animal slobber all over me from head to toe but it sure was fun!!!!  We played more cards and I won again.  I am on a roll and my mother must be sending me luck.

8/10:  We pulled out of Sandusky, Ohio on our way to Buffalo.  Still can’t believe we are on our way “home” now.  This is the first time I will be in Buffalo without my mother.  It will be very hard to come home and not be staying at her house, playing cards with her and eating her food.  The last time I was home she was very ill and dying, but I still was able to enjoy her until the end.  It will be very different for me this trip.  This the first time any of my California friends (aside from Julie that is) came home with me (Jaye and Mary.) I am excited to show them around.  This is one of the last treks because Julie and I land in Buffalo for 2 weeks, and then we are on to Doylestown to look for a permanent home to live in.  Julie and I have been looking at a lot of homes on line and we found many that we really like.  We have narrowed our wish list and we really know what we want.  That helps when the searching gets serious.  I really would love to have a basement so that I can hang down there and do my music, crafts, watch movies, etc.  We will probably have my office down there so that will be where I work.  I start back full time on 9/1 but am totally off work until then.  3 weeks off will feel really good; I need it.  The ride to Buffalo went off without a hitch.  I have driven 90-East so many times in my life.  It was a very familiar road and when I saw the signs for “Buffalo: 189 miles, etc.”  I started to cry.  I told Julie I have lived in California since 1982 and this is the first time I am “driving” home.  I always fly in and rent a car.  Buffalo is one of those East coast cities that fell on hard times with a lot of industry changes, but it has been experiencing a fabulous revitalization and it is a beautiful city with a phenomenal waterfront.  It is winning all kinds of awards.  I am so proud!  It’s also a fantastic food city with unbelievably good restaurants.  I can’t wait to show it off to Jaye and Mary!!!  Julie loves Buffalo; she has seen so much of it lot it already.   We drove into the RV Park (Leisurewood Resort) we are staying at and pulled the Hawk into our spot and the ground was so un-level that the Hawk was tipping left.  I thought to myself “there is no way we are going to get this thing level.”  Also, the hookups were way in the back and they are typically on the right of the rig.  I feared that we didn’t have long enough hoses, etc. to reach the sources.  I was amazed that the auto-leveling did its job and also that our “extensions” helped us reach the target.  I was so relieved!!!!!  The park is an interesting place; it’s a residential park with folks living here 9-10 months a year.  During the winter, the park closes down and everyone goes to Florida or Myrtle Beach, so the park is full of “snow bird” folks.  The place has lots of amenities:  a general store, 2 pools, bocce, volleyball, tennis, shuffleboard, basketball, fishing pond, walking trails, laundry, etc.  Very cool place and everyone drives around in golf carts.  Everyone we encountered was very nice, warm and welcoming.  They have a lot of planned activities and there are a lot of people staying here.  My niece called and asked to stop over and visit.  She brought my great niece and nephew over to see us.  What joy for me to be welcomed home so sweetly by Christie, Rocco and Gia.  Totally loved it.  We were all so tired from the drive that dinner was all we could do.  Early to bed for all of us.

8/11-8/24:  Days were filled with showing Jaye and Mary my city and introducing them to all of my family.  My sister had a gathering at her house for card playing, pizza and chicken wings.  So fun!  They had a birthday celebration with cake and presents for my 60th.  It’s the birthday that has lasted 2 months now!  I tried to warn Jaye and Mary as to how serious my family is about their card playing, but you have to see it to believe it.  Mary won the big pot so she was so excited!!! I gave them a great tour of the city that included the old neighborhood where I grew up, the house that I was raised in, my first jobs, my grammar school, my high school, the downtown, the waterfront, my college, and some of the highlights of the city.  They were shocked at how beautiful the city is.  I explained that Buffalo gets a bad rap for the winter weather.  Buffalo is always in Manhattan’s shadow, but it is a really cool city.   We went to the Erie County Fair.  The Erie County Fair is one of the largest (if not the largest) “County” fairs in the country – it’s as big as the California State Fair.  We bought tickets to the Happy Together Concert with Three Dog Night, Paul Revere (Raiders), Gary Puckett (Union Gap), the Turtles and The Cowsills.  So fun and we were walking down memory lane and singing tons of oldies.   I ran into 4 people from my grammar school class at the concert.  Gina (my niece) met us there and brought the kids.  We had such a great time!!!  We tried to get Jaye and Mary to many of the best restaurants so they could get a taste of Buffalo and we spent lots of time with my family.  There’s nothing like Buffalo pizza, chicken wings, Costanzo rolls, submarine sandwiches, Ted’s Hot Dogs, real ice cream, sponge candy, loganberry, Crystal Beach suckers, beef on weck. Clams, Stuffed peppers, etc.  You can’t be on a diet here.  Julie loves everything about Buffalo:  the food, my family, the city’s charm, etc.  I love it that she loves it here!  The great nieces and nephews are so cute and so fun and are getting so big.  It makes my day when they hug me, and we have so much fun together.  I adore these kids.  My nephew asked us to get him a six pack of beer in every state that we were in and we bought a lot of beer!!  He came to the park to pick it up and couldn’t believe what we brought home.  We didn’t have any idea what we were doing but it sure was fun doing the shopping for the different beers.  He drank some and said we chose some really cool beer, so I guess we did okay with that.  We played a lot of cards with my family and ate a lot of Italian food.  The tour of the downtown included a tour of our waterfront which is really beautiful.  There is a naval park with ships, tours of the ship and boat rides.  Very fun!  We didn’t make it to Niagara Falls with Jaye and Mary.  There was just too much to do and we ran out of time.  The good thing is Jaye and Mary were there before so it wasn’t that crucial.  I have been there a few hundred times in my life.  We went to Vidler’s which is one of the largest 5&10s in the country – coolest store ever that has everything under the sun.  Buffalo has this cool thing of life size statues of Buffaloes and Bison everywhere.  They are the coolest thing and they are in all different colors.  I think some artists were commissioned to do these.  I told Julie I want to photograph each one of these.  At one of the food stands at the fair, was an Italian Bison in the colors of the Italian flag.  So cool!  One of our family traditions is Hibachi.  The kids love it when the chefs cook the food in front of them and fling the broccoli so they can catch it in their mouths.  They get the biggest kick out of it, and we go every time I come home.  Jaye and Mary loved it, and so enjoyed watching the kids laugh so hard.  Way back in 1976 my sister and I went on a bus trip with 11 other people across country.  I was telling Julie, Jaye and Mary all about this trip and how much I loved Colorado when I went.  My sister took hundreds of 35mm. slides of the trip and I haven’t seen these slides in years.  The slides were in my sister’s basement and she hasn’t seen them either.  I asked my sister if we could show the slides to Julie, Jaye and Mary when we went to her house.  My niece Christie brought over an old slide projector with those black plastic trays that the slides go into.  She wasn’t sure it even worked anymore.  The technology of film and digital imaging is so different now that I didn’t even think that it would work but it did!!!  We spent several hours viewing these and other family photos.  It was so fun and sad too seeing pictures of my parents and grandparents.  There were also great shots of aunts and uncles that are all gone now.  What is scary is we are the next generation now.  My sister is the oldest now of all of us.  All of the older relatives are no longer with us.  It was a bit surreal.  Jaye and Mary left on the 17th to go to Harrisburg to spend some time with her cousin and then home to North Carolina.  We have been traveling with them since June 24th.  We will miss them!  They gave us such a gift of escorting us across.  We went to this place called The Bar Bill in East Aurora, NY.  It’s one of the best places for chicken wings in the area and the Buffalo Bills like to eat there.  I RAN INTO ERIC WOOD (our Pro Bowl Center) WHEN WE WERE THERE!!!!!  I was so star struck that I lost my ability to speak.  It was so cool; I love my Buffalo Bills! We went to Darien Lake which is the amusement park near us.  The kids had so much fun; I love watching them enjoy the rides.  My cousin had a big dinner and we all went over and played cards.  My brother won the big pot!!!!!   One niece and one nephew bought new homes since I’ve been home last so it was great to see their new houses.  Such beautiful, big new houses.  I have a tradition of taking my sister-in-law for Sushi for her birthday when I come home.  A lot of my family doesn’t eat Sushi so it’s a fun night out for us.  We are leaving for Pennsylvania tomorrow, August 25th.  I can’t believe it!  We are going to be looking for our new home.  We are so excited to begin our new life back on the East Coast.

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Michele's version of repairing car trouble = Absolute panic!

Where Are We Now?

Julie's version of repairing car

trouble = Absolute control!