Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas 2017 Letter

Dear Friends,

The 2017 Holiday Season is already upon us.  Another year is nearly over and the older we get time definitely feels as if it is passing more quickly.  It is said that "Time flies when one is having fun", and that seems very true because we have had a lot of fun this year. 

We placed the house on the market at the end of March.  It sold in 2 days, but alas, after 5 weeks, the buyers’ were declined for their mortgage.  UGH!!  By then we were already on the road.  But, as the saying goes, “Everything that happens always happens for a reason” (though we usually fail to see it when it does). Within 24 hours of putting it back on the market, a realtor called with an offer over the asking price, in order to avoid a bidding war.  
This has been a year of exploration for us.  We left Florida in early May headed to Indiana for our bi-annual trip to Fleetwood’s Warranty Service Facility in Decatur, IN.  We had a rather lengthy list, as the warranty period was ending in June.  ALL of our items were addressed this time, so it is like having a new coach!! 

From Decatur we began our westward journey on June 17th.  We spent a week in Wall, SD, visiting Badlands National Park and Wall Drug, of course.  As we drove to the Park from Wall, we came across a two track that led off into the grassland.  We followed it to the rim of the Badlands and a dry camping area that ran along the rim.  The view was magnificent.  In the same area is one of only 4 sod homestead cabins remaining in South Dakota.  Fascinating look at what life was like for the pioneers that tried to eke out a living on a land grant.   From there we moved on to a small town 20 miles south of Rapid City, SD.  We ended up staying a month at Southern Hills RV Park in Hermosa, SD.  The park was small, but VERY clean and welcoming.  The owners were continually working on improving the facilities.  There were many things to do within an hour’s drive of the Park, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, Bear Country, several scenic drives, Crazy Horse and The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary (for his birthday, Bill received a 3 hour private tour where we were able to walk among the wild horses—AMAZING!)

Next we wandered up toward Montana, stopping along the way to check out Spearfish Canyon (a favorite of Frank Lloyd Wright), Devils Tower, Big Horn Mts. (including Medicine Wheel, a site sacred to numerous native tribes), and Ft. Phil Kearny.  While in Sheridan, WY, we stopped at the Ford Dealer to have some maintenance completed on Edith (the Explorer).  As I was making the service appointment, Bill checked out the vehicles in the showroom.  We had been talking about what we wanted to do when it came time to replace the Explorer.  But that was SUPPOSED to be years down the road.  Well, there it was, sitting all nice and shiny on the showroom floor, a 4 door F150, 4 wheel drive, 6.5 foot bed, and every feature we had identified, and more.  The service appointment was cancelled and the next day we drove away in our new pickup. Fate can be so sneaky sometimes. 
We spent a week near the Little Big Horn Battlefield, meeting up with some friends that we had not seen since out trip to Factory Warranty in October of 2016.  When we made the reservation at 7th Ranch, we mentioned that we were meeting friends at the park and it would be nice if we could be next to or at least near each other.  When Brett and Susan arrived, they were placed right next to us.  Talk about accommodating every request.  We visited the Indian Museum and the Battlefield.  When viewed in context of the battles around Ft. Phil Kearny 10 years earlier, the outcome should not have been a surprise. 
From Little Big Horn, we moved back to Wyoming, starting with 2 weeks in Cody.  The first evening there, the folks across the way gave us tickets to the Buffalo Bill Center for the West.  We had not planned to go so early in our stay, but decided we wouldn’t pass up free tickets.  Good thing!!  The Center is one of Trip Advisor’s best Museums, containing 5 different areas under a single roof (Buffalo Bill, Natural History, Western Art, Firearms and Plains Indian Museums).  We had been in the facility over 4 hours and still had 2 sections to go when a familiar voice said:  “Well I’ll be!!”  Our friends J.T. (and Iris Bowyer from Harker Heights, TX were there with their daughter, Lindsey, giving us an opportunity to catch up with them.  When I thanked our benefactors again for the tickets, I told them about running into our friends.  It turns out she had been the Middle School Principal in............ (drum roll please)……… Harker Heights, TX!  Talk about a small world. 
We did a couple of scenic drives, targeting some major areas of Yellowstone National Park.  On the way back one afternoon, on the Yellowstone River Flats we came across a grizzly bear trying to cross the road.  Pretty spectacular sight.  We were in the right place to take the opportunity to drive down toward Shoshoni and view the total eclipse.  We had talked about whether we wanted to go or not, since authorities expected 30,000 vehicles to travel the 100 miles down the 2 lane highway, but in the end, we decided to go.  Any we were very glad that we did.  It was an awesome experience.  
From Cody we moved to the Longhorn Ranch and RV Park in Dubois.  We had the most beautiful campsite of the summer.  The site was very wide and deep and backed up to the Wind River.  There were rocks in the water, so there was a continual babbling of the water as it flowed over the rocks.  We watched fly fishermen and people tubing down the river while sitting by the fire pit.  We travelled into Grand Teton, visited Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake, Jackson Hole and Mormon Row.  On the way back to Dubois one evening, a black bear crossed the road in front of us.
We spent another week in Boulder, WY, taking in scenery and catching up on details like blogging and laundry, etc.  The nearest grocery store was in Pinedale, 15 miles north.  The curious thing was that the largest grocery with the best and most reasonable selection was Ridley’s Market and Ace Hardware.  Yep, two staples combined into a single building!!
By this time it was September and time for us Floridians to start heading south, so we travelled down through Colorado, across a corner of New Mexico and into Texas.  We spent 3 weeks at Lake Whitney, a week obtaining annual maintenance at Fleetwood’s new Service Center in Alvarado, TX and at a Freightliner Facility in South Dallas.  Then on to 3 weeks at Lake Conroe, northwest of Houston, a 930 mile trip to Florida and here we are for the holidays and our annual Doctor appointments.  WOO HOO!!
For more information about our activities this past summer, check out all our other post here in our blog, and check back to see our new entries as they are posted.  We are not always as consistent as we should be with our posts, but Bill tries to make them more than just “here is a picture of us….”  Mary says that she has learned as much about the places we have seen after the fact as when we were there, just from Bill’s narratives. 
We recently received an offer to act as Campground Hosts at Southern Hills in South Dakota.  Unfortunately, we had to turn it down as we plan to leave Florida at the end of January, spend a couple of months in Texas, then move on to Arizona to visit friends wintering there.  As the weather warms, we’ll move north and spend the summer along the Oregon and Washington coasts.  Last summer we saw antelope, bison, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, big horn sheep, a black bear and a grizzly bear.  This year we plan to continue meeting new folks, making new friends, do some whale watching and find some moose in the wild and any other critters we can catch a glimpse of as we travel. 
Hope all is well with you and your family and that 2018 brings good fortune to us ALL. 
Bill and Mary
NEW ADDRESS:  Our mail service has opened an expanded facility so our mailing address has changed slightly (due to USPS regulations... from #5715 to 5753 Hwy 85 North as indicated herein below:
5753 Hwy 85 N, PMB#764
Crestview, FL  32536

Wishing you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year to ALL!!!

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