Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back home.....

Eight days is the longest we have been away from our wheeled home since we moved in 4 years ago.  There are many things I missed about our small home while we were absent, most importantly our bed, but, of course, there are many aspects of living in a home on wheels that I miss whenever I am away such as privacy, the sounds of nature just a few feet away, not having to shut the bathroom door when it is in use, the proximity of everything inside the coach, my garage on wheels, being able to spend days at a time with just each other for company.

The one thing I did not 'love' about the last 8 days was all the 'until next time' sessions we went through, especially with my kids, in-laws, and close friends, and Wednesday morning we went through that ritual once again with Tom and Darlene.  On a positive note, we will see them near the end of April when we head back to Yuma for TLE's implant surgery.  We were in the Bug by 10 am and headed northward to our home, and the beautiful Verde Valley.

The drive north on I-17 was completely uneventful, and we arrived at the NFS land off Thousand Trails Road about 12:15.  We decided to reconnoiter the area before we retrieved the coach and found a bloody muddy mess into which there was no way we would be driving 39,000 pounds of steel.  We were barely able to get in and out of there in the very light what to do?

As we drove down the hill to the Thousand Trails storage facility and our awaiting coach we began discussing our various options and essentially settled on moving over to a small RV park in Camp Verde for a few days until the NFS land dries out enough so we can return.  When we got to the coach it was still quite cold outside so I turned on the block heater (we were plugged into 30 amp the entire time we were gone) and began looking up local parks that accepted our Passport America card (50% off).  There was only one locally that accepted it in the month of March, and that was the Krazy K RV Park in Camp Verde.  I called and talked with Marla who agreed to hold a spot until 2 pm.  Their price is normally $36/night, but only $18/night with Passport America for full hookups, plus WiFi.  That's only good for two nights, but this is also a 55 plus RV park, and if you are over 65 their daily rate is $22, so not too bad.

After a sufficient amount of time we turned over the DD 6V92, which roared to life immediately, and then picked up the trailer and headed down to Camp Verde arriving there just before 2 pm.  Krazy K is a small park, but the staff was able to help us maneuver around and get into our site for the next two days without too much difficulty.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting set up, and mostly unpacking from our 8 day road trip......until I had to put my 'stuff' away I had not really focused on how much 'stuff' I had taken.  On a side note, I am happy to report that with the exception of a few t-shirts, I wore everything else I took with me.

The weather forecast for the next 10 days is for clear, and mostly clear skies and warming temperatures, which is important as we begin to migrate our way northward which we will begin to do in less than two weeks.

We spent some time catching up on shows that recorded while we were gone......since we were able to keep the coach plugged in we left the satellite dish up, and the receiver on to catch all of our usual programs while we were gone.  Apparently the cloud cover never got bad enough to interfere with the recording of any of the programs.

It's good to be back home, and we are looking forward to a few weeks of solitude!  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wittmann living....

I slept in to 7:30 am was so wonderful to sleep in a bed larger than a double....that was the size of the bed in the Hilton room we shared with TLE's sister.  We haven't slept in a double bed since we were first married.  A double bed is wonderful if you are by yourself, but does not work for two old fogies.  

We 'lazed' around most of the morning.....well, I should say I 'lazed' around....TLE played cards all morning with Darlene and her friend Michelle.  They have quite a rivalry going after a few years of card playing.  Originally Darlene used to win all the time, but now TLE is winning more often.

A friend, and fellow Newell owner recently contacted me saying had removed a bunch of rubber trim from his Classic Newell, just like the trim I have on mine, and wanted to know if I wanted it.  Over 33 years the rubber trim on my coach has kind of shrunk up to where it is about 1-2 inches too short on each end now.  I was beginning to research where to find replacement trim when I got the e-mail from Jim Ellis.  As it turns out Jim was having his coach repainted in Mesa, AZ and got the shop to agree to hold the trim until I returned to Arizona, so Tuesday was the day headed over to Mesa to retrieve the trim.  Since Jim's coach is 4 feet longer than mine there are enough long pieces pieces to replace the ones of mine that have shrunk!

The rubber trim after I 'coiled' it up to get it in the VW

We left about 1 pm to drive over to Mesa, which is a little over an hour away.  It continued to rain on and off on our 130 round trip drive.  Once we retrieved the trim we grabbed a cup of coffee at Starbucks before beginning the drive back.  We decided to stop off at Rock Bottom Brewing on Bell Road in Surprise to have an early dinner as our hosts would not be home until about 9:30 that night.

 Habanero Shrimp and Street Tacos (fish)

We were back in Wittmann by 6:30 and spent part of the evening catching up on a few recorded TV shows (Tom and Darlene watch many of the same shows we do) before heading to bed by 10:30.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eastbound and down....

We were up and packed by 8 am, but not yet ready to leave, so we wandered downstairs one more time to see who might be in the reunion hospitality suite.  We ended up talking for quite a long time to one couple (Dick and Vicki) who were interested in the nomadic lifestyle we lead.  I have a feeling we will be hearing from them in the near future!  Around 9:30 it was time to move our luggage downstairs and call for our car so we could get on the road.

Phyllis needed to be dropped off at the Ontario airport so she could catch a 12:30 pm flight back to DFW, and we wanted to have an early lunch with Meredith, our daughter, before leaving town again.

The outbound traffic was light so we were also able to drop by Kate's office (middle daughter) in Claremont to pick up a small box of things we had left at her house the prior week, then it was over to the airport to drop off Phyllis.  We had a wonderful time sharing a room with her the past 4 days while we were at the reunion, and it literally cut both our costs in half.....thank you Phyllis!

We met Meredith at Lazy Dog Restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga just after 11 am and had a wonderful 'until next time' meal with her.

By 12:15 we were merging on to I-10 eastbound headed for the Arizona border.  Within a few miles the rain began to come down.

It rained....sometimes quite hard.....hard enough that the car began to hydroplane once, or twice when we hit unexpected puddles on the Interstate, but eventually the sun came out once again, and we were treated to an amazing rainbow that seemed end right in our lane.....what do you think?

We arrived at the Arizona border at just 3:30 pm, but, of course, we lost that hour we had gained just a week before, and it was now 4:30 pm.  We refueled, and were safe and sound at our friends home in Wittmann by 6:15.

We'll spend a couple of nights with our friends (Tom and Darlene) before heading back up to Cottonwood to retrieve our coach and trailer and resume vagabonding.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 2, 2015


Sunday was our last day at TLE's college reunion, and the only activity remaining was banquet finale that evening at 5:30.  Initially I walked over to Starbucks for a light breakfast sandwich with the Houghtaling (pronounced Ho-tel-ing) sisters  seen in the picture below.....Phyllis is on the left, Laureen is in the background, and, of course, TLE is on the right.  The first Houghtaling sister I met was their oldest sister, Marcia, back in 1963 at a church summer camp which was called SEP (Summer Educational Program) held in Big Sandy, TX.  Little did I know at the time that I would, over the course of the next 7 years, meet the other three sisters, and choose to spend the rest of my life with one of them.  Regretfully, Marcia passed on way too soon back in 2010 at the still young age of 67 years old.  In all TLE has 5 siblings.....3 sisters, and two brothers.  Their father, Frances, raised 4 amazing women whom I have been privileged to call family for the past 43 years.  It would have been wonderful if Marcia had been able to attend this reunion as I lost track of number the people who asked after her over these past 4 days.

Hangin' with the Houghtaling girls

Marcia Houghtaling Demarest....RIP

You might be wondering how it is that so many different class years are represented at this reunion.  Ambassador College was a very small college.....I think the total student body the year TLE entered her freshman class in 1967 numbered somewhere just over 6, or 700.  This particular reunion was open to all those who attended from 1947 to 1977, so there were three decades of graduating classes represented.  In the first decade of the college I don't think the entire student body exceeded 100 in any given year.

After returning from our late breakfast we spent a couple of more hours in the hospitality room talking with friends, then TLE and I walked over to the local Rubio's with Laureen's husband, Glenn, for small lunch, and then retreated to our rooms to take a break.  My brother Dwyer came by and spent a couple of hours visiting for which I was very grateful.  Over the past few years spending time with my siblings has become a priority and every chance I get now seems so precious.  You just do not know when your number is up, and if there is a chance to connect we make it happen.  I no longer feel I have the luxury of thinking 'I'll see them next time around' just don't know for sure that the opportunity will be there.  Life seems so much more fragile, and temporal at age 65 than it did at age 45.

TLE talking with good friend Dick Quincer

Waiting for the evening's festivities to begin

Around 5:30 we got dressed up in our 'Sunday go to meeting' finest and headed downstairs to the grand finale banquet where we spent a few more hours talking with friends, and exchanging contact information.  We have received so many offers to stop by and visit friends from around the U.S. that it will take a few years to work them all in to our travel plans.

It has been a wonderful four days in Pasadena reconnecting with our past, but we are both mentally exhausted, and are looking forward to returning to the solitude of the high desert near Sedona to recharge, and resume our nomadic wanderings.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Time trippin'

Saturday was the day we would take a tour of our old college campus located near the intersection of Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevards in Pasadena.  Late in the 19th century and moving into the early 20th century the area where our small church college eventually was located was called 'Millionaires Row'.  By mid century many of these large mansions had fallen into disrepair and our church began to buy up the properties to form the Ambassador College campus.  While the college no longer exists, the property has been sold to another church group which is utilizing a large part of the original campus for a Christian high school called Marantha.  Here are a few pictures that I think will convey the original grandeur of the campus....

'Lower Garden' where graduations were held (TLE & her sister Phyllis)

 One of the former mansions we called 'Mayfair', which was utilized as a dormitory by our college.

 The 'quad' area

The student center kitchen where TLE toiled her freshman year

The food service staff at Marantha H.S. provided us with a lovely lunch in the dining area of the student center where as young adults we spent many hours many years ago.  It was comforting to see that Marantha is going to great lengths to preserve many of the structures and features of the old Ambassador College Campus.

The old Huet C. Merritt Mansion that was called 'Ambassador Hall'.  My first summer home from the Texas campus I worked on the grounds around this building.

 The planter where I would store my sack lunch until lunch time each day

My first summer home from the Texas campus I worked on the 'landscape crew', and I was assigned to work around 'Ambassador Hall' (shown in the three pictures above) weeding the dichondra lawn.  It was the kind of lawn that looked great in pictures, and from a distance, but required a lot of labor to keep it looking good.....not very practical, but very beautiful.  It was during that summer of 1968 that I developed a friendship with the Lovely Elaine, which blossomed over the years, and the rest is history.

Later in the afternoon I made contact with my brother, Dwyer, who was in town for a few days and made arrangements to meet he and my sister Jill at Congregation Ale House just a half mile from the hotel.  TLE, Phyllis and I walked the half mile over to the ale house about 10 minutes arriving there just after Dwyer had arrived, and Jill arrived about 30 minutes later.  They have a wonderful selection of their own brews, as well as other local brews.  I had their Cocoa Porter for starters, and then had a pint of their Dark of the Covenant Stout, to go along with a basket of their tacos....both were excellent, and is mute testimony to why they get a 4 star rating on Yelp.  It was the perfect venue for our family get together.  We had a wonderful 2 hours of talking and laughing before heading back to the hotel for the evening.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, February 28, 2015


 Friday was the first official day of TLE's college reunion, and it was a day of moving from one hug, one conversation to another.  We ventured downstairs from our 5th floor room in the Hilton about 9 am to find something to eat before registering at 10 am, but found they had already opened registration, so we all grabbed a cup of coffee at the Starbucks kiosk, and the mingling began.  You may be wondering how I might know so many people from the school where TLE went to college, so I would imagine some explanation is in order....

TLE and I belonged to the same church when we were young.  That church had 3 college campuses.....Bricketwood, England (two hours outside London), Pasadena, CA and Big Sandy, TX (near Tyler, TX).  Even though I grew up in Pasadena I attended the Texas campus of the church college.  TLE, who was from Miami, FL attended school at the Pasadena campus.  Since I was from Pasadena I knew a lot of the people she went to school with, and it was through those mutual acquaintances that we eventually met when I returned from Texas that first summer after my freshman year. So, there you have it....even though we have not belonged to that church since the late 70's we would never have met if not for the fact our parents belonged to the same church, although at opposite ends of the country.

By 3 pm I was 'talked' out for a while.......I have found when I go to these things that I  have to pace yourself, or my voice will be gone by the end of the first I went upstairs for a break while TLE and her sister went shopping.

There really isn't a lot else to relate as the memories and people would have no meaning to most of you.  Those who have known me for a few decades know my history, and would probably know some of the same people.  The one thing I will say is there is something sweet about being able to renew friendships that were forged during a very formative period of my life.  The connections are still there after all these decades, and even though we have all gone our ways professionally and religiously we still have that connection.

There was a welcoming banquet at 7 pm Friday that we attended which lasted until after 9 pm, and by then we were all pretty talked out, so we headed back to our room for the evening.  There are two more days of festivities to come......

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 27, 2015


Thursday it was time to move on to Pasadena for TLE's college reunion.  Of course you always want to look your best so she had made a hair appointment with Amanda at Forte in Claremont, CA for 10 am.  Amanda has been a best friend of Sharon (our daughter who was just married) since they were wee little tykes and has become a very good hair stylist.  Whenever we are 'in town' TLE has her shape up her coif.  

We got there a little early so we dropped into the Starbucks just a half block away for some coffee and bagels before TLE's appointment.   Within an hour we were hugging Amanda goodbye and heading for the gas station to fuel up the VW one more time, then waiting for a call from TLE's sister, Phyllis, who was flying into Ontario International for the same reunion......around 11:45 we got the call that she had landed and zipped over to the airport to retrieve her.

The drive into Pasadena took less than an hour.....traffic at Noon is not too bad.....and we arrived at the Pasadena Hilton around 12:45.  Ironically, the Pasadena Hilton (Los Robles and Cordova) was where TLE and I spent our wedding night about forty-three and a half years ago.  This is our first time back since then.

Around 5:30 pm TLE's other sister, Laureen, and her husband, Glenn, arrived for the reunion, and we all headed off walking down Green Street to Dog Haus Biergarten, which was recommended by my oldest daughter, Meredith.  Since we were so close to where my brother Philip lives I called him and got he and his wife, Jeannie, to meet us there for dinner.  By the way, this place gets 4.5 stars on over 1,500 reviews on Yelp, and that rating is richly deserved.  Their main fare is hotdogs, and they are amazing, but they also have hamburgers that are equally amazing.  I had the 'Old Town Dog' (bacon wrapped dog, caramelized onions, roasted jalapenos, chipolte mayo, and cotija cheese)  and TLE and Phyllis split the Kung Poa Cajun sausage dog (cajun andouille, kung pao sauce, bell peppers, green onions, water chestnuts, and peanuts).  My 'dog' was amazing, but the heat provided by the roasted jalapenos lit my mouth of fire so it took two pints to get it down (:-)....they have several craft beers on tap and we had the 'Nitro' Coffee Stout.

Left side: moi, Philip, Jeannie
Right side: Phyllis, TLE, Laureen, Glenn

We had a great time sitting outside, which, by the way, is nicely heated, although the temperatures on this evening were quite pleasant outside.  The walk to and fro was about 1/2 mile each way from the hotel.  In fact, there are literally dozens of good restaurants in the Old Town Pasadena area near the hotel which are within walking distance!

So, our first day in Pasadena is in the books, and the main festivities of the reunion begin Friday.....for me the best part is already happening....spending time with family.

Thanks for stopping by!