Welcome to the UltraEscape

No home, no car, no worries. On the road since 1996, a TechNomad couple share their travel secrets and adventures.

Four Days at Sheration Mountain Vista Resort

Avon, Colorado

When we set out from Cheyenne this morning it was a beautiful sunny day. However, by the time we reached Denver and headed west on I-70 dark clouds obscured the mountain tops.

We began to climb, neon signs warned of fog ahead. We climbed higher, up and over the 10,000 foot plus passes, snowflakes began falling. Snowmaking machines were spewing out additional snow at the ski resorts we passed. The mountain tops were obscured.

Suddenly, we dropped down into the Vail Valley, the sky turned a beautiful bright blue and the sun came out of hiding. By the time we arrived in Avon we were well below the snowline.

Our destination, The Sheraton Mountain Vista Resort, in Avon, CO was a surprise. We had received a special invitation to stay earlier in the year. We were assured it was not a ploy to get us to a time-share presentation. When we asked why the special offer we were told it was simply to get us to visit and tell others about the resort. We fell for it.

We received a VIP check-in and were told of all the fine activities in the area, advised of special restaurants and locations were we could receive discounts and about other points of interest. And then the pitch came. If we would go to a presentation we would receive additional bonuses. We declined.

Our unit was very nice with a balcony overlooking the mountains complete with a BBQ grill, a push button fireplace and Jacuzzi. The kitchen didn’t have a stove but the convection microwave served us well. And we availed ourselves of the stacked washer and dryer and spent time at the City Market selecting special treats to enjoy during our stay.

Because we were staying for several days I pulled out my French easel and acrylic paints. The view from our unit was beautiful with the snow covered mountains in the background and the fall colors in the foreground. I thought I would give it a try while Dan worked the stock market on the wireless internet.

We spent one day touring the area via automobile. We visited Beaver Creek Ski Resort and drove along the Eagle River to the nearby town of Edwards. Here we strolled along the Eagle River Valley hiking and biking trail and checked out the quaint shops.

Another day we wandered down to the Eagle River trail from our unit. We stopped to take pictures of the many statues dominating the numerous round-a-bouts.

Along the trail we admired the ski-lifts overhead, colorful trees in their autumn glory and watched the fly fishermen tossing out their lines. Even though our resort had an excellent fitness area complete with several indoor and outdoor hot tubs, I always enjoy walking outdoors.

All to soon, it was time to hit the trail again. Today we head for Moab, UT.

Kicking up our heels in Cheyenne

Cheyenne, WY.

Our first stop after hurriedly leaving Deadwood, SD was Cheyenne, WY. Here we enjoyed a short layover while waiting for the weather to clear before crossing the Rocky Mountains.

Although it was cold, windy and rainy we ventured out discovering the Mall, various restaurants and a movie theater.

Travel Tip: When attending a movie in a mall theater it is better to park near the theater entrance. We made the mistake of parking at another entrance assuming the mall would still be open after our movie. We were wrong. We ended up walking in the cold misty rain completely around the outside of the mall back to our car. We needed the exercise but it sure was cold!

The following morning we spent a short time touring the downtown area, passing the capitol building, a dominant structure on the Cheyenne skyline, in addition to being historically one of the most important buildings in the State, the train depot and rail tower.

We loved each of the eight foot tall cowboy boots that have been carefully painted by local artists to show Wyoming's and Cheyenne's history that are scattered around the area. It's always a treat to discover something new when traveling. Kicking up our heels in Cheyenne.

Deadwood and Turkeys

Deadwood, part 2

Last night we overheard the rumor of an impending winter storm. This morning we awoke to over 2 inches of snow on the ground. The weather report calls for more snow over the weekend. We cancelled our reservations and decided to get out while the roads were still passable.

Our cart was full of suitcases, computer equipment, coffee supplies and our cooler as we left the comfort of our hotel. Across the parking lot the Subaru Outback rental was covered in snow.

Now I know I packed the gloves somewhere, but they were not to be found.

So while looking and feeling a little foolish, I stuck my hand in my green and blue winter boot and began clearing several inches of wet snow from the car. Finally, I was able to see through the windshield and move the car to the protection of the overhang, covering the hotel entrance for loading. Not an easy task, as car is packed with our camping supplies that we have yet to use.

After a quick stop for gas, which surprisingly had gone down in price to below $3.00, we cautiously headed out through the Black Hills south on Hwy 85 bound for Cheyenne, WO.

The roads were wet and sandy but not covered in snow. The snow piles along the roadside indicated a plow had passed recently. There were only a few flurries in the air as we wound our way through the gulches, along the river and up over the passes. The pines trees were weighted down with heavy snow and occasionally as the temperature rose; snow fell in front of us from the power lines that crossed over the roadway.

The winter scenery was spectacular. Snow covered mountains, bare bluffs, green pine trees heavy with snow surrounded by the bright yellow of aspens and cottonwoods still showing their fall colors and tall, golden grass sticking up through the white snow. It made it worth the rush of packing up and hitting the road earlier than planned.

We were traveling through a peaceful snow covered valley when I noticed something odd. Over near the tree line were many black objects that stood out from the white background.

“Tree stumps”, I thought at first glance. Then it dawned on me that they were moving. With the fanning of a large tail, I was able to identify a large flock of turkeys. I turned to Dan exclaiming in surprise, “There’s a flock of turkeys in that field”!

Up ahead of us the road climbed and turned sharply to the right. Just as I spoke, another flock of large turkeys decided to waddle across the road. Suddenly, a car rounded the curve; the turkeys took flight scattering in every direction. The panic stricken birds flew directly across the road in front of the car heading for the safety of the shoulder.

I can't imagine what the driver thought as he was suddenly in the midst of the flock flying at windshield height. One large fat bird frantically flapping it's wings could not get enough lift or speed to avoid the car's grill. It was hit and went tumbling to the side of the road. The driver apparently unfazed continued traveling down the road. He was past us before we could fully take in the scene.

That was our first experience with a hit and run. You just never know what to expect around the next curve. Happy travels.

Play and Stay in Deadwood

Deadwood Territory
National Historic Landmark
Part 1

The town of Deadwood, South Dakota, a historic landmark is currently being restored to it's former glory. The cobbled streets are lined with gaming halls (80) that date back to the Gold Rush of 1876, offering games of chance, food and liquor.

The town, down in a deep gulch with a river running under it; and surround by the beautiful black hills is full of history with lots to see and do.

We arrived late in the afternoon and spent the evening walking from establishment to establishment trying our luck. Overall, we felt the games returned enough to make it fun, while not breaking the bank.

We visited Kevin Costner’s casino, the Midnight Star, then explored the Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall, the original location of Wild Bill Hickok’s shooting and interpretive site, and home of the historic Eagle Bar and brothel. At the Buffalo Bodega Complex, I dined on Buffalo prime rib. We ended up at the Silverado, associated with the historic Franklin Hotel, where we discovered an electronic “Let it Ride” table with computerized dealer’s and seats for five players. What fun!

The following morning we discovered that from our hotel, the Comfort Inn Gulches of Fun Resort we were able to access the 110 mile Mickelson Trail. The trail was the originally site of the Burlington Northern railroad line that took trains from Edgemont, SD to the northern Black Hills and the gold mines in the Deadwood Area. The line was abandoned in 1983. It became the states’ first rails to trails project.

The crushed limestone and gravel trail, designed for hiking and biking, turns into a paved pathway as we near the trailhead located in the town of Deadwood. It’s an easy walk. The trail travels downhill into town, winding along a rushing river once mined for its gold. Shuttles are available for the return trip.

High on a hill over the trail, we spot a siren. The town, originally named by prospectors for the piles of deadwood that littered the river, is prepared to alert it's citizens in the event of a flood. We learned later that the main roadway is build over the river. In the evening it is not unusual to see deer wandering along the path browsing on the fall foliage.

After a quick stop at the historic post office, where we viewed a mural created by a local historian, we headed to the old depot. Now the location of the visitor’s center, the historic building houses a museum touting the history of the area. We picked up a brochure for a “Boot Hill” tour.

Boarding the open-air, Boot Hill tour bus in front of the Buffalo Bodega, cowboy boots hanging from the windows, our guide relates tales of days gone by as we drive through town. Our tour takes us to Mount Moriah Cemetery, the resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Our guide, stands before Wild Bill’s stone where some enterprising vandal left an offering of whiskey bottles, separating the facts from fiction.

From the cemetery, located on a steep hill that towers over the town, the view is outstanding. In the distance, the historic Homestake Mine is visible. Our guide warns not to mispronounce the neighboring town of Lead. “It’s lead into the ground to the gold,” he says, “not lead, as in a pencil”. Good tip.

The next morning as we drink our coffee, enjoying the view of the tall hills behind the hotel, we are surprised to see the first snowflakes of the season. We ignore the early warning as the sun comes out heralding another beautiful fall day. We extend our stay in order to receive our mail.

More on our adventures in Deadwood in the next posting.

Weather Aborts Camping Plans

Fall Trip from Gould City, Mi to Deadwood, ND

As we departed the Upper Peninsula of Michigan heading northwest on US2, we had high hopes for our plan to camp. However, knowing we would get a late start on the first day, and rain was expected, we resigned ourselves to a hotel in Rhinelander, WI. located on Hwy 8 for the first night.

Then, when checking the weather for the following evening, we found the estimated low temperature was to be 30 degrees. Hmm, the sleeping bags might be rated that low but then again maybe not. Rain was still a possibility. We settled for another evening in a hotel near Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Could be memories of drying a tent in an up market hotel in Seattle influenced our thinking!

Next to our Minneapolis-St. Paul hotel, we spotted a Gander Mountain outdoor store. We walked over to shop for additional supplies: a coffee press for fresh coffee, a propane heater for the tent, a grill for the propane stove and bags of self-lighting charcoal. Now, we felt better prepared for cold weather.

More cold weather and rain were in the forecast, dictating another hotel evening for Fargo, ND. Oh, well. We entertained ourselves by walking around the nearby mall and going to see a movie instead of sitting before a raging fire.

Well, the weatherman got it right. More rain accompanied by a cold front blew in overnight. Even viewed through a light mist, the Great Plains area is beautiful. The rolling hills covered in tall, brown grass conceal roaming buffalo, herds of cattle, and racing antelope are easily seen from Interstate 94.

We decline an invitation to visit a buffalo farm with a large statue of a buffalo, as advertised on the last billboard. We spot the huge statue of Salem Sue, world largest Holstein cow on a distance rise as we speed by and enjoy the tall, metal "Ducks in Flight" sculpture as we quickly pass.

Finally, the clouds are breaking up and the sun is peaking out. It is still cold. We are resigned now to put off camping until we reach the southwest. It’s another hotel night in Dickerson, ND. Then it is on to our first planned layover.

We depart the interstate and head south on Hwy 85. The sun is still trying to peak out between the clouds, the wind is strong and the rain has stopped. We spot a herd of pronghorn settled in a shallow area next to the road, antlers high, quietly watching the cars pass. Small ponds of water are overflowing with geese.

Occasionally, we spot hunters outfitted in bright orange, walking across the plains with riffles in hand. The vastness of the plains is hard to describe. We have been driving through the vast area of grass covered, rolling hills for three days.

And then, there they are. Far in the distance we spot the looming black hills, just as impressive today as to the plains indians who named them years ago. Tonight we begin a few days rest in Deadwood, SD.

Travel tip: We always remain flexible in our trip plan and travel only a few hours a day.

The Joys of Walking

A walk is not only good for keeping you healthy; it’s good for the soul when done in a natural setting.

Bang. The screen door springs closed behind me as I escape. Wood smoke drifts in the air from a nearby chimney. My cheeks sting from the nip in the air brought on by a recent cold front; I begin walking.

In the pastel blue sky, the sun plays peak-a-boo between the gray and white puffy clouds; the scattering of homes still standing in the small ghost town are cast in sunlight and deep shadows as I pass. It’s only two long blocks until I reach the old gravel lane that leads out of town. (see posting, Life in a Ghost Town, September 2008)

My pace picks up as the asphalt ends and the wet gravel crunches underneath my feet. The old two-track road follows the fence line of a farmer’s field, the knee-high grass waving gently in the wind to the left, with overgrowth and hardwoods on the right.

Directly ahead the road takes a sharp turn to the right leading into the woods. With each step I feel lighter, my cares drifting away.

A shallow ditch separates the road from the piles of old, gray stone that mark the property line. Barely visible through the tall, brown weeds, old hand-hewed wooden poles, still strung with strands of ancient barbwire lay drunkenly scattered on the ground.

I smile as I notice that hidden among the weeds are a few hearty wild flowers, blue bells, yellow dandelions, and the stately, white heads of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Suddenly the silence is broken. Startled, I come to a dead stop, my heart pounding rapidly in my chest. Quickly looking around I discover it’s only a flock of small brown wrens scurrying from tree to tree, chirping merrily as they celebrate the recent rain. My pace picks up again.

Honk. honk. Overhead a flock of Canadian Geese head south.

Stepping around the occasional mud puddle, I spot fresh deer tracks. Their trail is clearly visible through the weeds. Next to the path, large areas of weeds are packed down under a few old crab apple trees, laden with bright red fruit. Most likely a favorite resting place. I kick the occasional apple left from their foraging out of the way as I continue down the lane.

At the corner of the property I make a sharp right turn and head into the woods. Ahead, the road rises gently only to fade in the distance.

Lining the old road are stately hardwood trees, their leafy limbs reaching out across the road to form a natural arch that blocks the sun. Indeed, from my perspective it looks like a tree tunnel, so aptly named by our grand daughter during a recent visit.

My breathing becomes faster and more difficult as I continue my current pace up the small rise.

With arms raised, I suddenly spin joyfully and stretch upward reaching for the colorful leaves that drift down, only to have them dance away and be crushed underfoot. I continue to crunch noisily down the trail at a fast pace, constantly scanning the area, peering between the tree trunks, enjoying the changing scene.

While reaping the health rewards of my daily walk, I’ve watched the dark green “tree tunnel” slowly evolve. With the approach of fall, deep reds, bright yellows and rusty browns are slowly beginning to dominate the landscape. Some trees are already bare, preparing for the onset of winter and the pine trees are heavy with cones. (see photo, top of page)

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye I see movement. I stop, delighted to see three small deer browsing on the undergrowth. I decide to get closer hoping to get a picture with the camera I always carry in my pocket.

Startled, alerted by my footsteps, they raise their heads and their large dark brown eyes stare suspiciously at me. Then, with a flash of white tails, they bolt for safety, racing across the road in front of me, leaping over another old fence line and disappearing into the depths of the forest.

Darn. I was to slow. Tucking the unexpected moment away I begin walking.

I heave a sigh as my thoughts wander. This will be my last walk down the trail for the season. The fall chores are done.

Thirty-six, quart-sized jars of canned tomatoes and ten, pint-sized jars of stewed tomatoes are stored away. Twenty small freezer bags containing two cups each of freshly made venison mincemeat are in the freezer waiting to be thawed for the next batch of cookies. Enough strawberries have been crushed and turned into freezer jam to last until summer. It’s time to hit the road again.

The walk takes about 45 minutes to complete, passing a pasture of grazing cattle, an old barn, eventually turning right again onto a gravel county road, down a long hill and with another right turn onto the main asphalt road back into town.

The main road skirts the site where my old elementary school once stood. Over the summer the community worked hard to revitalize the site. Bright yellow swings, a green and red merry-go-round and wooden teeter-tatter once again proudly await the arrival of children freed from the confines of school.

Newly constructed picnic tables dedicated to family members and wooden Anarondack style chairs, several child–sized, sit scattered under the hardwood trees of the small township park inviting impromptu picnics.

The walk has cleared my head, increased my heart rate and hopefully prepared me for the increase in physical activity we anticipate on our upcoming trip. Slightly breathless, with rosy cheeks and cold hands, I arrive back at my childhood home ready to pack up for our next adventure.

Life on the Road: Voting

The general election is drawing near. If you have an established home you don’t have to plan ahead. However, for those of us who live on the road full time it takes some advanced planning to exercise our right to vote. With the use of the Internet the task has become so much easier.

Task One: Registering to Vote. Where?
Although we would rather just be Americans, it is a requirement that we choose a state as our legal residence. We selected Texas although it was over three years before we actually visited the city we use for our address. We are proud to be members of the Escapees RV Club and use their unique services, although we no longer have an RV.

Task Two: Voter Registration and Requesting the Absentee Ballot.
A simple web search will take you to the voter registration and absentee ballot application page for your state. I simply printed the ballot request form, filled it in and faxed it to the county clerk. All the important deadlines for registering, requesting ballots and voting were clearly stated.

Task Three: Decide where to have the ballots sent.
Sounds simple, but consider: our mail service is in the county where we are registered to vote. A ballot can’t be sent to an address in the same county as you have just claimed you will be absent from the county. Our mail service has established an alternative address for the use of its members, if needed.

Task Four: Wait and Wonder.
For this election we decided we would have the ballots mailed directly to our current location. We faxed the absentee ballot request to the county clerk in Livingston, TX. Three days later Hurricane Ike blew through the area. Our mail service was closed for over a week and it followed the county offices would also be experiencing difficulties.

We began to wait and wonder. Did the ccounty clerk receive the application? Would they mail the ballots? Would we still be at our current location when the ballots arrived? If not, would we return in time to mail in the ballots prior to the election deadline? Luckily, the ballots arrived without delay.

Now, all we have to do is research the local, state and federal candidates, decide who or what to vote for and get the ballots in the mail prior to the Nov. 4th deadline. Exercise your right to vote.

Life in a Ghost Town

When last I wrote we had just boarded the Texas Eagle in San Antonio, our journey north just beginning.

Where are we? According to the Internet we are visiting a ghost town about 50 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge in the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan.

That may be true if you consider: when I take someone around town I usually point out the empty lot where my grandmother once lived. I talk about families that left the area in search of jobs or are deceased, businesses that no longer exist, empty lots and what used to be. Gould City, MI is just a yellow blinking light on US2. But to me it’s where I grew up.

It’s a beautiful time of the year to visit. After the scorching 106 degree temps. of the desert southwest and the high humidity of the south, it’s wonderful to sleep comfortably with the window’s wide open. The days are warm, the evenings cool and the annoying insects that abound are generally missing this time of the year.

Ping. Another wild raspberry hits the bottom of the pail. Bees buzz. The yellow, white and blue wild flowers sway in the gentle breeze. A flock of partridge, feathers ruffled scurry from the two track gravel road into the under brush. Two raccoons watch from twin trees. The smell of apples freshly raked into piles, shoveled into baskets and transported to feed the deer scent the air. A small deer darts into the dense hardwood forest.

The chores are piling up but the weather is a distraction. It’s only 10 miles to the shores of Lake Michigan. The water is refreshingly cold after the spa hot water of the Gulf of Mexico. The waves are small compared to the Atlantic and Pacific. The beach is deserted except for me.

There is a pancake breakfast to benefit some group or the other, the Friday night American Legion Fish Fry, family dinners, visits to the elderly, trips to transport family to doctors or pick up medicine, meals to provide and events to attend.

The highlights of Labor Day weekend were the Art on the Lake festival in Curtis with home made maple syrup, spinners, jugglers, arts, crafts, food, wine, beer, a puppet parade and live music. Attending with an old childhood friend, priceless. And to top of the weekend, participating in a once a year event for the first time, the 51st annual five mile plus walk across the Mackinac Bridge. We have the certificate and pictures to prove it.

Not bad for a few weeks spent visiting a ghost town. But now it’s back to fall chores, canning tomatoes, making jam and mincemeat. Every once in a while it’s nice to take a break from travel.

The Texas Eagle

Ugh, the cell phone alarm just chimed. It’s 5 am in San Antonio, Texas. Time to grind the coffee beans and select what I need from my suitcase. This morning is rare. We seldom wake up before sunrise but today we have a 7 AM train to catch.

Yesterday, we struggled to stuff our sleeping bags, tent, grill, and other assorted camping items into two additional suitcases. Our daughter has been storing these items in her attic since the first of the year.

We also will have an additional carry on item – one of those picnic backpacks with our wine glasses, cheese board and place settings for four plus tablecloth and special spices for outdoor cooking. (More about our camping plans later).

We carefully checked the weight of each bag by standing on a bathroom scale and holding the bag. The magic number is 50 lbs. It is oh so embarrassing to have to repack at the baggage check in counter in order to conform to the baggage weight limits!

So, what do we have? Two suitcases with clothes and two suitcases containing camping gear to check, one picnic backpack, one computer bag, one printer bag, one snack bag, my handbag and two stadium blankets to carry on. Included in the carry on bags are our toilet items, a change of clothes, books, crossword puzzles and cards.

While I sipped my coffee and finished dressing the guys loaded up the pickup for the short trip to the station. We arrived at the appointed hour, unloaded the luggage, picked up our tickets, checked four of the bags and then waited to board the Texas Eagle bound for Chicago.

The city of San Antonio is served by a limited facility station with a ticket counter, baggage check in, vending machines, coffee, restrooms and a small waiting area. When boarding was announced we proceeded outside. The temperature was just right as we stood waiting for the conductor to collect our tickets and assign our coach seats.

I held my breath as I watched the luggage being transported to the baggage car via two long wooden trailers attached to a small tractor. One large black suitcase teetered precariously among the assorted bags, boxes and containers threatening to escape as it bumped along the track on its short journey. I prayed it wasn’t one of ours!

And then it was time to go. The conductor, dressed in his white shirt, blue coat and standard flat-billed hat collected the coach tickets, issued orange seating tags and called “all aboard”.

We were second to board the super liner car and proceed up the stairs, as directed. The coach was empty so we selected our seats, stored our carry on bags in the overhead storage area, slipped the seating tags under the metal band with the seat numbers to reserve our seats and settled in.

There was no need to search for a seat that had access to an electric plug as this car has one for seat. Yes, we can use the computer and charge the phones. Next we checked the overhead lights. Occasionally, the lights don’t function and I like to read. With all those items addressed it’s time to settle in and enjoy the trip. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise as we departed the station aboard the Texas Eagle bound for Chicago.

Oops. We neglected to test the foot/leg rests under our seats. Much to our dismay we discovered one of them would not stay in position making sleep difficult that evening. We learn something new each time we travel by train.

To Busy Traveling to Write

I love to write about our adventures on the road. However, sometimes we are to busy traveling and living life to take the time to put it all on paper or launch it into cyberspace, as the case may be. To create, I need to be fresh (not exhausted from traveling) and I need a quiet environment.

That said, we have been having a wonderful, awe-inspiring summer, traversing the country with our grandchildren. When we settle down for a few weeks the end of August I'll get into the details. For now, if you have been wondering what we have been doing, it goes something like this:

Upon returning from our trip to Seattle and an Alaskan Inside Passage cruise aboard the Golden Princess, we spent a week resting in Las Vegas, yeah right. Then we flew to Lafayette, LA via Houston for our youngest grandson's birthday party.

Then, it was back to Houston to house-sit while our daughter and granddaughter cruised to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. While settled for the week, I wrote and published the summer convention issue of our newsletter.

Finally, it was time for our summer adventures to commence. We decided to spend some one-on-one time with each grandchild. It may seem crazy to some but the plan couldn't have worked out better. Here's how we did it.

We took a rental car to Lafayette, LA to pick up our nine year old grandson, then returned to Houston where we turned in the car. Our daughter graciously dropped us off at the Houston Amtrak station to catch a train to Los Angeles. (His first train ride, first trip out west, wow!)

We rented a car at the station for a month. We drove to Anaheim where we stayed long enough to visit Disneyland, Hollywood and Huntington Beach. Then we headed to Las Vegas for two days, drove over Hoover Dam and stopped in Williams, AZ.

The next day we drove out to the Grand Canyon. Then it was on to Meteor Crater for a quick stop before heading to Albuquerque where we visited Old Town. Next came the White Sands, voted best stop by the grandchildren, Fort Stockton, San Antonio, Houston and back to Lafayette. The trip lasted about 16 days. Time spent with grandchild -priceless.

OK, we are in Lafayette with a rental car that needs to go back to Los Angeles. No problem.

We travel to Houston pick up our eleven year old granddaughter and head back to California. (Her first trip out west, first train ride, double wow!) Our first stop, San Antonio (visiting our other daughter and enjoying her hot tub), then it's on to Sonora, TX to visit the caverns. (Our granddaughter was named after them and the movie, "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken").

Next is an overnight stop at Fort Stockton, swimming pool, entertainment center (Hulk movie, and bowling) then on to Carlsbad Caverns to see the bats. Next, White Sands then on to the Albuquerque Petroglyphs and Sandia Tram, more miles traveled to Williams for the shoot out in the street and a day at the Grand Canyon.

Yup, then it was back over the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas (our favorite stop) to see the Blue Man Group. Then it was on to our final destination, Disneyland and Huntington Beach via Twentynine Palms with a stop to write her name in rocks in the desert, climb rocks and star gaze in Joshua Tree. (Side note: She was born in Twentynine Palms).

Eventual we turned in the rental car at the Los Angeles Amtrak station where while waiting we discovered a historic district that looks like old Mexico across the street. To bad we didn't have more time to explore before boarding the train.

The trip was not effected by Hurricane Dolly and our daughter picked us up at the station in San Antonio at the expected arrival time. The following day we picked up a one-way rental car, dropped our granddaughter in Houston (20 days of quality time on the road) and traveled on to Lafayette to dog-sit.

We turned in the rental car at the airport and are patiently waiting for our youngest grandchild to return from a convention/vacation in Destin, Fla. It's his turn next and time is running out, as school begins on Aug. 8th in Louisiana.

Hmm, you see why I don't have time to expound on the details. All I can say is we are having a wonderful time getting to know our grand kids. If you have an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with your grandchildren don't let the opportunity pass you by. It's a wonderful experience.

PS Did you know the latest craze for pre-teens is the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers?


Alaska Bound (Chicago to Seattle)

It's been awhile since I posted to the site. We have been very busy. After two weeks visiting family in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) we once again boarded an Amtrak train, this time bound from Chicago to Seattle. The trip took 2 1/2 days.

The Empire Builder passes through Milwaukee, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Fargo, Minot, Harve, Whitefish, and Spokane with intermediate stops on its way to King St. Station in Seattle. We stepped off the train in Minot just to say we'd been to N. Dakota! We also took a few photos with the conductor.

I guess my biggest disappointment with the trip was arriving at Glacier National Park at dusk. I am sure we missed some really wonderful scenery. However, I did get some great snow-capped mountain shots as we descended into Seattle. To bad I don't have more space on this site for photos!

Traveling North by Northwest via AmTrak

Our taxi arrived just as we handed over the keys to our Seagate cottage, ending a wonderful two month stay. Our next adventure was about to begin aboard the Silver Meteor.

The trip to the Jacksonville, FL Amtrak station went by quickly as we discussed the virtues of the Navy verses the Air Force with our part-time driver, a former marine engineer. Upon arrival at the station we proceeded to check in our bags. Then we sat down to wait...the train was two hours behind schedule and we had arrived two hours early. Our next destination? Chicago and beyond via Washington, DC.

Four hours later the Silver Meteor rolled quietly into the station. The uniformed conductor directed us to the proper car and assigned our seats. There were many surprises...as this was our first train ride in the US. Our comfortable coach class, recliner seats resembled those on a airliner, except there was lots of room between rows and the windows were much larger. Each seat had its own light, a tray table and adjustable foot rests.

Every attempt was made to seat travelers by destination, eliminating excess traffic and noise in the aisles. However, occasionally as a stop approached, a parade of smokers would follow the conductor as he went to assist arriving and departing passengers. Smoking is not permitted on the train, but is allowed on the platform at the various stops.

By the time we departed the Jacksonville area we were anxious to eat, so we headed to the dining car, after being reassured by fellow travelers that our carryon bags would be safe.

The dining car is only open during certain hours. Dining is organized by reservation times (usually every ½ hour) since it only contains a certain number of tables. We were seated with a very interesting couple from Grand Marais, MN. After making our dining selections, we learned they were retired teachers and regularly traveled through our area of the UP. We had lots to talk about. The food was kind of disappointing, more like airline food as opposed to fine dining but adequate. The bottle of wine we shared made things go down easily.

We returned to our seats, raised the foot rests, reclined the seats and dozed off, ignoring the call to happy hour taking place in the lounge/cafe car. We were provided with small pillows and carried our own stadium blankets. The ride was less jerky than expected, in fact it was very smooth, considering we stopped often throughout the night.

Daylight found us coasting through Quantico Marine Base along the Potomac River and into Washington, DC with a wonderful view of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the cherry blossoms. We rounded the Capitol building and drifted into Union Station in time for breakfast.

We had most of the day for sightseeing before transferring to the Capitol Limited, a super liner headed for Chicago. We were meet by relatives and headed out to the Corner Bakery, in the National Press Building on 14th street for breakfast. (The building houses the National Press Club where four generations of American and foreign journalists as well as the most influential newsmakers, including 17 US Presidents, have been or are members - located on 13th floor...)

Then it was on to mass at the Holy Rosary Church on Third Street, conducted entirely in Italian. No, we do not speak the language but we always enjoy a new experience. (They were visiting the church because their daughter is going to be a flower girl for a wedding that is to take place there).

This was followed by a personal tour of the local Univision TV Station, a leading spanish language media company in the US. We sat at the anchor desk, presented the weather in front of the green screen and examined the behind the scenes equipment.

We have visited Washington, DC many times so were not disappointed that we only had short glimpses of the Capitol, the Mall and other important buildings before returning to Union Station. We had intended to walk to the National Art Gallery but were short on time...as was pointed out to us by our friends from MN that we fortunately ran into in front of the station. They too were catching the Capitol Limited to Chicago.

This time we boarded a super liner, with a sightseeing lounge, dining car, upper and lower seating and on time departure. We were in the upper coach seats with a wonderful view of the city as we departed. We proceeded along a river, with a hiking trail along its banks then slowly chugged up into the mountains. The setting sun was beautiful and illuminated the wildlife: wild turkeys, deer and pheasants as well as domestic livestock. We enjoyed the mountian view until it was to dark to see the passing vista.

The following morning we sipped our coffee as we rolled passed a casino, White Sox stadium and admired the city skyline dominated by the Sear’s tower before backing into Union Station in Chicago. Our train travel was completed for this segment of the journey.

Beware...the luggage weight limit is strictly enforced on Amtrak. Our baggage handler in Jacksonville assured us that an extra pound would not be a problem as he checked our two suitcases through to Chicago. However, upon arrival in Chicago my suitcase containing all my travel clothes and my new gown for our upcoming cruise was not, I repeat not, on the turnstile...I was ready to have a panic attack! However, after a phone call downstairs the bag arrive with a special ticket announcing it was overweight! We quickly removed the ticket and hurried out.

As we left the baggage claim we ran into our friends from the dining car. They were traveling on to MN after spending the day visit museums in the city. We shared our travel experiences for a short time, then handed them a math problem to puzzle over (math major to math major), before picking up our rental car in the station parking lot and heading north via Wisconsin to the UP.

We can’t wait for our next train adventure. It was a wonderful, relaxing way to travel if you have the time. Have you traveled over night on Amtrak?

Find It and Move On

It's time to move on...we had a wonderful, relaxing two month "mini-retirement" at our Seagate Cottage vacation rental that we found in Neptune Beach, Fl.

How did we find it? By following the advice in the book "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss. We flew in to Jacksonville, FL spent time exploring the beaches, settled on an area, searched Google for local vacation rental listings, checked them out and ultimately found the perfect spot for us on CriagsList.

The only thing we would do differently next time is to allow more time for the search. We allowed a week but it actually took two...not that it mattered as we had plenty of uncommitted time in front of us.

Our experiment in living without a car worked well (going green was not a calculated act). We discovered we really liked the challenge. We walked, rode the local bus and used the bikes for excursions and shopping. We got back in shape by exercising and walking at least an hour or more each day. And there was still plenty of time to read, write, compute, paint and dream.

Now, it's time to pack and set out on our next PTA (Plane, Train, Automobile) adventure. Come along with us as we set out on AmTrak, riding the rails north by northwest.

Handmade with Love: A Family Tradition

Handmade items were always thought to be a special sign of love in our family.

My grandmother was a seamstress and every year all of her grandchildren (23?) received wonderful items to be placed in our "hope chest". I often though of her as "Angie Angel" was place on top of our family Christmas Tree each year or when I used the special "naughty" pot holders she created.

My mother followed in her footsteps. I had stylish, handmade outfits for school, formal gowns for proms and a "hand beaded" wedding dress. After leaving home the items became household items, handmade afghans and hand webbed lawn chairs.

For my children and grandchildren she made tiny hand beaded sets of Nativity ornaments for the tree. Sadly, she passed away due to lung cancer in August of 2007.

Unfortunately, I was not as talented with a needle. My handmade items through the years tended to involve paint. In October of last year, I wanted to continue with the tradition of giving my grandchildren something handmade for Christmas. Something quick and easy that could be done while traveling (or sitting in a hunting blind, but that's another story).

That's when I discovered Punch Needle Art. Each grandchild received a signed, punched Christmas ornament from Grandma. Each was made with love, each stitch containing special thoughts about that child; prayers filled with hope for a wonderful future. Maybe they will be treasured items like the ones I received as a child.

Punch Needle Art or Punch needle embroidery is an old needle art (Russian) that is worked through a fabric pattern stretched in an embroidery hoop, forming loops of threads on the side opposite the working surface to create a design. The finished work looks like a miniature hooked rug.

My current punch needle project has been residing in a drawer since we arrived at the vacation rental in Florida. It is a canvas bag that will be used to hold my punch needle supplies. So far I have transferred the words "Punch Art" and "Travel Bag" and finished the letters "PUN". Once we begin traveling again I am looking forward to completing the project.

Then just like past years I have promised myself I will begin working on this year's Christmas projects... instead of waiting until November. Not!

PS...Angie Angel now adorns the top of our son's tree (the first born). We took all the treasured items, divided them up and passed them on to our children, to be passed on to their children when we began to travel full-time in 1996.

Easter Palm Trees

Easter Sunday. The alarm ring at 5:30 A.M. We rose early to experience the sun rise over Atlantic Ocean. It's only about a 30 minute walk on the seashore to the Jacksonville Beach SeaWalk Pavilion. (We attended the Seafood Festival the evening before at the pavilion and are looking forward to the Blues Festival in April.)

The Easter Sunrise Service was underway when we arrived. The sky was still black with a few stars visible and the moon was full. We listened to the service and music as we watched the sky brighten until the red orb of the sun finally appeared through the low laying clouds. We were not alone. There were hundreds of families on the beach celebrating the dawning of a new day.

After returning to the cottage, I ignored the computer and spent the rest of the day with brush in hand. My acrylic painting of palms and hut now has pillars that are attached to the roof, the front post is longer to give the impression of space behind it and with the purchase of a roll of blue painter's tape, my lines are relatively straight.

Now, I need to get a spray bottle...I remembered to wet the canvas before attempting the longer palmetto fronds of the palm trees, so the acrylic paint went on smoothly. But I was so engrossed in the act of painting, I forgot to apply water before painting on the main fronds. The result was sketchy fronds without substance, not to mention the fact that they are from two different species of tree!

As with every location we visit I always learn something new. Since we arrived at our vacation rental in Florida, I have researched the differences between a porpoise, a dolphin and a shark. Today, I looked up the proper name for the type of palm trees I am attempting to paint.

Yes, my palm fronds are indeed from two different species of tree...one is that of the royal palm or coconut palm. The two trees look very similar from a distance. The other tree is the sabal palmetto, commonly known as the cabbage palm. Do you know the difference? One has long slender, fringed fronds, the other has a long stem with a fan configuration at the end. That is the image I am trying to capture.

Oh, and next time I pick up my brush, I'll wear shoes and either raise the painting on the easel for standing or lower it for sitting while I figure out how to correct the palm tree problem. That way I may avoid the aching back and sore feet that resulted from 8 hours of getting lost in the act of painting.

Oh, well. Learning is what it's all about.

Weekend Exploration and Friendship

After a month at the beach we ventured out this weekend. On Friday, Dan walked down and picked up a weekend rental from the local Hertz company. Then we spent the afternoon laying in supplies for the coming month. We mainly purchased items to large or bulky to carry. We also slipped in a visit to the movie theater, to see "10,000 B.C".

Saturday was exciting. We meet up with my lifelong friend, Jane and her husband at the Jacksonville Airport. Even though we can go years without a word, when we see each other it's as if only a day has passed. Everyone should have at least one special friendship like this...

Their plane from Michigan was delayed by a 1/2 hour. No problem. We found comfortable rocking chairs in the center court area between the three concourses where we were entertained by a very talented local musician playing Kenny G type music while we waited. We quickly spotted them as they exited the concourse. They reported that the plane was delayed due to high winds in Atlanta...we later heard on the radio about the horrible tornadoes that hit the area and saw the damage on T.V.

After visiting and making plans for the up coming week while we enjoyed ribs at Sticky Fingers, we armed our friends with maps downloaded from the Internet and they headed south on 95 for their time share at the World Golf Resort. We took our map and headed out to find the Amtrak terminal to pick up tickets for our next adventure. More about that in April...

Sunday found us on the road to the World Golf Resort and the home of the Golf Hall of Fame. According to Wikipedia, the Golf Hall of Fame is unusual among sports halls of fame in that a single site serves both men and women. It is supported by a consortium of 26 golf organizations from all over the world.

Grande Villas at World Golf Village®, a Bluegreen® Resort, is a country-club style vacation residence with every comfort and amenity. The resort features spacious one- and two-bedroom villas that make you feel right at home in a carefree setting overlooking the 17th and 18th holes of the famous Slammer & Squire golf course.

We picked up our friends and headed to St. Augustine, the nations oldest city. We wandered the historic cobblestone streets, paused for pictures in front of the oldest school house, visited over crab cakes at OC Whites established in 1790, sampled ice cream at one of the quaint shops and then headed back to the resort for a quick swim, followed by a soak in the hot tub. It was nearly 10 p.m when we returned to Neptune Beach.

To soon the weekend was over and the car returned until our next adventure.

Bikes, Sneakers and Trivia

Last evening, we got out the bikes and peddled down the well marked bike lane to the Jacksonville Beach city center area.

We secured our bikes to the bike rack conveniently located in the adjacent parking lot and entered Sneakers Sports Grill. It was originally partially owned by the famed right guard of the Jaguars, Tony Boselli. During the NFL season, a local TV station broadcasts their Jaguars Show from here.

We requested a seat outside in the "open air" patio area that faces 1st street. The garage doors (walls) were open, the breeze cool, the noise level just bearable and the drinks overly large. It was happy hour and instead of two drinks we each received one very large, tall glass.

While we munched on Spinach and Artichoke Dip served with nacho chips, we watched the traffic go by, listened to the younger crowd behind us note with amazement that one set of their parents we still together after all these years, they actually went to prom together. Wow!

And we played trivia...Well, actually it was pretty sad. The monitor that displayed the questions was mounted in a corner and the glare interfered with our ability to see the questions. Right. Then on the rare occasions when we actually knew the answer, I was so slow locating the correct number on the blue, portable keyboard we ended up with just under 1000 points per question anyway.

In the end we decided we really need to watch more TV. How do we know who Sponge Bob practices boxing with? It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that I discovered I could have changed my answers at anytime! We came in third, out of the three teams participating.

We were back at the cottage before dark. However, I am still wondering, "Is it possible to get a DWI when peddling a bike?"

Seagate Exceeds Goals

It's been a month as of today, that we discovered Seagate Cottage, our vacation rental. We have extended for another month and are seriously thinking about returning next year. The place exceeds all of the goals we set for our first extended stay:

Goal 1
The ability to do without a rental car. There are many shops, banks, restaurants and stores nearby. Walking is good exercise and when you don't have a car there are no excuses for not taking the opportunities offered.

Goal 2
Convenient public transportation. The bus stop is a block away. The bus runs every 1/2 to 1 hour. The route passes by most of the businesses we need for daily living. Great for walking to store and returning with grocery bags.

Goal 3
Lots of opportunities for exercise. There are miles of flat beach to walk with lots of interesting sights only a block away. There are bikes and biking lanes. In fact, some streets have more pedestrian travel than auto especially on the weekends. There are stairs to negotiate.

Goal 4
Lots of friendly people and opportunities for socializing; especially now that it is spring break for many areas. Bukket's in Jax beach or the Lemon Bar in Neptune Beach seem to be the local hangouts.

How are we doing? Well, we are not losing any weight that we can notice. Inches? Maybe. Mental health? Great. It is a great place to relax, work on personal projects and write. Our energy levels are up.

Projects for the coming month? Work on that farmer's tan now that the weather is warming up. Continue to share computer time with the goal of eventually reducing the number of computers we travel with. Continue to exercise, eat right and keep the budget in line by eating in.

It's always good to do a quick review and see where you stand. Are your reaching the goals you set for yourself?

Evening Endeavour

The alarm was set for 2 A.M. The early evening forecast was promising. Several stars were already visible. We were excited. Tonight the space shuttle Endeavour was scheduled to fly at 2:28 A.M.

The plan was in place. Listen for the alarm, get up, slip into something, walk to the beach, compete with each other to see who could spot the most shooting stars until flight time. We had been told we should be able to see the shuttle as it streaked into space from anywhere on the beach.

Then reality set in. No one set the alarm. Not a problem. I awoke at 1:30 A.M. only to discover that cloud cover obscured the sky and not a star was in sight. Oh, well. We rolled over and went back to sleep.

The NASA photos of mission STS-123 are spectacular. Maybe next time.

Palm Trees in Acrylic

The severe weather on Friday kept me from the beach. It was actually a good thing. With drawing pencil and paint brush in hand the creative urge struck. That is until the light on the sun porch gave way to to the gloom.

Actually, my first drawing project came about several days ago due to a search of the Internet. It's been nearly 20 years since my last serious art project. Needless to say, I have forgotten much of what I studied, practiced and taught then.

My search took me to a basic drawing site. Using the basic shapes of a circle and rectangle I captured the shape of a wine bottle, not exactly great art but it was a start. The site also talked about the basics of using acrylic paints.

Starting at square one with a color chart/wheel I applied paint to paper. Actually, I discovered I don't actually like the feel or effects of the paint on the paper (Canson, Canva-Paper) and graduated to a small 16X20 canvas panel. With any luck it will fit in the bottom of the suitcase when we hit the road again.

My project is taking shape. I blocked in the background sky, sea and sand. Then came the foreground palm trunks and lifesaving building. What I learned... Remember to use a straight edge or tape when painting straight lines and pillars should always be attached to the roof... Oh, well.

The next step is to practice palm leaves on paper, straighten out my mistakes, work on the details and then decide if the boardwalk should be included.

Do you have a favorite site or blog that teaches art basics? What is your favorite medium?

A Walk on the Beach

It's only a block to the Atlantic from our Seagate Vacation Rental. I really enjoy my morning walk as I playing tag with the waves, face warmed by the sun, a gentle sea breeze pushing at my back; the scream of the gulls dulled by the rush of the surf. There is always something unique to enjoy.

In my pocket is my camera, my pedometer and cell phone. Some days I finish my morning coffee as I walk. The hard part is leaving the beach to return to reality and the computer.

Seagate Cottage

Seagate Cottage,
Neptune Beach, Florida.

What a great find. The three bedroom, one bath, cape-cod style upper floor vacation rental is just a block from the beach.

The front stairway leads up to a sun porch that is ideal for coffee in the morning and wine by candle light in the evening.

It's air conditioned with a ceiling fan and plenty of screened windows to let in the sea breeze. There is plenty of light and space for the pursuit of drawing and painting. It reminds me of my great aunt's stately old house that overlooked Lake Michigan.

Or, can't you just see a group of lady's from a bygone era in their long dresses exchanging the latest gossip, while drinking afternoon tea from flowery cups, awaiting the return of their husbands who are at sea?

The combination living and dining room is comfortable, well decorated and features an electric fireplace and wood floor. I love all the little decorative touches. On the mantel there is a crab holding a sign with the reminder, "Don't be crabby, you're at the beach". The bookcase has video's and Cd's for various ages and books by some of my favorite authors.

The colors are off in this photo. The walls are white, cream and sand. The steamer trunk in the center of the room is used as a coffee table and has the initials, M.J.F. stamped on the ends. I wonder who that was and where they traveled?

The master bedroom has plenty of windows and a comfortable sofa to facilitate needle punch and reading. Can't you just imagine being served breakfast in bed?

I just finished reading Amy Tan's, "The Bonesetter's Daughter" while lounging on this sofa. And I have a needle punch project in progress.

The smallest bedroom has a built-in desk with room for the laptop computer and printer. It has a trundle bed. It's the perfect spot for work. The side window's look out onto the sun porch.

The front window overlooks Seagate Ave. on the Neptune Beach side of the road and 20th Ave N. on the Jacksonville Beach side of the road.

The line separating the two cities runs down the center of the street.

The second guest room has a double bed and window's facing the front and side of the house.

The bath is small but functional. I love the old fashioned style basin and large shower head.

The kitchen is small, compact and quaint with high ceilings. The door off the kitchen leads to the back staircase.

Located below the stairway is a patio area with a gas grill and laundry room. There is a three car garage for use by the residents.

Bikes are provided for riding on the hard sand beach and exploring the many shops, restaurants and businesses located nearby. On the whole it is a perfect place to work, read, paint, craft and dream. And did I mention it is only a short walk to the beach?

The Angel and the Dolphin

It was Sunday. Two days before we had realized the condo we had found the previous weekend would not be available. First, we had been told it would be ready on the previous Wednesday, then it would not be ready until that Saturday. Late Friday evening we learned it would not be ready for at least an additional week and that the price had doubled! We had just wasted a week.

We spent Saturday on the Internet re-looking at our options in the Jacksonville Beach, Florida area. We found a house that sounded great. It was the right price, but it was six blocks from the beach in a high traffic area. It did have a piano, a plus. And, it would be available the next weekend. But, we couldn't actually look at it. It was currently occupied, a minus. It was a possibility.

Dan continued to search on-line and make phone calls; I stood out on the balcony overlooking the pool and the beach. As my gaze wandered over the pool I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was an angel. It floated and drifted on the surface of the pool. The angel's perfectly formed shadow, outlined 4 ft. below the surface, caught my attention first.

Let me explain. Earlier that morning I watch as the pool guy sprayed the tiles with something that created the bubbles that formed this wonderful shape. Could this be a sign of pending good luck in our search?

That evening I once again stood on the balcony of the Comfort Inn watching the sun set over the Atlantic. I thought about our day. We had looked at another condo. It was on the third floor, no elevator. It was a shot-gun type arrangement with a balcony overlooking the beach. It was to small.

We were currently waiting to look at another prospective place that had great potential. Suddenly from the corner of my eye I spotted a dolphin riding the crest of a foaming wave. Was this another sign that we would end our search today?

Yes. Absolutely. The place was nearly perfect. A three bedroom, cape cod style apartment on the upper floor of an older home just one block from the beach. We moved in two days later and have already extend an extra month. I love it.

So, could the sightings of the angel and the dolphin that kept my spirits high all that day have really help us find Seagate Cottage?

Sailing on Sand

Wow, it's the unexpected adventures that make our travel lifestyle so worthwhile.

The sun was finally shining, the wind still cool and the beach beckoned. Walking on Jacksonville Beach or any beach is a great way to both relax and get exercise.

Today, the seagulls cooperated by not flying away when approached for a photo. Two wind sailing vehicles zoomed across the beach near the pier. I stood still as one vehicle tacked with the wind before me, then zoomed away. I turned so the sun was to my back and raised my new Casio Exilim 7.2 mega pixel camera to see if I could catch the colorful action on video.


To my surprise, one of the vehicles approched and stopped. The elderly captian, in a navy blue USS Sarasota cap, invited me to take a ride. Since I had just been reading about steping out of my comfort zone, I decided to go for it. Soon, I was sailing across the hardpacked sand.

It was great fun to rush toward the waves, then swerve suddenly either to the right or to the left and loop around only to do it again. With one leg braced on the side of the frame, the other perched on a rope tied between the frame and center support and only one handhold, a bunge cord straped to the center support, each turn felt as if you were going to spill out onto the sand.

To soon, the unexpected trip was over and I continued on my walk excitedly planning what to say about my unexpected adventure.

How often do you step out of your comfort zone? Have you tried wind sailing? I recommend it.

Travel the PTA Way

After 12 years on the road, yesterday was the beginning of a new stage in our travels.

The Plan for 2008 - Travel the PTA Way.
Each year we make a general travel plan. Usually the plan involves selecting where we want to go and at what time of the year. However, this year our plan evolved into how to travel.

The challenge became to travel the PTA Way. To travel by Plane, Train and Automobile(rental) with an occasional cruise ship thrown in.

The First Hurdle
The first hurdle was to reduce our belongings to fit into a small carry-on size suitcase and a computer bag each.

Yes. One suitcase each. Why? Luggage size and weight restrictions on some modes of transportation and our inability to handle more than a suitcase and a small bag at a time.

Into one small, black, suitcase went the acrylic paint set, brushes, a sketch pad, needle punch project and supplies, clothing for both warm and cold weather, toiletries, winter boots, dress shoes and sandals. Just the necessities. And still, sitting on the case to zip it closed was needed. Go figure.

Then decisions had to be made about business supplies. With one Toshiba laptop computer, a laptop printer, an extra external drive plus various cords there wasn't much room for printer paper, cartridges and other supplies in the computer bag.

In the newly purchased, large purse with zipper closing from Penny's went the camera and battery charger, cell phone and charger, address book, deck of cards, reading material and in desperation, the extra PJ's. A decision was made to carry-on the winter jackets. Finally, everything was accounted for.

We were ready to fly. No mourning the loss of the extra coffee supplies and favorite coffee cup. The excess clothing was mailed to Dad's from a post office on the way to the airport. The rental car was returned. The kids and grandkids hugged and kissed and we were free.

So in keeping with the new PTA plan we flew on the first P, one-way from New Orleans, LA to Jacksonville, FL via Nashville, TN on Southwest Airlines. (To be continued).

Question? If you planned to travel for the next year with only one suitcase and a computer bag to carry your belongings, what would you pack?