It’s been 5 years already?!

Five years ago today, July 25, 2013, I hugged my co-workers in the CT Department at Froedtert Hospital, and swiped my badge on the timeclock for the very last time. It was the last thing on our “to-do” list to prepare for full-time living on the road.

Dan had already finished up in June with his job as a high school math teacher.  Our house in Wisconsin had sold in April, along with most of our belongings, and we picked up our fifth wheel at the end of June and parked it at Doug and Linda’s (Dan’s sister) a/k/a “Camp Meyer.”

I remember walking out the doors of the hospital to my car with a lot of mixed emotions.  Dan and I had always talked about RV’ing when we “retired,” but with working at a Level One trauma center, you see first hand how quickly life can change.  It’s what prompted me to realize we need to do this sooner, rather than later.  I had spent so much time researching the RV lifestyle and following blogs that I knew we were ready to try this.  And it didn’t take much to convince Dan…he was all-in as well.

Our future was now a blank piece of paper and we could fill in the details as we went along.   We have never looked back and not once have we regretted our decision about living a nomadic lifestyle.  Yes, we have missed weddings, graduations, and other special events, but we just can’t imagine coming off the road any time soon.  I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface with the places we want to see and the experiences we want to share.

We have relied solely on work camping jobs for our income these past five years, and have not had to touch our savings at all.  Our very first job after we quit our careers, was with Amazon, in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  I remember thinking after two weeks of working as a Picker, what have we done?  It’s a hard, and mind-numbingly boring job.  However, the people we met and the places we were able to explore more than made up for the mundane job. If you want to read more about our Amazon experience, you can search our past blogs.

We spent our first full summer in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota working at Crazy Horse Memorial, and our second summer at Madison Crossings store in West Yellowstone, Montana.  The past three summers we have worked here at Luton’s Teton Cabins in Moran, Wyoming. We have worked with great people and it is nice when we are able to meet up with them on the road and catch up on all of our latest travels. We also enjoy catching up with friends and relatives when we return to Wisconsin and when some of them are able to visit us somewhere along our path.

The social aspect of the RV lifestyle has been the biggest surprise for me.  People become like family in RV parks.  Everyone really looks out for each other.   And if you don’t like your “neighbor” it’s easy to move to another spot!    We have lived in neighborhoods for several years, and never really knew all all of our neighbors.  Yet in an RV park, you can know most of the people in just a few days.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Any time you have an anniversary, it gives you time to pause and reflect on the past, and think about future plans.  We have decided to make some changes going forward.  The past four winters, have been spent in Florida.  We have accepted a position to work at Westwind Golf and RV Resort in Yuma, Arizona from mid-October to mid-April.  Although it’s a six month commitment, (our longest work camping position so far), we are looking forward to exploring a new area for the fall/winter season.  A couple that we worked with at Crazy Horse Memorial, Henry and Terry, contacted us about the job openings.  Dan will be working three days a week doing golf course maintenance, and I will be in the office the same three days.  My position will be paid, and Dan’s position will cover the site rental.  In addition, we will have a $50/month credit towards electricity, and a $100/month credit to use at the RV park’s golf course, restaurant and concert tickets.

After we finish our jobs here around October 1, we will slowly make our way south to Yuma. We are leaning towards coming back here for one more summer in 2019, and are just beginning plans to go to Alaska in 2020.  Our friends Karen and Al also want to go, and we hope to have a few other couples join us as well.  We don’t plan on working that summer, just exploring, so we have already begun saving for that trip.

After that, we would like to start exploring the eastern part of the United States.  That’s our plan for now, but we know things can always change.

Another change we are considering is down-sizing to a smaller RV, either a small class A (but still diesel), or a class C.  We’ve been looking, but not very serious yet.

And so the journey continues…..stay tuned!

Quote for the Day:  “Go for it now.  The future is promised to no one.” – Wayne Dyer

 

The 45th Infantry Museum

During our visit to Oklahoma City, we spent a morning visiting The 45th Infantry Museum. The Division was established after World War I, from the states of Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  The division was called into service during World War II, and served with General George Patton’s US 7th Army division.  After WWII, the division was just for the state of Oklahoma, and reverted back to National Guard status.

The 45th Infantry Division was again mobilized for the Korean War and fought in several battles.  In 1969, the division was disbanded and restructured into several divisions.

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45th Infantry Museum and Plane

The museum contains an extensive collection of military weapons from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam.  It also contains weapons from other countries that were confiscated during various wars.

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The size and power of the weapons changed between the Revolutionary War and World War II!

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Members of the Division were part of a raid on Hitler’s residence, and brought back a lot of his personal items.

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Display cases are filled with “hi tech” equipment, used during the wars.  I’m not sure how effective this gas mask was.  Seems like it is just attached to a tin can.

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The museum has a large collection of pistols as well.

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img_1683Many jeeps, ambulances, and other vehicles are on display indoors.

Outdoors, the museum has several dozen tanks, aircraft, helicopters and monuments on display.  You can spend several hours going through the museum.

For me, the most fascinating part of the museum was a small display on the history of the Division’s insignia.  When the Division was established, their emblem was a yellow swastika on a red square, to honor the Native American and Spanish Heritage cultures of the four states forming the division.  The swastika was an Indian symbol of good luck. The Nazi party also adopted the swastika around the same time.  The division eventually stopped wearing their insignia, as the swastika took on a new meaning, and they did not want to be associated with the symbol.  What was a symbol for good luck became a symbol for evil and hatred.  The Thunderbird, another Native American symbol,  became their new emblem, using the same yellow and red color scheme.

img_1642We had never heard about this museum, or the history of the 45th Infantry Division before.  It was truly a little gem, and we would highly recommend a visit.  There is just so many things on display, and it was hard to pick out photos for this blog, as I have so many.

Quote for the Day:  “My first wish is to see this plaque of mankind, war, banished from the Earth.” – George Washington

Change in plans

One of the benefits of the full-time RV lifestyle is the flexibility that it offers.  Originally, we had planned on staying in Florida until the end of March, but we have departed and are currently heading west to Texas to visit with my sister LuAnn and her family.  We are looking forward to spending some time with them, and seeing a new part of the country prior to returning to Wisconsin about a month sooner than expected.

At the end of January and the beginning of February Dan flew back to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks. Originally, he was going to stay in Milwaukee and help his friend Mike with more remodeling work on his new bar and grill.  However, Dan’s plans changed a little as his father was recently diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer. Along with being able to help his friend with more of the remodeling work, Dan was able to drive his parents to Green Bay so they could all attend several doctor appointments and his Dad’s first chemotherapy treatment. His Dad will be doing six rounds of chemo followed by surgery at a later date to remove the bladder and prostate.  To date Dan’s Dad has finished 3 out of his 6 chemo treatments with round four coming tomorrow and the good news – none of the usual chemo side effects have shown up. He is still lifting weights three days a week and walking two miles a day. He plans on swinging a golf club as soon as the weather in Wisconsin cooperates and he will turn a young 81 in a couple of weeks. We are all praying for a complete and speedy recovery!

We did manage a bit of fun while we were here in Florida.  Dan’s brother Gary and his wife Julia flew down, and we spent several days with them in Cocoa Beach where they were staying.  At the same time, one of Dan’s good friends from high school, Kevin, was down at Disney with his wife Kathy for a conference.  We have not seen them for several years, and they live in New Jersey (Kathy is a huuuuge Eagles fan, so we cheered for them in the Super Bowl!).  All of us had an enjoyable afternoon together at Disney Springs, on one of the rare cooler days in Florida.

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Dan, Buzz (ole?) and Kevin

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Me, Dan, Gary, Julia, Kevin & Kathy

I was quite fascinated by the Lego display at Disney Springs.  Getting paid to build Lego sculptures would be a fun job!

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While Dan was away in Wisconsin, I went down to Titusville with another couple from the campground, and we waited about five hours, to witness an amazing launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket.  It kept getting delayed due to high atmospheric winds, and the launch window was coming to a close when it finally went off!  It was totally worth the sunburn!!  We found a spot due west of the Space Center, about 8 miles as the crow flies, to witness history!  This was our view from across the water.

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Falcon Heavy liftoff

About 10 minutes later, we were able to watch two of the rocket boosters return accompanied by their loud sonic booms.  They looked like 2 shiny UFO’s!

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2 rockets returning

I’d like to see SpaceX do a night launch with this rocket.  It would be spectacular!

Makena Update

With all this traveling we will be doing,  Makena will be spending a lot of time in her crate in the back seat of the truck. This will be a good thing. The mosquitos have been very active in Florida, and I think she has a few bites, which has caused her to scratch a lot.  With all the scratching, she has been walking a little more gingerly. I think she may have tweaked her back.  Hopefully this won’t be too much of a setback on her healing.   I did make an appointment for her in Wisconsin to see the veterinarian, so we’ll know more at that time.

I know it’s been a long time since I have blogged, but we have not really been up to too much.  Over these next few weeks, we will be seeing some new areas, so I will have more to write about soon.

Quote for the day:  “There is nothing permanent, except change.”  – Heraclitus

From The Frozen Tundra To The Sunshine State

We have arrived in hot and humid Florida!  Although the weatherman was talking about a “cold front” arriving for Christmas, with an expected high temperature of “only” 68 degrees.  The weatherman recommended wearing a jacket if you would be going out on Christmas!  We both had a good laugh at that!

We are currently staying in Clermont, until Thursday, and then will head over to the “east coast” of Florida, and stay until the end of March.  We are pondering doing some different things for 2018, although we will be back at Luton’s Teton Cabins for the summer, by Grand Teton National Park.

Work/bar updates

The weather in Wisconsin was chilly, but tolerable, while we were helping out with remodeling work at our friends bar.  We did leave a bit early, to get out before an expected snowstorm, which made its way across the country.  It was strange driving through Birmingham, Alabama, and seeing four inches of snow on the ground.  Dan continued doing electric, plumbing and whatever else was needed, and I continued staining and painting, as they continued putting up more walls.  My big project was refinishing 13 tables that will be used in the basement/party room of the bar.  I just turned it into an assembly line for staining.

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Here’s a “before and after” photo of the progress.  The bar is done, the lighting is up, floor finished and the wall is closed off for the kitchen.

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There is still a lot more work that needs to be done, and Dan will be flying back to Wisconsin at the end of January, for a couple of weeks to help out again.

Wisconsin time updates

Thanksgiving was spent at Dan’s sisters, and we had a few dinners with friends as well.  It made us (almost) wish we were back at Amazon, so we could walk off all those calories!

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I met up with a few of my former co-workers for coffee, and it was wonderful catching up with everyone!

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Katie, Jodi, Candi, me, Gail and Kari

Dan’s parents had a few “to do” items for Dan when we visited with them, including installing a new kitchen faucet.  There was a lot of discussion going on during this, so I just tried to stay away.  He had plenty of helpers, and “helpful advice!”

DA38D863-9ED3-4B85-90E5-184EE9E310DEA Packer game was also on our agenda, and we did make it to Brett Hundley’s first start as the Packers quarterback.  The annual Jack Link’s tailgate party was also that day.  The Packers lost, but the tailgate was a lot of fun.  This year they had on display a truck they restored with the Lorissa’s Kitchen brand on it.  Lorissa is Jacks daughter-in-law, and she has her own line of grass-fed jerky products that are excellent.

Makena update

Makena continues to improve, and is happy that we are not working, so she doesn’t have to spend all day in her crate.  We are still putting her in the crate when we leave.  She is free to move about the fifth wheel, including going up the two steps inside to the bedroom while we are home.  We continue to carry her to go outside, and have taken her on very limited walks.  Her toys are still put away, which frustrates her, and she spends a lot of time staring at the drawer on the couch where they are stored.

A3072AC5-593A-4844-B025-BFAFE428724FFlorida updates

We stopped in Tallahassee on our way down to Florida to visit with Melissa, who worked with us last summer.  Her mom lives close by the RV park we stayed at, and they gave us a bunch of lemons and oranges from the trees in their backyard.  Fresh Florida fruit!

D793609C-82A5-4DD8-9328-FB5D4ECD969EThe park we are currently staying at offers many activities, and we have been learning how to play Pickleball.  Dan quickly picked up the game, which is a cross between tennis and ping-pong. It is played with a tennis ball sized whiffle ball, an oversized table tennis racquet, and it is a lot more challenging than I thought.  26B71BEC-9DEE-41AE-BFEA-4ACCE3F47B91I need to work on my hand/eye co-ordination!

Tom and Ellen, friends and co-workers from Amazon and Madison Crossing in West Yellowstone, are here for the winter.  We have had several get togethers with them, and ventured out to Lakeridge Winery, just down the street from us.  Tom and Ellen have seasonal jobs there by helping out when they have monthly festivals at the winery.  It’s a nice job with good perks.  We did a short tour, and tasting at the winery.  Our tour guide, Deb, did an excellent job.  Cheers!

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We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Quote for the day:  “I once wanted to be an atheist, but I gave up – they have no holidays.” – Henny Youngman

 

 

The A-Dog goes on the ‘DL’

Hello everyone, it’s me again!  For those new to the blog, I’m Makena, who occasionally takes over this blog.  Today I have a lot to write about, and it’s not good news for me…

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Keeping my peeps informed!

But before I get to the bad news, I will do a brief summer recap.  I again enjoyed my time out in Wyoming, with 100 acres to roam around, off leash!  What dog wouldn’t love this?

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My parents were excited about the Eclipse, and I was prepared with my glasses.  But I ended up staying in the 5th wheel….no dogs allowed by the cabins…sigh.

IMG_1035 (1)I spent the summer doing a lot of playing with my football….maybe too much playing, which I will get to later.  The weather was good all summer, until the end.  My parents promised me when we ventured out on this crazy journey that we would always have warm weather.  But once again, we ended up with quite a bit of snow.  But I didn’t let it stop me.  I made my mom put on her boots and winter coat (had to dust it off!) and get out and play with me.  October in Wyoming!

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Hurry Up! I’m ready!

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And away I go in the snow!

 

We made a quick stop in Minnesota on the way home, so I could see how my cousin Simon was doing.  He is now 6 months old, and has grown a lot since I last saw him.  Compare the photos from May (bottom) and October:

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He still can’t throw a football, and he’s not eating solid food, so I’m still not that interested in him yet.  I did try to teach him how to rub my belly.  But apparently, Grandpa Gary has been teaching Simon the “pull my finger,” trick,  as he was only interested in “pulling my paw!”

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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

When we got back to Wisconsin, my parents dropped me off at my grandparents house, so I would be well taken care of while they helped out remodel their friends business.  However, after two weeks, they picked me up and took me in to see the doctor.  And that’s where we get to the bad news.  For the last few weeks, I have been unable to jump up on the couch or the bed at night.  I still wanted to play and play, and my parents didn’t think too much of this at first.  But I wasn’t getting any better, and was having trouble going up steps.  So they decided to have me checked out.

My doctor in Wisconsin retired, so they tried out a new clinic, Kuenzi Family Pet Hospital, and were happy with the visit.  I was not.  They were concerned I may have torn a ligament in my knee, but they could never figure out which leg I was favoring.  Dr. Alex did a thorough examination, and put me through a lot of range of motion tests, and said my legs and neck were fine, (that’s the good news) but he was concerned about my back, and took me in another room for x-rays.

The bad news:  I ruptured a disc in my spine, and the two vertebrae are now just “bone on bone.”  Dr. Alex said in humans, this would be an extremely painful injury.  But I’m one tough dog, and haven’t displayed much pain.  Here are two of my x-rays:

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Yes, I’m a lean, mean, machine!

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Now for those reading this that are not Radiologic Technologists (Happy Rad Tech week, by the way!), here is the above  image blown up, and I have added some markings.  The arrow on the top left points to the microchip that was inserted in me when I was a puppy.  The other 3 arrows point to the disc spaces in between my vertebrae.  This is how they should look.  The circle shows the two vertebrae that are rubbing together.  The disc is gone.  And there is narrowing at the disc space below that level.

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So this is where “the ugly” comes into play.  Since the vertebrae appear to be starting to fuse together, Dr. Alex said wants to hold off on considering surgery.  However, for the next 6 weeks, I have to be completely non-weight bearing!  In other words, I have to stay in my crate….ugh!  No playing, no jumping, no walking.  My parents carry me out to go potty, and then carry me back in.

I’m not happy, and I don’t understand why I’ve been put “in jail.”

My parents friends, Dave and Angie, let them borrow a bigger crate that I can stay in during the day (at night I’m back in the little crate in the bedroom).  They call it “The Taj Mahal.”

IMG_1213I call it “a bigger jail.”  But I am happy they put my dog bed in it, and set it in front of the electric fireplace.  I’m on pain meds and anti-inflammatory pills, which are making me feel better.  I have learned that they will let me out, “on good behavior,” for an hour or two at night, as long as I don’t run around.  I heard the word “NO” for several days, before I complied with their rules, and just laid down on a blanket outside the crate.

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Freedom!

The worst part of all of this, even worse than being stuck in a crate for 6 weeks, is that I am not allowed to play football, until February, at the earliest.  It’s going to be a long winter for me….

Quote for the Day:  “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation, and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” – Dean Koontz