Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ginny and Josh's Christmas lights

I thought family might like to see Ginny and Josh's outdoor Christmas decorations.
I don't know how well it shows up, but they have lights in the "stream bed" coming down their front yard.

I really like the lit up presents outside!

The Christmas hat on the saguaro adds a festive touch!

Where is VLI, VU?

We picked up a package last night that I had had sent to niece Ginny's (and Josh's) house.

I noticed a customs declaration on the package and wondered where the package had come from.

The return address was:
P.O Box 63

This was a clothing order that I had placed back in November from zulily.

I was surprised when I placed the order that it indicated that the items were in stock, but the shipping time would be 3 weeks (!!!!). I am so used to ordering with Amazon Prime that this was shocking! In fact, I had planned to have it shipped to the DFW area while we were there, but with the 3 week estimate on shipment, I decided to have it shipped to Tucson instead. I figured it would certainly arrive by the time we did, and it did.

So, where is VLI, VU?

I had to use the search engine online to find out that VLI is the airport code of Bauerfield International airport which is in the main city of Port Vila, which is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu.

I had not really looked much in to zulily before - now reading their website it sounds like they are just a front end for possibly many back end producers. It sounds like items are shipped from the producer to zulily based on orders placed, and then zulily repackages the items to send to the customer who has ordered them. Their website indicates that their headquarters is in Seattle, but distribution centers are in Ohio and Nevada. No mention of Vanuatu!

The items are ok, but I probably won't order from them again. I think I need to be able to try on styles to see what looks good on me and what size is best for me to get.
I wanted to try "tunic" tops - they seem to be popular now, and I figured they might cover some of the areas of my body that I'm not very happy about at this time. This one looks ok - unfortunately the material is pretty clingy. Right now when it is chilly, I don't mind it too much, but I suspect I will find them uncomfortable when it warms up.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas / End of Year letter - part 1 - Travels!

Since I didn't get our Christmas letter written and cards sent *before* Christmas, I am doing a post-Christmas/end-of-year letter. If you've been keeping up with our blog, this will have mostly repeat information, but I have picked out some of our favorites to share again.

2016 has been a year of:
  • Travel (of course!)
  • Friends and family
  • Canada (yes, Canada was part of our travel, but it gets its own emphasis)
  • The Wondrous Beauty given by God
I found a tool on googlemaps called "Timeline" - it recorded information about all the locations where my phone went this year. I did a little bit of tweaking to it (it had a couple of places that I had researched but we had not gone) - but it does a neat job of illustrating where we've gone, doesn't it?

We finished 2015 with a visit to White Sands National Monument. Since we had been timing our trip from DFW towards the west to avoid snow, it was funny to be in a place that looked like Miss Doozie was in the midst of lots and lots of snow!
In January, we headed out to Quartzsite where we joined with a couple of different groups. This was at the gourmet Prime Rib night with the Bluebird group.
God showed His hand of painting glorious scenery night after night with the sunsets in the desert.
This was a picture of the Bluebird's "Nest" from up above. The red arrow points to where we are parked - on one of the outer circles, with the red Jeep just to the right of the bus.

After visiting Quartzsite, in February we decided to head into California for a few weeks, using our ability to stay in Thousand Trails campgrounds for no extra charges beyond the membership dues. While there, we visited the Reagan Presidential Library.

We also stayed at the Rancho Oso Thousand Trails - in a valley above Santa Barbara. We were exploring on the other side of the stream from the campground which gave us a view back toward our campsite.
After California, by late February, we returned to Yuma, Arizona, where we enjoyed multiple tours put on by the Yuma Visitor's Bureau. This picture was taken on our "Field to Feast" tour - here are the workers harvesting butter lettuce.

The culinary students took the vegetables that we had harvested that morning from the demonstration garden at the University of Arizona and made us a wonderful lunch incorporating all the different veggies! The "Feast" part of the "Field to Feast" tour!

In March, we visited the Yuma Proving Grounds on the "Behind the Big Guns" tour with the Yuma Visitor's Center. It was very interesting and we learned a lot!

And... the last of the Yuma Visitor Center tours, we participated in "Date Night in a Date Grove", complete with a tour of the grove and packaging plant, multi-course dinner incorporating dates in each course, entertainment by a group of stringed instrument players, and good company with other visitors and Yuma-ites in attendance.

April found us back in the DFW area, staying at Lake Lewisville.

May had us heading east, starting by heading through Louisiana.

While in Georgia, we drove by the Blue Bird factory where Miss Doozie was "hatched" about 16 years ago.

Up through Virginia in May/June.

In June, we stopped overnight on one of the tunnel islands where the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel goes underwater. Miss Kitty enjoyed watching the sea birds out the window.

Miss Doozie on the tunnel island.

Still during June, after driving up the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland, we crossed from Delaware into New Jersey on the Lewes-Cape May Ferry.

July 4 - After visiting in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we were able to be "part" of the Canadaigua Fourth of July parade - well... the parade was going the other way, but we played patriotic songs on our musical horn while driving up the main drag and folks seemed to enjoy our participation!

During July, we had planned to stop overnight in Rhode Island, but decided that we could "count" having visited there if we fueled up Miss Doozie instead. We spent significantly more money there than we would have on a campground fee!
Beautiful parking spot overlooking Ossipee Lake at Patti's former co-worker's, Dennie's, family camp.

By late July, we headed on up to Vermont where we visited the Shelburne Museum...

And represented the Christian Fellowship BOF on the Row at the Escapade rally. Since we were appointed while we were in Quartzsite in January to be the representatives at this event, attending the Escapade in Vermont was the driving factor toward our travel plans for the summer.

Dwayne driving on our way to Maine. We had originally planned, after the Escapade in Vermont, to head toward Toronto to visit some of Patti's former co-workers, and then back down into the U.S..... but... we determined that this would have us heading roughly toward Dallas in August - NOT a good time to be in Dallas when we are trying to avoid really hot (and really cold) weather. So, we decided to visit the Maritime, Atlantic, and eastern provinces of Canada.

Brief stop at L.L. Bean in Rockport, ME.
 <<< in between here is our trip in Canada --- more pictures from there in Canada's part of the letter! See "part 3" >>>
We acquired an Instant Pot - a 7-in-1 cooking tool. So far, we've used it as a pressure cooker and slow cooker. We are still learning how to use it, but think it is quite useful!

After coming back into the US, in October, we headed to Iowa to get work done on our leveling jacks. After that was completed, we visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum.

By late October, we were back in DFW where we found the Hickory Creek Corps of Engineers park that we really liked....

"We" liking it included Miss Kitty who enjoyed walking around and smelling all the interesting scents.

In early December, we headed south, crossing onto the barrier island off of Corpus Christi on a free ferry. You may be able to notice Miss Doozie towering over the other vehicles on the ferry. She essentially got her own side of the ferry (there were no other cars next to her on her right side).

As we started west, we stopped in Langtry to see the place where Judge Roy Bean conducted the Law west of the Pecos!
Links to other parts of this letter:
Part 3: Canada
Part 4: The Wondrous Beauty given by God

Christmas / End of Year letter - part 3 - Canada

We entered Canada on July 31 into New Brunswick. Upon coming to the visitor center, we found out that (1) we were now on Atlantic time, not Eastern time, and (2) we should know when low, high, and slack tide times were to visit the "Reversing Rapids".

The Bay of Fundy experiences some of the greatest tide changes in the world. On this map, the fellow at the visitor center marked where the tides push up the St John River, causing the flow of the river to go upstream at high tide and the rapids to reverse from downstream to upstream.

We had the opportunity to stay in several Canadian National Parks while in Canada - this was our campsite at the Fundy National Park in New Brunswick.

Overlooking the flats exposed by the tide in Alma, New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy.

At Hopewell Rocks, the rock formations called the "Flower Pots" dramatically demonstrate the difference between high and low tides. This was near high tide...

This is near low tide - the water had been covering all of the ground and up onto those rocks at high tide (refer to previous picture).

Fuel was significantly higher priced in Canada, and we were on our way into Newfoundland, where it would be even higher priced, so we filled up in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, before getting onto the ferry to Newfoundland. The price was CAD$0.965 for regular, and CAD$0.884 for diesel - per liter... the exchange rate while we were there was about US$0.75 to CAD$1, so we got about a 25% discount on the costs.

Getting onto the ferry that would take us to Newfoundland - a 16 hour ferry ride. We took the longer ferry going over to save us time and fuel to get where we wanted to visit. We took the shorter ferry ride (6 hours) coming back.

On the ferry with us, there were Blue Bird school buses being delivered.

Tabitha was settled in to her normal travel resting spot just outside the kitty privy. We had to leave the bus for the duration of the ferry ride, so we had a cabin on the ferry, but the cats stayed on the bus and seemed to be none-the-worse for wear.

Another ferry coming in as we were leaving.

The water views in Newfoundland were beautiful! There were bays, or lakes, or ponds around every turn.

A stream near Mistaken Point shows evidence of peat in the brown runoff.

Sunrise at Cape Spear Lighthouse, St John's, Newfoundland - the first spot on North America to see the sun each day.

At Signal Hill National Historic Site - where Marconi's telegraph signal was first received.

Beautiful bay north of St John's

Beautiful bay on way to Gander

Gander North Atlantic Aviation Museum - neat displays - this was a stopping spot for flights going to Europe before trans-Atlantic flights could go from continental US all the way to Europe. They also had a neat remembrance of the service that folks in Gander provided to "airplane people" for those flights that were diverted here on 9/11/2001.

On our way up to an overlook in area near Twillingate - beautiful water views all around!
A iceberg off area near St Anthony - these come from Greenland down through these straits.

Boat tour of "Western Brook Pond" in Gros Morne National Park - "pond" is definitely a misnomer for this beautiful lake!

Boat tour on Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park

Our leveling jacks stopped working just about the same time we entered Canada. Dwayne was communicating via email and phone with a service guy with HWH in Iowa and he had us doing various debugging. (We ultimately took it to HWH in Iowa to have it worked on in October.)

We were also having a problem with the headlights not working (well, things like the high beams didn't work on one side and low beams/daytime running lights on the other). Since we couldn't use the leveling jacks, we took advantage of being in a WalMart parking lot that had a little slope that helped us get under the front of the bus to work on getting the bulbs checked/replaced.

A young man, Jim, on a motorbike stopped by to see what we were doing. He was a great help as he was skinny and had long arms that helped in reaching the area where the headlights were!

On Prince Edward Island, Cavendish Campground - near where Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up and placed the setting for her "Anne of Green Gables" books.

Miss Kitty generally settles in on a chair, the ottoman, couch, or the bed - wherever we are.

We went into Quebec City for the day - enjoyed seeing the old town.

There was a Grand Prix bicycle race going on that day so we got to see parts of it also.

We had gotten "social cards" with Miss Daisy (our previous rig) on them, and we had given most of them away. We wanted to order new social cards, so we got a picture of us with Miss Doozie while near Kingston, Ontario.

We also got a picture of the two of us - we find it helpful with other people's social cards have their picture on it... we try to write down something to help us remember them, but a picture definitely helps. Social cards are often exchanged with people that we meet in campgrounds or other places along our travels.

One of our last campsites in Ontario, right on Lake Ontario near Toronto. It was so beautiful and peaceful!

Links to other parts of this letter:
Part 1: Travels
Part 4: The Wondrous Beauty given by God