A School, a Reunion, and an RV Convention

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page, or you can click on specific links in the text to get to the photos associated with that part of the travelogue.

Before we left the Clearwater River area, we took a day-trip with John & Libby and did a big loop from Kamiah to Orofino to Nez Perce, and back to Kamiah. We started up a steep road to climb up to the plateau when I noticed this guy coming up behind me very fast. I moved as far to the right as I could and he passed me. However, he didn't get very far. A few hundred yards further was a 90 degree turn and he didn't make it. He went straight off the road. If it weren't for a tree stump, he would have gone down into a gully. He wasn't hurt, but he was very embarrassed. You see, he was wearing a uniform and we thought he was an off-duty cop, but he worked at the local correctional facility. He radioed a buddy for help and you could tell from the conversation that he wasn't very happy about asking someone to send a tow truck to get him out. If that had happened a few more miles up the hill, it would have been lights out for him because the road dropped off and went straight down.

We left on a Monday to head up to Moscow, ID for the Life on Wheels (LOW) Conference at the University of Idaho campus. There we would meet up with Norm and Linda Payne, Jim and Patty Hammond, and Steve and Amy Turney. We all agreed that we would boondock (no hookups) for the duration of the conference. We also were arriving a week early, so that meant that we would be boondocking for almost two weeks. You may remember from an earlier travelogue that boondocking means that since we are self-contained in our rigs, we would not need electricity (we have a generator and inverter for that), or water (we came in with 100 gallons of fresh water), or sewer (military showers and use of the university's facilities when possible). Also, the university allowed us to use their showers, which Diane and I gladly did during the two weeks there. The showers were big, clean and, more importantly, you could stand under the shower and let it run and not worry about the hot water running out. They also provided a towel upon request. What more could we ask for? They were great accommodations.

There was a Flying J in Lewiston just before getting onto US 95 and up the big grade we had come down a week earlier. As we pulled into the fueling area, who do you think is there just finishing fueling up? It was the Paynes and the Hammonds. They had actually heard John and I chatting on the CB as we approached the Flying J. What a pleasant surprise. We hadn't seen them for almost three months since we were all in Phoenix in March and April. After hugs were shared and fuel pumped into our rigs, we now had a four motorhome caravan up to Moscow. That would ensure that we arrived together and get parked together. We were some of the first rigs to arrive at the university and we got pretty good spots in the large parking lot set aside for the LOW. It was interesting that out of approximately 285 rigs that attended the conference, only 25 of us chose to boondock. The others paid either $95 or $125 for electricity provided by huge Cummins generators that never worked properly during the time frame we were there. None of us saw the value in paying for that limited power because we all had our own generators to supply power when we needed it.

Folks were rolling in all week, but most came in on Friday and Saturday. Steve and Amy arrived and were parked next to us, and we finally met Bart and Holly Creasy in their Dutch Star. Mike Desch and Linda Oddo arrived and were parked down the row from us. Mike and Linda both lost their spouses and then found each other. It turned out that they both had motorhomes and they lived about 20 miles apart. Linda is pretty cool. She is willing to try just about anything. For her birthday a few weeks before arriving for the LOW Conference, her son gave her a birthday present that would shock most of us. She JUMPED OUT OF AN AIRPLANE on a tandem jump (i.e., hooked to an experienced jumper) along with her son. What a thrill. She said it was a great experience. Now that Diane and I have done glider rides, could a sky dive be next? Who knows? Stay tuned.  :-)

Also at the LOW were Ron and Barb Hofmeister, whom we hadn't seen since our stay in the Phoenix area. They were conducting several of the sessions at the conference and were parked in one of the areas supplied with electricity. It was great to see them again.

We had always planned to attend the LOW. The main campus is in Moscow, ID and is a five-day event. Two remote conferences are held in Harrisburg, PA and Bowling Green, KY, but they are only three-day events. LOW was founded by Gaylord Maxwell, whose articles in Motorhome Magazine I had read for many years. I guess the best way to describe LOW is to say that it is really a school, an RV school. The class catalog was quite extensive and it wasn't that easy to pick the classes we wanted to attend. The classes ran from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. for four days and then half day on Friday. Let me tell you, it wasn't easy getting up early every day to make an 8:30 A.M. class. Most of us that hang around together out here like to get up when our body says get up, and that is not early. Each class was 1 1/2 hours long with an hour for lunch. The selection of classes covered topics such as:

* lifestyle classes: full-timing; boondocking; cooking (microwave and grill); insurance; fire and personal safety; photography; guns; and more

* travel: Alaska; Mexico; Baja; Canada; Australia and New Zealand

* technical: gas and diesel engine performance and maintenance; refrigerators; hot water heaters and furnaces; chassis and engine maintenance; ovens and ranges; solar panels; and more

* miscellaneous: writing; fitness

It was not difficult to fill each day. It was sometimes difficult to decide which classes to take and which to skip due to schedule conflicts. Some of the instructors were well-known to us and to others. Not only did we finally get to meet Gaylord, but we met Bill Farlow, who also writes articles for magazines, and Joe and Vicki Kieva, who we had met several times at the Atlanta RV Show during those years that Diane and I were keeping the dream alive. Others included Joe and Kay Peterson, founders of the Escapees RV Club, Bill and Jan Moeller, Sharlene "Charlie" Minshall, Mac McCoy (fire safety), and many others. For the most part, all of the instructors provided good information.

During the week prior to the start of classes, John and I got to play golf twice on the university course at the top of the hill above the parking lot. It was a nice, but hilly course. Of course, that meant Diane and Libby got to go shopping, which made them happy.

The way they parked the rigs in the lot was great as it allowed lots of room between the rigs. They were also positioned such that after the sun set, we were able to gather in a sort of courtyard between the Veach's Discovery and our Dutch Star, with the Hammonds Dutch Star forming the rear of the courtyard. The weather was absolutely perfect and that offered us the opportunity to sit out every night until around 10 PM. The core of these sessions were the four of us that hook up on the road whenever we can (Veaches, Hammonds, Paynes, us) and we were there every night. Amy and Steve Turney were next to us and came over some evenings, as did Mike Desch and Linda Oddo. Bart and Holly Creasy were close by and also came over to chat some evenings. Sometimes other folks who were walking around stopped by to chat. It was not unusual to have 15-20, or more, folks sitting around chatting away, sharing our adventures on the road, and watching the stars come out.

Given that we were there for July 4th, we had a "byof" (bring your own food) party at the Hammonds rig. Later that evening, we walked over to Mike and Linda's rig to watch the fireworks going up from down below. It was the best view I ever had for a July 4th fireworks display. We also didn't have to fight any traffic to get home. We just picked up our chairs and walked home. What a life.

One of the reasons we arrived early to the LOW was to attend Dick Reed's RV Driving School. Other than driving in an abandoned Wal-Mart parking lot, Diane had never driven the motorhome. However, it is important for spouses to be able to drive the RV in the event of an emergency situation. We thought it was best to sign up for the driving school for some professional instruction. The class was conducted in two 3-hour sessions over two days. Diane completed two days of RV Driving School and is now certified to drive this monster. Day one was to learn about mirrors and turning and some backing up and to drive some real roads through town. The second day she learned to drive the motorhome while towing the Honda, plus more instruction on backing up and using the exhaust brake. She had to drive about 10 miles to a small town, Viola, and the drive included going up a hill and down a hill, AND it was RAINING that day. After the second day's instruction, we went to get the rig weighed by A'Weigh We Go and to dump our holding tanks. When we got back to the University of Idaho parking lot, there was a crowd of friends/colleagues chatting and they all got to watch Diane back into our spot. She got lots of hugs and kudos, especially from the ladies. Now she just needs practice on the open road.

Since we knew we would be out on the road on Thursday and Friday, we signed up with A'Weigh-We-Go to have the motorhome weighed. I'm a big advocate of weighing the rig once a year. It only costs $25-30, depending on the rally, and they weigh all four corners, which is the best way to weigh a rig (too many ways/weighs in that sentence). We have a 29,000 pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and we came in at 28,040. We knew we would add about 300 more pounds with the slide trays, which would put us at 28,300 pounds. The coach had full water and fuel, so we were carrying a lot of weight at the time. What was most pleasing was the fact that we were very balanced side to side with no more than 100 pounds difference. I guess we "accidentally" did a great job of packing the stuff we carry such that we were balanced.

We met lots of folks who came in for the LOW. What was interesting, at least to us OLD folks, was the several YOUNG folks who were out on the road full-time. One evening, we met Brad and Rama when they came over to visit after they saw all of us sitting out. We found out they were full-timing and were 32 and 30 years old. I nearly fell off my chair and asked if they had won a lottery. They hadn't, but we figured from what they said that they were in high tech jobs for a few years and made a lot of money, had no kids, and just decided they'd rather travel than work. Now how come I can understand that?   ;-)  It's a shame that WORK (UGH) has to get in the way of one's personal life.  :-)  Actually, they indicated they are well enough off for a while, but will have to work a few months a year to maintain the full-timing lifestyle. TOUGH LIFE, HUH?

We were signed up to go on a cruise of Lake Couer D'Alene (CdA) followed by a dinner at the resort. The cruise of the lake was great and it's always amazing to see those beautiful lake front homes. I always wonder where all the money comes from. It was a 1 1/2 hour cruise that also went by the famous "floating green" at the resort golf course. I had seen photos of that par-3 hole many times in golf magazines. It's even more daunting to see it in person, and I can only imagine what the view is like from the tee. It's the only golf hole where you have to board a small boat to get to the green to be able to putt out.

The 2-hour bus trip to CdA was "exciting". The bus, a big one, showed up and had no air conditioning. At about the hour and a half mark, some women were getting dizzy and nauseous, including Diane. By the time we got there and got off the bus, she was in bad shape. We saw a food vendor in a trailer and headed there for ice and water. I think she was only minutes away from a 911 call, but the guy in the stand was very helpful once I got his attention. He was very reluctant to help at first, but then became very helpful. Diane was shaking so bad and it looked like heat stroke. She recovered in about 30 minutes and did get to enjoy the cruise on the lake and the dinner.

The passengers all warned the driver that we would not get back on that bus for the trip back and that he needed to get a different bus for the return trip. At first, he said all buses were booked and he couldn't do that. However, he did get the message and he had a different bus when we finished our dinner and boarded for the return to Moscow. If there is a good thing about this incident, it was that the driver called the owners of the business to alert them as to what had happened and they met the bus upon our return to the university. They apologized and offered refunds to anyone who wanted one. I don't know if anyone else accepted that offer, but we surely did given that Diane had the worst problem with the excessive heat. Other than the heat problem, the cruise was very nice.

Opening ceremonies for the LOW were on Sunday and there was a performance of the Fantastiks at the university theater that was included in the tuition for the school. The performance was great and we all enjoyed it.

Monday was the start of classes and it was definitely a challenge to get up at 6:30 A.M. to get ready.  One of the highlights of the week was the salmon BBQ on Monday evening to cap off a great first day of classes.  The salmon was marinated for 24 hours on long wooden skewers and then cooked over an open flame for three hours. It was a delicious meal ending with some great ice cream for dessert.

Jim Hammond had stopped by the mill for Idaho Cedar Sales (ICS) and asked if we could get a tour of the mill. The manager, Byron Cannon, told Jim that he would be happy to give us a tour, so we drove over on Thursday for a tour of the mill. We learned that ICS was one of the largest suppliers of white pine and red cedar split rail fencing. Huge logs are debarked, cut, and made into the fence pieces. It was interesting to see the machines move the huge logs around like sticks. We all appreciated the opportunity to visit the mill.

Friday was the last evening for most folks. Some would remain for their driving school class over the weekend, and the rest of us would hit the road for new adventures.  Twelve of us decided to go out for one last meal at La Mercado. It was a nice way to end a great week.

Diane and I decided to go spend a few days in Couer d'Alene, so we drove up there on Saturday morning. Actually, Diane drove about the first half hour on a two-lane, twisting highway and then decided to give it back to me for the remainder of the trip. Ron and Barb Hofmeister drove to Spokane to await the arrival on Sunday of two of their grandsons. They were taking them for a couple of weeks to Glacier and some other National Parks. We agreed to meet in Spokane at the Olive Garden for dinner. Since the restaurant was in the mall where the AMC Theaters are located, Diane and I decided to stick around after dinner and see "The Score" with Robert DeNiro.

We had been boondocking at LOW, so that meant no use of the washing machine, so we hung around the campground on Sunday to catch up on laundry and some other tasks. Later in the day we drove over to the lake to walk around and enjoy the nice evening. There was a classic boat and car festival over the weekend, including sand sculptures. I had never seen sand sculptures up close and was amazed at the finite details in some of them, especially the castle. We spent a couple of hours sitting near the lakeshore, walking around the marina, and then getting a cappuccino and tea before going home. It rained the next day, so we found the Starbucks and went there for our morning cappuccino, tea, and muffins and biscottis. We found the local movie theater and went to see "Legally Blonde".

One of the reasons we went back north after LOW was because we decided Spokane was the place that offered the best flight for our trip to New York (Long Island) for my 40th high school reunion. We moved over to the Yogi Bear RV park to store the motorhome while we would be gone. They had the best deal and only charged us $5 per day when no one was in the motorhome. So on Thursday we flew to JFK in New York, rented a car, and drove out to the hotel in Plainview. Once again Delta came through with two flawless flights. The one from Spokane to Salt Lake City and the one to JFK were both on time and both were a 3-and-3 configuration. No one sat at the window seat, which allowed Diane to slide over and open up the center seat for more room to spread out. We only had carry-ons, so we were outta JFK quickly. The Hertz Gold car was ready and waiting.

However, as we were going up the ramp to the Van Wyck, some fool in a van zipped by at high speed, zigzagged a couple of times and then whipped across two lanes to the fast lane. No more than a minute later, a fool in a car did the same thing. We got to the Southern State Parkway and there were overhead computer-controlled signs. The first one we came to said "Steer Clear of Aggressive Drivers", like I need to be told to do that. I figure every 10 to 20 years for a reunion is enough time to spend on "Lon Gisland".   :-)

The reunion consisted of three days of activities: an informal gathering at the 56th Fighter Group in Farmingdale on Friday; a formal gathering at the Huntington Town House in Huntington on Saturday; and an informal brunch at Coco's on the River in Huntington.

I wanted to go back to the high school, Island Trees High School in Levittown, to see the building. There were just some workmen doing some remodeling inside and a few office workers. We walked into the office to see if we could walk around the building. One of the ladies in the office saw us coming in and she said "Let me guess. You're with the reunion and you want to walk the halls." I asked her if it showed and she said no problem. I hadn't been in that building in 40 years. It was basically the same as I remembered it. Diane understood and just accommodated my desire to walk around. We walked to the gym and that brought back lots of memories of spring practice for the baseball team; great basketball games; yelling myself hoarse during the wrestling matches; Friday night dances. I walked into the locker room and it was a walk back in time. The most emotional time for me came when we walked outside the back door and I saw the baseball diamond. It looked exactly as it did when I played on the baseball team. Great memories.

Almost all of the neighbors I had when I grew up on Long Island are gone, but Jeanne and Bill Berg were still there and they invited us for lunch. They go to Bradenton, Florida in the winter and return to Levittown for the summer. The house in which I grew up was two doors down from Jeanne's, so I walked down to take a look and take a picture. We moved into that house in the summer of 1952 and lived there until 1961 when we moved to Newburgh. Bill walked over with me and suggested seeing if anyone was home. Unfortunately, no one was home. It would have been great to see the inside again, especially the basement that my dad finished off, including a great bar (if it was still there).

Friday night at the 56th Fighter Group was crowded and LOUD. There was a restaurant there, but mostly it was a Friday night hangout for YOUNG folks. In the middle of all these young folks was our small group of old folks. Interesting mix. We were all old enough to be the parents of most of the "kids" that were out for their end of week partying. The turnout was OK for this event and I got to see some folks I hadn't seen in 20 years since the last reunion I attended. Some folks I hadn't seen for 40 years.

Saturday was the main event. I got to see more folks I hadn't seen for 20 or 40 years. For the most part, everyone just looked like an older version of how they looked at 18. It helped that we had badges on with our photos from our high school years because there were some folks who I would not have recognized.

Not many folks attended the brunch on Sunday, but it was a nice place on a nice morning. There were a couple of folks there that I got to see who didn't make the Friday or Saturday events. All in all, a great weekend.

I did not include any photos from the reunion as part of this travelogue because those photos would mostly be of interest to Island Trees High School folks. However, if anyone is interested, those photos can be viewed by clicking HERE.

My only relative left on Long Island is my cousin George and his family. After the brunch, Diane and I drove further out on the island to spend Sunday night with them. It had been many years since our last visit together and it was nice to see George and Linda again. Their daughter, Christine, still lives there and is getting married next year. We all went out to dinner and spent the evening talking about old times.

We flew back to Spokane on Monday. We taxied out and took off out of JFK on time on Friday. The pilot said we'd arrive about 45 minutes early to Salt Lake City, and we got there 50 minutes early. That extended our 40 minute wait to 90 minutes so we went to an eating area and sat at a table. It just happened to be near a power outlet, so I plugged in, booted up, got out my cell phone, and did email. There was a guy at the next table with his Dell laptop plugged into the other outlet, so I struck up a conversation with him about his Dell and other things.

It wasn't until we got on the plane that I realized it was not a non-stop to Spokane, but made a stop in Pasco, WA. I never knew the place existed much less that Delta went there. We left on time, landed on time and about half the plane got off in Pasco. Who'd a thought. The guy sitting in the window seat in our aisle owned a consulting business and was going to Pasco. He must be successful given that he owned three houses around the country. He lived north of Boulder up in the hills on about five acres along with a dozen other houses. You know, it's how THE OTHER HALF lives.   :-)   Anyway, he told us that there were three cities in the Pasco area that total 100,000 people. This consultant guy was a 3-million miler on Delta and he said he could only remember one time that one of his flights was canceled and that was in Salt Lake City in a snow storm. I told him that I had excellent luck flying my million miles with Delta (well, I was actually about 2500 miles short when I retired....I needed one more trip...sigh). I'm sure it helped that I knew which weekend the reunion was going to be held and I planned the flight long ago. I decided it made no sense to fly east on a Friday when all the workers were going back east, so we flew on Thursday. I also didn't think it was wise to book a Monday morning flight when all those same workers were off to their meetings. So I booked a 2:45pm departure that turned out to be perfect. No traffic on LI to JFK; no one checking in cars at Hertz; not many people in the terminal.

It was nice to be home again after a great weekend on Long Island. This was becoming a time of lots of activities (LOW; HS reunion) separated by "down time" to do nothing. We had planned to do nothing on Tuesday after our return, except to go to a movie, this time it was Jurassic Park 3. Our next destination was to drive back to Orofino, ID to get our slide trays installed in two of the bays. There were only two sites left in the BLM park on the Clearwater River and, luckily, one was the one that would allow us to park parallel to the river. What a view we had.

The trays were installed on Thursday. One thing about installing slide trays in the bays. You LOSE some space. We will have to repack our basement when we get back to Atlanta to see what it is that we no longer need to carry with us.

Our plan was to stay at the BLM through the weekend so we could take a jet boat ride on the Snake River, which goes through Hell's Canyon. The Nez Perce Indians were the main occupants of the area surrounding the canyon at the time of Lewis and Clark visited the area. Prior to the Nez Perce, there were people who lived in the area for thousands of years. It was an all-day ride that took us on a 184-mile round trip up the river. It was very hot up until Friday, but cooled down, so it was sort of pleasantly cool most of the day, and then got chilly on the way back. The boat was a 32-foot flat bottomed boat powered by three 350HP Chevy engines. Given that the Snake flows north, we went UP river by going south against the rapids, and then DOWN river by going north and running the rapids. We only saw Class 2 and 3 rapids. Also saw where the Salmon River comes into the Snake. Lots of rafters on the river. There were also lots of small sandy beaches and most of them had campers on them, from single tents for a couple with a dog, to multiple tents for multi-day rafting trips. Some of the beaches were accessible only by boat or horseback. It was a nice trip, albeit maybe a 1/2 day trip would have been enough.

On the way back, we stopped at the local pizza place in Orofino. There was an older couple, easily in their late 70s, that Diane recognized from the night before when we ate at the Ponderosa Restaurant in town. So being "ME", I started a conversation. WOW!!! Turns out they owned a sporting goods business for 48 years in Orofino, which is definitely small town America. They were also well-traveled and had been to places Diane have only thought about going to visit, like Thailand and China and Singapore. Now you all know I like to talk, but this guy, Maury, didn't hardly stop to take a breath as he told us about all their travels. And when he did take a breath, his wife took up the banner and continued his story. Cute couple. But I certainly met my match. :-)

We left in the next morning for Hermiston, OR, which was pretty much a stopover place for us on the way to Mosier. Diane drove about an hour of the trip to Mosier on I-84 to get more practice with the rig. For you east coasters, YES, it's the same I-84 that goes from Scranton, PA through the Hudson Valley and up into New England. I was surprised a few months ago to see an I-84 out in the west from Utah and through Idaho and Oregon. However, even though parts of I-84 in the east are quite scenic, it doesn't compare to I-84 in Oregon as it goes along the Columbia River in the Columbia River Gorge. The scenery was stunning.

We stayed at the Columbia River Gorge RV Park, a Coast to Coast park. The gravel road to get to the park was about 1.7 miles, but felt like more. It was a WASHBOARD gravel road that went UP UP UP. It was also fun going DOWN DOWN DOWN when we left on Saturday. I saw nothing special about this park except for the views. It isn't one that I'd plan to come back to except to meet friends who may be staying there. For one, no sewer hookup and Diane would have liked to do laundry here. Second, it isn't easy to get here and the rig and car got FILTHY and there is no washing allowed. Third, the power in the park, at least where we were parked, was horrible. Voltages were in the 99 to 105 range, which is not good for onboard appliances. 

We drove to The Dalles (rhymes with "pals") to eat at Cousins and we both had the YAK BURGER. Couldn't tell it wasn't beef. Tasted fine. Wild yak are massive and wooly animals and are only found in some remote areas on the Tibetan plateau up to 19,000 feet. Bulls can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and cows up to 900 pounds. Domestic yak came to Europe from Tibet in the mid-nineteenth century, and were imported to the U.S. and Canada in the early 1900s. There is currently an estimated 2,000 domestic yak in North America. Yak meat is deep red in color and is best described as beef-like, but more delicate in flavor. It is high in protein, with 1/6th the fat of beef.

The RV park had a dinner one evening, so Diane and I started walking up to the recreation building when we heard someone say "Rich". Not really focusing on it because we were talking, we heard once again someone say "Rich and Diane". We turned around and it was Mike Desch and Linda Oddo who had just arrived and checking in. What a small world it is out here on the road. We were with them back in July at the LOW in Moscow, ID. We said hello and then went on to eat dinner while Mike and Linda got set up. Then we walked to their site and visited for a while. It was nice to see them again. They were headed back to California.

Diane and I drove to Mount Hood one day for lunch. It was a beautiful drive, with the mountain in view much of the way. Mount Hood is a popular ski area with a hotel on the premises. We had lunch in the hotel and were lucky to get a table with a view of Mount Jefferson in the distance. We found out that Mount Hood is a year-round ski and snowboarding area as there is snow on the mountain all year long. It was actually quite crowded with folks, mostly young folks, toting snowboards to the ski lift to go way up on the mountain for a day's fun. We had never been on a ski lift, so we went over to see what the deal was for riding up the mountain. Unfortunately, it was too late and the lift was officially closed. Then three ladies came by and pleaded with the guy for a ride on the lift. He went off to check on something and then came back and asked the ladies how many people wanted to ride. There were five of them, so she said "five". We were lingering to see what was happening and I quickly upped the count to "seven".  ;-)  He didn't even charge us for the ride, which was normally $8 per person. I guess we were at the right place at the right time.

The ride on the lift was a hoot. What amazed me were the numbers of young folks on the way down that didn't have the safety bar in front of them. No way I would ride on one of those chairs without that bar across my lap. It was a long way down.

Not knowing if/when we would ever again be in a place that served yak burgers, we decided to go to The Dalles on our last day in the area for lunch and another yak burger. On Saturday, we drove to La Pine, Oregon to again hook up with John and Libby for a week prior to our going to the Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA) Convention in Redmond. We also expected the arrival of the Caldarolas (Frank and Joanne) and the Turneys (Steve and Amy). The four rigs would drive to Redmond together for the FMCA the following week.

Frank and Joanne arrived on Sunday, and then Mike and Linda, who we had bumped into in Mosier, stopped by for two nights on their way to California. Steve and Amy would not arrive until late in the week. As always, the socialization out here on the road beats anything we ever experienced in any of the neighborhoods we lived in when we owned a house. There seems to be much more camaraderie in the RV community. We found neighbors in the communities in which we lived pretty much stayed to themselves, or socialized with people from their church, or work, or tennis team.

There were lots of places to visit in the La Pine area and we did visit several of them. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument (NNVM) was located in the Deschutes National Forest, which included La Pine. The entire area of the monument consisted of more than 50,000 acres and included lakes and lava flows. We drove up to the Newberry Crater to Paulina Peak, the highest point on the crater rim at 7,985 feet. The view from there was spectacular as it looked out across the high desert plateaus and valleys to the Oregon Cascades. From the crater one could see Paulina Lake and East Lake, two of the bluest lakes we've ever seen. It was thought that the caldera originally had only one lake, but deposits of pumice and lava divided the crater into two separate lakes. Paulina Lake was one of the deepest lakes in Oregon at 250 feet.

Also located in the caldera was the Big Obsidian Flow, which was the lava flow remaining after the last eruption some 1300 years ago. The flow was about one mile long and 17 stories high. Obsidian is a natural volcanic glass. However, it is not made of crystals like other rocks, but it has the disordered internal structure of a liquid. Obsidian forms when lava is especially rich in silica, which has the stiff consistency of taffy or cookie dough. When the lava cools very quickly above ground, it hardens to rock before it can form crystals. Native American Indians used the rocks for knives, arrowheads, and other sharp tools, and have been doing so for some 10,000 years. We also found out that obsidian blades are sharper than steel, thus causing little scarring. Some doctors use them for delicate operations, such as eye surgery.

We then drove to the Lava River Cave, which was a one-mile lava tube. It was formed when a river of molten lava created a channel, the sides of which crusted over to form the roof thousands of years ago. The hot lava continued to flow out of the channel, which left a hollow tube. The tube actually goes under US 97. It was very interesting to go into this tube as there was absolutely no natural lighting. There was no artificial lighting except for the flashlights used by people walking in the tube. The temperature in the cave was a constant 42 degrees, so it was a bit chilly in there.

Finally, we went for a drive up the Lava Butte. It was formed 7,000 years ago. Cinders and ash were thrown high into the air during an eruption as the first magma reached the surface. The cinders accumulated in a cinder cone, which was shaped by the prevailing southwest winds. As the eruption continued, the wind carried more cinder to the northeast side of the cone to form a crater 180 feet deep. Diane and I walked up to the observation tower and then walked around the rim of the crater. We could see many other cinder cones in the distance. Unfortunately, this was one of the rare times that we were out without having the camera with us, so no photos of the Lava Bute. :-(

The rest of the week prior to the FMCA was spent playing golf with John and Libby; going to Bend with John and Libby to shop and have lunch at a Mongolian BBQ place; washing our motorhome; and sitting out every evening with several other couples watching the stars and shooting stars. Other than some nights in Switzerland, I don't remember seeing the sky so dark. It was amazing how many stars could be seen when there was no artificial city lights to dim their view. We were able to see Mars and Jupiter and even satellites going overhead. On Friday we took a dry run to Redmond so we would be comfortable with the route the FMCA planned for motorhomes to travel to avoid the towns on the way to Redmond. As usual, it was well thought out and avoided traffic snarls.

It was finally time to go into the Deschute fairgrounds where the FMCA would be held. We all cranked up our engines and headed out in a caravan on the prescribed route to Redmond. It was a nice ride and we all were able to stay together as we entered the fairgrounds to get parked in our assigned area. Based on previous experience with several rigs driving into a rally, we decided to drive disconnected, that is, one person drove the motorhome and another person drove the car. So we actually had an eight vehicle caravan.

We had early arrival credentials that got us into the fairgrounds on Saturday for the Tuesday start of the FMCA. It was interesting to watch the rest of the 5,300 motorhomes arrive on Sunday and Monday. On Monday evening, the motorhome display was opened for viewing at 5 P.M. for an early look at new models. It was like being a kid in a candy store at these big rallies. There were motorhomes ranging from around $40,000 all the way up to over a million bucks. Although the very expensive ones were nice to look at, they really do not seem suited for full-timing. Much too much glitz and not enough livability.

Part of each FMCA national convention is evening entertainment. I think the best entertainment this year was the Lowe Family of Utah. They perform in Branson and put on an excellent show. They all play musical instruments, dance, and sing. The next best evening of entertainment was the final night with Kerry Christenson playing accordion. He also is a great yodeler. It was hard to believe the things he could do with his voice. Also on the bill on the final evening was comedian Jerry Travis. He was very funny and had the place in stitches. The middle evening of the rally had Cirque Magnifique, a sort of Cirque du Soleil show. However, once you've seen Cirque du Soleil, everything else seems like the minor leagues.

Well, schools, rallies, and reunions were over and it was time to move on. Our next stop would be Las Vegas. Although we had been there the previous October, we wanted to go back to see the Cirque du Soleil show "O" at the Bellagio. The Caldarolas were heading to California and the Turneys were staying in the northwest a while longer. John and Libby were heading south to US 50 and then east to Blairsville, GA, so we would travel with them a bit longer as far as Carson City, Nevada. We left the FMCA rally in Redmond, OR and drove for about five hours to Alturas, CA, in northeast California. Alturas was an old town that took us back in time. We arrived late in the afternoon at the campground, Sully's RV Park, which was just off of the main street. We later learned that the man who checked us in and rode his bike over to park us was 89. The population in the town was just over 3,000. We walked to an old hotel that was built around 1900 at the latest. The walk from Sully's, the tiny family run campground was a neat one. We crossed a very wide street to get to a city park where kids were playing basketball. The park was very well maintained with a playground, basketball court, horseshoe pits and many picnic tables. Diane said she could envision Sunday picnics in the park. It looked like such a safe place to let your kids go play without worrying about their safety. Looking down the road as far as you could see was mountains. It was just so picturesque. On the way to the hotel which was just about a block down Main Street we spotted an OLD Sears Roebuck across the street. The words were painted on the building with the date in the early 1900's, 1904 I think. We ate at the Mexican restaurant in the hotel that had a saloon on one side. It had doors that had stained glass in them and reminded me of church doors. It also had a tin roof.

After dinner I walked ahead to go back for the camera. Libby and Diane took their time so as to drink as much of the ambiance as they could. As they crossed the street a local cop drove by and waved. That was such a friendly gesture which took them both back in time. Diane told me they stood in the park for a bit and talked about how it used to be, when everyone knew everyone else and no kid was really on his own when his parents were not with him. All you needed was a neighbor.

I got the camera and walked back to take a photo of the Sears building. Although we were across the street from the building I could see OLD hats in the window. This was just one of the towns that we passed through on our journey this year. In the future, we hope to stop a spend more time in such towns.

The next day we finished the drive to Carson City and settled into the Pinon Plaza Casino and RV Park. Just what I needed, another casino. Good thing we aren't addicted to gambling. It is fun for us when machines are around and we cut it off when we've used up the amount we allotted for that evening's entertainment. Diane had an aunt, Ginny, in Carson City that she hadn't seen for decades. Actually, she was married to Diane's uncle, who had died many years earlier. Ginny always sends the kids birthday and Christmas cards, so it was nice to visit with her. We took her to dinner and she and Diane enjoyed their evening together.

We stayed two days in Carson City and just lounged around on Sunday, and had one final dinner out with John and Libby as we weren't sure when we would see each other again. We had traveled together, on and off, for about 16 weeks since leaving Alabama in February. Monday morning came and we got our rigs ready to roll. Then it happened. John and Libby's rig was totally dead, as in no power at all. John is a very handy guy, but he wasn't able to figure out why there was no power to their motorhome. It was time to call their emergency road service (ERS). They said they would send someone out. We were in no rush to leave, so we shut down our engine and waited with them for the ERS guy to show up. When he did, we all kind of looked at each other and wondered how this young "kid" could possibly have enough experience to diagnose the problem much less fix it. He started his work by looking at the obvious things that John had already looked at. Then he asked John if he had wiring diagrams, so John supplied the diagrams to the "kid" (honestly, he looked no more than 19-20 years old). WELL....let me tell you, this kid had the problem diagnosed within about 30 minutes by using the wiring diagrams. It turned out to be a breaker back under the engine. We were all duly impressed. It turned out that John and Libby had to wait another day to get the part and have it installed. Luckily, it wasn't a big, expensive, time-consuming problem.

Given there was nothing we could do, and the fact that we had tickets to a show in Las Vegas, we hit the road after hugs and well-wishes with John and Libby. Next stop, Las Vegas, and then on to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park before starting our journey back to the east.

Until next time....safe travels.

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