Sunday, November 27, 2022

You can’t go back again!

September 29 to October 5, 2022 – Aspen Ridge RV Park, South Fork, CO

Mosca to South Fork

Warning and disclaimer: I am a grouchy old coot, a title I wear proudly. (You have been warned)

You know how you have idyllic memories of places you once visited and you would like to go back and and live that experience all over again?

Nearing the end of our stay at San Luis SWA Campground we were refocusing on the reason for this leg of the trip, “To see the Aspen leaves change color”. The choices were to go North, West or South from here. North from here was too peoplely (I made that word up) with Leadville, Buena Vista  and lots of popular boondocking spots. South from here is primarily high desert and less opportunity to see the Aspen leaves. So the only direction left is West. in the direction of South Fork, Colorado. We had been to South Fork three years ago and remembered that there were lots of Aspen trees higher in the mountains on the back roads. We wanted to relive that experience.

During our former visit we had stayed at Aspen Ridge RV Park. It was at the very end of the normal camping season so the Park was almost empty. We had a spot on the back row tucked away in a corner where it was nice and quiet. (Did I mention we really don’t like commercial campgrounds but they serve a purpose when you need to dump, fill and wash clothes?)

So this time as we arrive we notice the entrance is nicely adorned with Halloween decorations. We check in and the owner is very friendly and talkative. During our talk she reveals that they are hosting a Fulltimer Families Rally and they are expecting 100 kids. Oh boy! That sets all kinds of alarms in my head! But she goes on to say they won’t be showing up until the end of October just in time for Halloween. Well, heh, we should be long gone by then.

What she failed to mention was that families attending the rally would be trickling in well before the end of October.

So she assigns us a spot, the same spot we had last time, and we walk over to look at it. It’s a nice spot, good view, but it’s right next to the area where they are setting up more Halloween paraphernalia for the kids to play with. Uh, no! We request another site away from the children. Oh, the children are supervised they say. We still request another site.

So they put us in a row where we are the only RV. Ah, this is great. Room to spread out. Then a pack of kids walks by. Not having any children ourselves, there is a lot we don’t know about them. One thing we learned as the pack scurried by is that girls apparently love to engage in contests to determine which girl has the loudest, screechiest, most penetrating scream. A contest which is immediately disputed by the loser and the challenge begins again. Thus ends our first day at the Park.

The next day is a full day of exploration for us, seeking the perfect photo opportunities for yellow leafed Aspens. 20220930_130455

Upon our return to the Park we discover the owners, whether through evil intention or just downright apathy, place a RV right next us in this empty, but for us, row. An RV filled with three hyper energetic boys and one girl who, you could tell, really didn’t want to be sharing an RV with three icky boys. This girl is apparently like honey to the other boys buzzing around the Park. So now the pack decides future congregations will take place next to our RV. The screeching contests continue.

Every day we leave the RV Park and return to find even more RVs with children have arrived. Other older RVers are giving up and beginning their exodus to escape the noise and shenanigans. The pack grows to a herd. We are still keeping an eye out for that adult supervision that is supposed to be taking place. I suspect the adult’s are hiding as are we.

So, sadly we realized our ideal revisit was unobtainable. It’s true, you can never go back again.We managed to last for 6 days before we abandoned Aspen Ridge RV Park and headed for the wilderness.

Ahhh. Peace and quiet. No more screeching contests.Just a cat constantly wanting to go out and explore. That’s more my speed.

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I know Gabby is in the above scene but the obligatory cat picture follows.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Purple Anniversary

9-23-2022 – San Luis SWA Campground, Mosca, CO 

Mosca, CO

EJ and I were discussing that we had been RVing a good part of the time since 2010, when we bought our second motorhome, “Big Guy”, a 34 foot Winnebago Itasca Meridian Diesel Pusher. “Big Guy” was named thusly since he was almost twice as long as our previous RV, a 19 foot Class B Roadtrek named “Roadie”.

Just for fun we decided to tally up the amount of time we have actually lived in our Motorhomes since we really started RVing in 2010.

RV Living

The numbers show that we have lived in our RVs 65% of the time over that 11 year period.Wow! That’s enlightening. So for 11 years we have been paying property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, HOA fees and who knows what else for something we only live in 35% of the time. But that is a thread for another time.

As those of you who follow this blog, you already know we spent a good deal of time in 2019 and 2020 taking care of my Dad and handling his estate after he passed away. That convinced us of two major things. 1), live life to the fullest while you can. 2), we all have a bunch of stuff that we don’t need.

So in 2021 we spent the year getting the townhome ready to sell and getting rid of everything we absolutely did not need. It was not an easy task as the things you hang onto have emotional meaning and memories. But we finally got it done.

So as we were discussing our RV lives we decided we needed to define the moment we became full timers. To us, fulltime means you are living in your RV, sleeping there and eating there. So we needed a milestone to identify when that happened. We decided it was September 23, 2021.

Why that particular day you ask? Well it involved a wrestling match. Our opponent emulated a 160 pound slab of Jell-O that was so wide in 2 dimensions that there was no way for us to grab it. It was so limp, there was no way to pick it up. It would just there like a puddle of pudding if you tried to lift a corner or a side. It was so heavy we could not carry it even if it had cooperated with us.

We finally decided the best way handle this beast was to hog tie it. This thing was 6 foot 8 inches by 5 foot by 1 foot. So we wrestled and grunted and sat on it and finally got it rolled up and tied up only to discover it would not fit through the 28 inch wide doorway in the RV.

Cursing our opponent, we took a break to consider a new strategy. There are only the two of us. And neither of us was particularly strong and at our ages, the likelihood of us getting any stronger real soon was remote. So, we were going to have to man up and tough it out. Our bodies will pay the bill tomorrow. While our opponent was trussed up, we drug it from the house to the door of the RV. (On a moving pad of course as we wanted to leave no evidence of the struggle).

Once at the door, we untied the varmint and tried to get it to stand up. Imagine if you will, trying to stand a cooked spaghetti noodle on it’s end. It doesn’t work. And similarly our opponent was incapable of supporting itself in anything but a horizontal position. We were going to have to be lifting this thing if we needed it in an upright position. Which, of course, is necessary to get it through the RV door. Oh, and to add to the challenge, the floor of the RV is 3 feet above ground level. So not only do we have to wrestle our adversary through the door, we have to lift it 3 feet in the process, and lest I forget to mention, go around a 90 degree corner. I’m about plumb wore out just reliving the experience.

So we grunted, we pushed, we swore, we lifted, we cursed, we pulled, we sweated, we said foul things about the ancestors of our adversary but in the end we persevered and somehow managed to get this 160 pound slab of Purple Jell-O into the RV and onto the bed platform in the bedroom.

This item, this thing, this adversary that almost did us in, is the most comfortable mattress we have ever slept on. It is the Purple 2 queen size foam mattress with a 2 honeycomb layer on top that supports you in ways you never thought possible. For this reason we fought this battle and knew we had to succeed at all costs. Our muscles and joints would be delivering their opinions the next day.

We had moved the Purple into the motorhome in preparation for a trip to Kansas to meet family and scatter my parents ashes. We swore, this being the second time we moved the Purple into the RV, that we would never move that mattress again.

The townhome now being bedless made easy the decision that from this date forward we would be sleeping in Miss Mosey. Thus, September 23, 2021, became the first day of our full timing lives.

Obligatory cat picture follows:

Gabby Asleep

 

 

 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Well, That Was Disappointing!

September 3, 2022 – Lonsdale, AR

StudDuck Trip

 

You all know my preference for nano-breweries. While staying in Hot Springs, AR I thought I had found one that checked all the boxes. It was small, check. It was out in the middle of nowhere, check. It had a small, but interesting, variety of beers, check. It looked like the perfect example of what I seek.

The StudDuck brewery is about 10 miles outside of Hot Springs, AR. As we drove there on a Saturday afternoon, the day was almost perfect. Sunny, a little but not unbearably so, and we were with new friends, Johnny and Tina Roush. As we neared the brewery the last turn off the paved road took us down a single lane tree covered gravel road. This fit the dream, the image I had of a small brewer tending his hobby out of his spare room or garage.

StudDuck Road

Upon arriving at the parking lot there were four other cars. OK, this is a good sign. It means other beer lovers are here so it can’t be too bad.

The premises consisted of three 40 foot metal shipping containers arranged in a u-shape.. They housed the brewing equipment, a seating area, storage and a big opening cut in one of them to create a stage for visiting bands.

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StudDuck normally offers 7 selections. They were out of two of them. Does this mean they were so good they couldn’t brew them fast enough? Thus encouraged, we ordered a flight of four that had interesting descriptions. There was a Hefe, one with 3 spices, a nut brown ale, and another I don’t remember. As it turns out the owners were excellent wordsmiths. The descriptions they created for each beer almost made your mouth water.But there wasn’t even one beer I would order again.

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So my hopes of finding the perfect nano-brewery in the woods were shattered. Instead I got beer that tasted slightly off, even a little musty, with definite leanings towards being of the sour family that none of our group liked.

But I have to applaud the brewer and his wife. They are pursuing their dream. We wish them well and hope they find customers who appreciate what they’ve brewed. They welcomed us with open arms, told great stories and had lots of friendly dogs (always a plus). They just didn’t have any beer I liked. But the worst part was that I drug EJ and our friends along for this little misadventure. My apologies.

Obligatory cat picture follows.

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

What a S#itty Job!

August 1 to August 6, 2022 – The Hideaway

Piney Grove to Hideaway

We thought we had finally made our annual summer escape to put behind us the heat and humidity of the southeast states from what remained of the summer of ‘22. Boy, did fate ever smack us on the back of our heads

After giving Miss Mosey her facelift, we made it as far as Tupelo, Mississippi. But on the 31st of July we discovered that our security system at the Hideaway had crapped out on us. That meant no access to security cameras on the property and no controlling the air conditioning system in the Shabin. Not feeling comfortable leaving the Hideway unprotected for an extended period of time we elected to turn around and head back to Florida to check things out.

Along the way we overnighted at the Gunter Hill COE campground just outside of Montgomery, Alabama. We stayed in the older section and had it all to ourselves.

Gunter Hill COE

We had driven 253 miles to get to Gunter Hill and at the end of the day, we all decided , Gabby included, we didn’t want to do that anymore. We still had 350 miles to go and no way were we going to do that in one day. So we elected to stay at Eastbank COE campground just outside of Chattahoochee, FL That was only 175 miles and much closer to what we consider a normal travel day for us. We even managed to snag a pull through so we wouldn’t have to unhook Pearl (our Ford Explorer) for the night.

Eastbank

And it didn’t take long for EJ to get into relax mode once we arrived.

EJ at Eastbank

Even Gabby got into the mood, surveying her new domain from the picnic table.

Gabby at Eastbank

As part of traveling you get to see some cool things. Well cool for a guy, at least. It’s an old International Harvester Scout pulling a tiny little camper. It looks like this setup could go just about anywhere. We think there were 2 people in the camper because we saw two chairs and two bicycles, but we never saw the occupants.

International Scout at Eastbank

Once we had found out the Hideaway security system was non-functional, I ordered a replacement for what I suspected was the weak link in our setup. Also, I had been borrowing EJ’s Royal Purple seat cushion for a soft cushy ride while driving and EJ let me know it was time to get my own. Actually it was my idea because I kept forgetting to put it back in her chair when I was done at the wheel for the day. Major husband points for not borrowing her cushion any more and bonus, I get a brand new cushion!

Royal Purple Cushion

Anyway, before I wandered off on that tangent, the short story is that of all the things being delivered to the Hideaway, none of them were due tomorrow. Yay, that means we can stay at Eastpoint for a second day. Yay!

On August 5th, we left Eastbank and headed to Live Oak, FL where we had lunch at Big Wood Barbeque. We split a pulled pork plate and we were stuffed when it was all gone. As an aside, Big Wood allows you to overnight in their parking lot if you are a customer. Then we went to Publix and Lowes to stock up on some items for the week or so we’ll be back at the Hideaway.

We pulled into the Hideaway’s driveway at 4PM and the UPS truck pulled in right after us. Talk about timing. That was close!

While we were back, I wanted to tackle the one issue that led to the title of this blog. Right before we left on what we thought was this summer’s escape an unfortunate incident happened. We had read about this happening to other folks and thought there was no way that could happen to us. We are too careful!

Well, dang it! It happened to us too. Something that didn’t belong ended up in the black tank. Folks that RV a lot know just how nasty the black tank can be no matter how scrupulous you are about maintaining it. For folks that don’t know, let’s just say that everything that passes through your body ends up in the black  tank. Yup! We’re talking poo and pee. And it coats everything! The walls of the tank and the mislaid object in it were covered in a brown greasy slime of poo.

In our motorhome, there is no way to access the interior of the black tank. The entry point (that’s the throne you sit to do your business) makes a sharp 90 degree bend and disappears into blackness. The exit point (where the contents of said tank gush out into the smelly white pipe that sticks up out of the ground) has two short 90 degree bends and there is no way I’m trying to stick my arm up there.

So for the last 3 or 4 weeks I’ve been struggling with how to attack this problem. We could leave it alone and hope for the best. But that means we might end up with a smelly load we can’t dump (legally of course) because the foreign object has blocked the exit point. Thinking it might be part of a solution I had ordered a 6 inch water tight access port like you see on boats before we left. But once on the road, I had no way to use it because I lacked the proper tools.

So back to the issue at hand. Here at the Hideaway I do have the necessary tools plus the attachment I picked up at Lowes on the way back here. I had decided the best way to approach for getting egress into the innards of the black tank was to make my own hole. A hole large enough to stick my arm in if necessary, but not so large as to create a structural instability. Also clearance was at a minimum which the normal tools one might use, saws, routers, drills, would not fit. But at the Hideaway I had a Dremel and I had just purchased a right angle attachment for it. Clearance issue solved!

The hole…

Access hole in black tank

And we got really, really lucky. The offending object ended up right under the new hole.

Toilet Brush

With the object safely retrieved and disposed of, the access port was installed, sealed, screwed and secured. Ready to hopefully never be used again.

New access panel to black tank

Well, with that bit of unpleasantness out of the way it is time to enjoy the Hideaway. Several deer came by to play.

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Fawns at Hideaway

And of course, the obligatory cat picture to end this blog entry. Miss Gabby surveys the Hideaway from the safe cool interior of Miss Mosey. Did I mention it was hot and humid here in Florida?

Gabby surveying Hideaway

 

 

 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Back in the groove

Piney Grove Campground, New Site, MS – July 28 through July 31, 2022

7-24 to 7-31-2022

After three days of mechanized chaos enduring the cacophony of air compressors thumping, compressed air hissing, rotary sanders imitating the sound of dentist drills, and polishing machines whirring away we have finally escaped to the quiet sounds of nature.

We spent those three days at Appalachian Foothills Service Center in Winfield, Alabama. Miss Mosey is now 10 years old and a general freshening up was her present. As part of her Spa Week she received new bedroom and bathroom windows, new slide toppers, new clearance lights, had a few scratches removed, front cap and rear cap and side rails repainted, grilles repainted, engine hatch repainted and the area around the bathroom window repainted. Finally the last vestiges of the “Red Bay Disaster” are gone and we can put all evidence of that disappointing experience behind us.

MM Facelift(1)

 

MM Facelift(2)

 

MM Facelift(3)

 

MM Facelift(4)

We made a quick stop in Red Bay Alabama where Miss Mosey was built to pick up a few items at the Campground Parts Store. EJ found a new grille for the gas stove and I picked up a few miscellaneous spare to parts to have on hand.

  

 

New Stove Grille

Misc Parts from Red Bay Store

Our final stop for the day was Piney Grove Campground which is a Corp Of Engineers park arriving at about 2:30PM. EJ provided hand signals and directions to get me successfully backed into our site, #99.

Piney Grove Rec Area Sign

 

But when she plugged Miss Mosey into the 50 amp outlet the energy management system displayed an error code and wouldn’t connect to the park’s power.

This is definitely NOT good. It’s 93 degrees out and the “feels like” temp is 103. We NEED electricity! We fired up the generator to get the air conditioners going to keep Miss Mosey cool while we pondered the problem.

One option was to request a different site. But we liked this site. It had a path to the lake and a breeze coming off the water. Nope, don’t wanna move. Then EJ asked “what if we just hooked up to the 30 amp receptacle?”. That initiated a brain fart on my part wondering if we could utilize the 30 to 50 amp Y adapter.

The 30 to 50 amp Y adapter.is a device that takes two 30 amp inputs and combines them into a 50 amp output. It looks like this.

30 to 50 amp y adapter

For this to work, the correct leg of the 50 amp receptacle had to work and the 30 amp plug had to be functional. I just happened to have a 50 to 30 amp adapter which we plugged into the 50 amp receptacle and the other into the device shown above. Then we plugged the other 3 prong plug into the 30 amp receptacle on the pedestal and crossed our fingers. Wow! Nothing blew up! Next I used the multi-meter to test the 50  amp end of the adapter and by golly, everything checked out. We then plugged in Miss Mosey and the EMS said OK, I can handle this. We were back in business.

We went ahead and turned in a ticket at the front gate and they said someone would be out the next morning to check it out.

So Friday morning I woke up at 6:30AM for two reasons.First our furry co-traveler, Gabby, decided to let me know her food bowl was empty by dancing on my stomach (never a good idea when one must use the bathroom upon arising) and by batting at things on my nightstand and knocking them to the floor. The second reason was I wanted to be up early in case the park electrician was one of those folks that liked to get their work done before it got too hot and like to start the work day at 7AM.

Sure enough he showed up just about the time I started on my second coffee. Within 30 minutes he had discovered and repaired/replaced a bad 50 amp breaker, a loose connection and a missing ground wire.

Whew! Now we can hook up the proper way and keep the air conditioners running. Did I mention it is HOT? Now that the projects, schedules and minor hiccups have been handled it is finally time to slow down for a few days.

Our campsite, #99 (did I mention that already?) is on a finger of Big Springs Lake near the community of New Site, Alabama. While the lake is part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway, we cannot see the main channel from our location. So no barge and tug viewing for us.

So here it is Friday, July 29 and we are watching the sun sparkling off the ripples of the lake, the breeze gently caressing the cat-tails at the water’s edge and listening to the leaves rustling in the trees above us. Thankful for our health and good fortune, we are indeed, very blessed.

Site 99

Obligatory cat picture follows.

Gabby Upside Down

 

 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

What Happened to 2021?

FnEJ’s Hideaway – Branford, FL 1-30-2022

We kinda fell off the grid in 2021, surrounding ourselves with a few close friends, and basically operating under a veil of secrecy because we didn’t know what we were doing half the time. We kept saying we knew what we wanted to do and then we would do something different. But we knew one thing we had to do was to simplify no matter what torturous path it would take to get there.

After handling the dispersal of Dad Putnam’s estate, EJ and I vowed to each other that we would not put anyone else through a similar exercise in the event of our demise. So after wrapping up Dad’s affairs in 2020 (after almost three years in west Texas), we headed back to Orange Park, FL. to spend 2020 Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends which didn’t happen because the events were canceled due to covid fears.

But we did get to spend New Years in our motorhome, Miss Mosey, parked at a friend’s house on Seymore Point in NE Florida celebrating with like minded friends.

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After New Years we returned to where our townhome was (this is called foreshadowing) to begin eliminating the clutter we had accumulated in 43 years of being together. We call this the “purge”. It was disheartening to see how much stuff we had squirreled away and never used.

But first a sidetrack. We had discussed that since we didn’t really like to spend the 9 hottest months of the year in Florida, we only needed an address for legal purposes. We don’t really need a house to take care of as we are quite content to live in Miss Mosey. So we spent a major portion of this year looking at properties in Florida. As our realtor friend says “Buyers are Liars”. And we fit that description to a tee. We started of saying we wanted 10 acres at least, no neighbors and the ability to see the horizon. We ended up buying a quarter acre, surrounded by homes with about 70 feet of waterfront. And it was a jungle. We took it from this…

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To this…

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And as you can see it had a storage building. We changed the shed from this…

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To this…

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Not the Taj Mahal, but clean, dry, serviceable and air conditioned. It would do for a base camp.

While all this was going on, EJ had cataract surgery on both eyes which put her out of commission for about 3 months. In the mean time I continued to chip away at the property, repairing fences, battling vines and generally trying to keep the jungle at bay. In the meantime we continued trying to decide what to do with the property. Finally we decided this really wasn’t what we wanted and sold the property in September.

We continued to chip away at the “purge” without any real urgency when all of a sudden October was almost here and we had commitments to honor. EJ wanted to freshen her big rig driving skills so she found a class in Ocala, FL. After 2 full days of driving instruction, she was ready to hit the road.

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After the class we drove the motorhome to Kansas to meet up with Frank’s brother and sister to honor Dad’s request to have his ashes spread over Ivy Cemetery and the farm he grew up on, both close to Admire, Ks. He also asked that Mom’s ashes be spread with his in the cemetery.

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After that, EJ and I wandered around in Kansas and Oklahoma enjoying the vistas and quiet solitude while discussing the next steps in our future.

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And we had fun doing sightseeing too.

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Lest you think it was all fun and games, chores and projects still needed to get done. Our washing machine died and needed to be fixed. It took me a month to work up the courage to tackle that project. With the encouragement of an RVing friend we finally took the plunge and got it done.

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While all this is going on we still had to decide, stay on the road now, or head back and finish what we started. We received an invitation to take part in Thanksgiving with our extended family and longtime friends back in Bostwick, Fl. That was the “kick in the butt” we needed to get started on the next phase of our lives.

After the Thanksgiving holidays we contacted our realtor friend and arranged to put our townhome on the market. We now began to scramble to finish the purge. On December 3 the “For Sale” sign went up. The next day we had multiple offers.

In the midst of all this, we had something else percolating in the background. For the last year we had been looking for a “real” homebase, some place to park and protect Miss Mosey when we were in Florida. Of course it was during this frenzied “purging” time that a property which interested us came on the market. We drove down to Branford, Fl, looked at it and made an offer on the spot. Nine days later it was ours. Our own little 2 acre RV site out in the country.

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Back to reality, we had agreed to a December 30 closing date for the townhome and now panic really set in. We only had days to empty the house. Fortunately the buyers bank stepped in and delayed the closing to January 5th . Believe us, we needed every minute to finish up.

We camped out in Miss Mosey in front of the townhome while we finished the “purge”. This allowed us to get early starts on cleaning up and getting out.

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The house we worked so hard on fit our needs is now pretty much empty.

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For folks that are wondering what in the heck were we thinking, it’s like this. We loved our house and had we been able to move it somewhere else we would have. But the place we lived, Orange Park, was no longer the quaint country town it was when we moved here. We could see the signs that the population demographics were changing, the friendly people we used to do business with were disappearing and it was getting way too busy. Traffic, the constant noise, and the crowds all outweighed the convenience of the location. We wanted peacefulness along with a slower pace and Orange Park no longer offered that.

Now that most of our belongings have been sold, given away or donated, this is what the remaining 43 years of accumulation stuffed in a 10x10 storage locker looks like…

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And of course the year hasn’t gone by without some stray cats adopting us. (Warning! Multiple obligatory cat pics follow).

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If you have made it this far, there is another cat story, but it’s a sad one. Miss Maggie crossed over the Rainbow bridge this year (2021). She had been part of our merry little tribe since September of 2016. We adopted her from a shelter in Priest River, ID. She captured EJ’s heart as she was an elder kitty, considered to be unadoptable because of her age and health issues. But EJ and I decided to give her the best life she could have for the rest of her days. We really didn’t expect her to survive 6 months, but she surprised us and lived over 5 more years. She was the best lap kitty ever according to EJ.

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She is free of pain now and we loved her dearly.