The Silver Comet Trail

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After we left Asheville, it was time for more bike riding. We found the Silver Comet Trail, a gem of a superhighway of trails in northeastern Georgia that goes from Smyrna to the Alabama state line, 61 miles.  It is about 30 miles from our next stop, Howard and Ellen Best‘s, in Kingston. Howard is Jim’s bus guru, since the beginning, literally. Jim has a few things on his mental list that he wants to run by Howard and Howard loves sharing his knowledge of RVing. He and Ellen have been living in their bus and traveling for like 25 years! Yikes. Anyway, we’re headed there next.

But now we are in Rockmart, Georgia in a practically deserted, widely spaced campground that is like a minute from the trail. We planned to ride in both directions on the 61 mile Silver Comet Trail.

This trail is our eighth in our recent tour and it was like a dream come true. The entire surface was paved concrete with divider lines. You can roll along at 14-15 miles per hour. Like a superhighway. The first day we rode from Rockmart to Dallas. This portion of the trail is beautiful, well maintained and well-patrolled. In 2002, a girl was raped and murdered on this section of the trail and in July of this year another girl was brutally beaten close by. Her attacker has not been apprehended. It is sad because it is such a beautiful spot; to be violated there seems like extra punishment. We normally don’t necessarily ride together all the time but on this section, we decided to. There were plenty of other riders, but not a lot for a weekend, and a cute little Sheriff Smart Car patrolling. Everything was all OK.

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This section was a pleasant 30 mile ride. The next day’s ride to Cedartown was to prove more challenging.

I had seen the maps warning of “steep hills” and figured they would be more challenging than even the Virginia Creeper Trail. That was a correct assumption. About five miles out of Cedartown, about 20 miles from the bus, the hills got interesting. We were used to cruising along at 14 MPH.  Ha!

It is a really good thing we got new bikes. Neither of my old bikes (with me on it anyway) would have made these steep climbs. The climb was rewarded with a swift and effortless downhill segment, but lots of zigs and zags and road crossings to slow the fun. To me, it seemed like the section toward Cedartown was the worst, the steepest. On the way back it seemed like the path let you pick up enough momentum to just fly downhill. That part was fun. We ended up with a 40 mile day.

The terrain was different too. Instead of being arched in with pine trees and sycamore boughs which was a treat in itself, the pastures opened up and we saw some magnificent old trees in the fields. The weather was perfect.

In Rockmart.
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This was right before the steep section to Cedartown.

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Scenic Bog Overlook

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In Cedartown. There is a nice restored depot there. Many empty storefronts, like almost every small town…
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And on the way back:
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This section of the trail meets up with the Chief Ladiga Trail at the Alabama state line. We may pick up there after our Howard and Ellen visit.
Stay tuned.

 

Kindred Spirits & Asheville Wrap-Up

We ended up spending a week in Asheville. The first few days we did some housekeeping around the bus. I ended up washing all the windows, inside and out. They really needed it plus the screens were really dirty. When Jim got the ladder out for me, unfortunately he wrenched his back pretty badly. Ouch! So we ended up renting a car for our adventures to the Biltmore Estate instead of riding our bikes as planned. That turned out to be a good move, with the ailing back and all. Plus it was a Dodge Challenger; handled a lot differently than the bus!

We also found out that riding 40 miles a day on the bikes does not translate well or prepare you for all the walking and stair climbing involved in our two days at the estate. After doing the house tour, the architectural tour and the Butler’s tour, plus all the walking around the extensive gardens, our legs and feet were talkin’ to us. So we took a couple extra days to recover and I needed to get some work done too.

While we were at the Bear Creek Campground, we met up with Nerds on the Road, who are friends of our friends, the Technomads, Cherie and Chris.  They said hello and it was fun to find their pics of our bus on Facebook. We were also parked right across from this very cool green mid-70s GMC Palm Beach model.
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It wasn’t until the morning we pulled out that we had a chance to chat with these folks, but John and Annie turned out to be kindred spirits, fellow crazy people who sold everything and hit the road. In their case, they sold their 95 acre farm in West Virginia when they became surrounded by the natural gas companies. John said he felt like his land was being poisoned by all the fracking and they decided to bail.

They did things a little lot quicker than we did. They bought their RV in July and hit the road in August after 30 frantic days getting out of their house. Props to them! It took us a couple of years to divest and get everything ready to go. I wish we had had more time to talk because Annie and I immediately bonded over scenarios like waking up in the middle of the night thinking about stuff at “home,” missing our gardens and general new RVer angst. Everything is working out well for all of us, it was just really nice to meet up with someone who “gets it.” A lot of the people we talk with, even old friends, kind of gloss over the details of the actual divestment part of the deal. I think that may be because it is really too much to wrap your head around; we know; we did it! We gave them a card and hope they keep in touch (Hey guys, email us!) and we hope to meet up down the road somewhere.

Safe and happy travels, Annie and John! Keep in touch!

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Vanderbilt Biltmore. Yes, He Did.

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George Vanderbilt was an amazing guy who lived in an incredibly unique time. The Gilded Age. He had vision, aesthetics in mind, loved beauty, art and sport and apparently was a very good shopper. He fell in love with the western North Carolina landscape and, except for 60 or so trans-Atlantic trips,   many of which were to choose plans and accessories for Biltmore, he made his home in the mountains of North Carolina. And the main thing? He had LOTS of money. Too bad he died at age 51 from complications of appendicitis. He certainly made the most of his short life.

When he began building his family home, Biltmore,  in 1889 the surrounding landscape, of which he eventually bought 125,000 acres including whole towns, was barren and eroding due to extensive logging of the old growth forest. The railroad was a key component in the denuding of the landscape; once it was in place, the trees and wildlife were gone. Ironic, since George’s father, Cornelius, turned $100 into $100,000,000 in a short time building the railroad.

George could have, and did have, the best of everything. The vision it took to plan and imagine this eventual 8000 acre estate is phenomenal. The house is designed by the premier architect of the day, Richard Morris Hunt and the gardens by Frederick Law Olmstead,  the father of American landscape architecture. If you have ever been to Central Park in New York, you have a taste of Olmstead’s  work. Or Boston Commons. Many other distinguished venues. Olmstead considered the gardens he designed at the Biltmore his crowning glory and indeed, he died soon after their completion. He was designing them for us, 100 years later and the vista was breathtaking in all directions.

Father of the managed forest system and basically the founder of the U.S. Forest Service, his estate sold over 100,000 acres to the National Forestry Service. He used to have a 5000 sq. ft. hunting lodge, Buckspring, on top of Mt. Pisgah, with a private road leading to it.

Vanderbilt’s  philanthropy seems extensive. And it is. Until you see the lengths he went to in designing and decorating his own house. And glorifying himself… I think when the whole self-glorification thing hit me the hardest was when I went on the Architectural Tour and they took us out onto the roof where copper plates lined the various parapets and gargoyled roof intersections. Each tile was stamped GV, for George Vanderbilt of course, and the guide pointed out the last vestiges of the 22 Karat  gold that coated the corner embellishments of acorns. Really? On the roof? 22 Karat gold? You can see the last vestiges on the lower left of this copper plated tile.

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I had already been on the house tour where you walked you through his bedroom, the walls of which were covered with 22 K gilded cloth. Who does this? The more I learned, the more I appreciated the energy and art appreciation he exhibited. Treasured artworks from the National Gallery in Washingon DC were hidden in the house during World War II. He  had several Albrecht Dürer prints, along with Renoirs bought before the artist was famous. He had 15th century Flemish tapestries in several rooms. Ming Dynasty bowls for indoor koi gardens. A 23,000 volume library. Custom made everything. Many John Singer Sargent paintings, some of which the artist traveled to Biltmore to paint. The Gilded Age is a good description.

We took two full days to tour the grounds, the entire first day touring the house. You only go to so many houses that have 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, indoor gardens, onsite conservatory, winter garden, salons and throne rooms galore.

Anyway, if you are interested, and I was, you can read plenty online although I am seeing a dearth of ebooks so far.

Some pics from our tour. Oh yeah, no photography allowed… Except outside.

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More photos on Flickr. Some inside, Yeah, I cheated.

 

The Virginia Creeper Trail

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From Washington DC we headed south and west to Damascis, Virginia and The Virginia Creeper Trail. Always in search of good trails to ride, Jim found this one in the very far southwest corner of Virginia. It is called The Virginia Creeper because of the increase in elevation from Damascus to Whitetop Station, a steady increase of about 1700 feet over 18 miles. When we were investigating the town, we found that most people get a shuttle with rented bikes to the top, then coast the 17 miles back down. We planned to ride the whole way, of course.

When serious logging began with the coming of the railroad, the trains creeped up the mountain carrying the logs from the forest, thus the name Virginia Creeper.  By 1930, the forests were completely clear-cut and the railroad began to fail. Almost all the native wildlife species, alongside the trees, had been wiped out, deer, elk, bear, beaver, otter. The beaver was believed extinct in 1911 in Virginia. We Americans are really good at decimating our environment. The forest is grown back now and the meadows have recovered but in the early 1900s, the settlers described trees with 12 foot diameters. Unfortunately, those are gone forever. In an ironic aside, they did leave a few old growth trees which still remain, due to low branches or twisting trunks that wouldn’t make good lumber. One such white oak in Abingdon has a 19 foot diameter.

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We found a practically deserted campground in Damascus with the bus backed up to the creek and just behind the trail where we set up shop for riding the entire trail from Abingdon to Whitetop Station, a total of about 70 miles. Damascus was a great jumping off point, the town has several bike shops, places to eat and interesting architecture. Plus they have alleys, so fun to ride.

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Since we were in the middle, we basically rode the whole distance twice. The first day after getting our brakes adjusted on the bikes, we took off for Abingdon, about 17 miles. It was a fairly level ride but increased some in elevation as we neared Abingdon, a good preamble to the other section where the elevation was much steeper. There were lots of high trestles, over 100 on the entire trail. The meadows were loaded with flowers and we rode along for miles with the river on one side and the bluffs on the other.

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On the Damascus to Abingdon leg, the trail narrowed to a very small track in some places and we encountered some wildlife.

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We made it to Abingdon just fine but as soon as we got there it started raining! Not again! Fortunately we rode out of it fairly quickly and the rest of the way back was fairly dry.  We took a day off before heading on to the other steeper section of the trail and explored Damascus. DSC_0261 IMG_6718  DSC_0248

The Old Mill House was a good restaurant and we ate there after our successful ride to Whitetop Station. They had ducks too!

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After a day of rest, we headed for Whitetop Station. We knew the elevation increase would be interesting but it was very doable and pleasant. We met some of the folks coasting back down and it looked like some of them hadn’t been on a bicycle in ages; they looked terrified. The meadows rolled alongside and we passed fields loaded with pumpkins. It’s getting to be that time of year.

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Another monster tree at Green Cove Station; getting close to the top.

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The miles went by more slowly now and we took about two and a half hours to reach the top. But we made it!

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Coming back down was a breeze; the miles flew by in contrast to the climb to the top. It was fun to coast back down after having ridden up, very rewarding. It didn’t take long at all to get back. We celebrated with dinner at the Old Mill House restaurant where they served up a good sized piece of local brook trout. Delicious!

Next stop: Asheville, North Carolina to see the Biltmore Estate.

More photos on Flickr.

 

 

DC Redo #2: Jim and Annie

When we moved to Maryland in 1991, we knew nobody there. Not a soul.  Jim was into motorcycling then (see how our vehicles have increased in size?) One fall day we went up to Jessup, Maryland to Bob’s BMW for a chili cookout. It seemed logical that we might meet some like-minded souls there. And so we did.

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Jim Ford was not working there selling motorcycles yet, but he was a serious iron-butt kinda guy who loved to ride. He and Wilkerson hit it off and became riding buddies almost immediately. One day we ended up on a couples ride and had a lovely warm lunch at the Olney Ale House with Jim and Annie. Our friendship just grew from there. About four years in, we hated to break the news to them that we were moving out of state; they had become such good friends. It is always good to catch up with them and we have visited back and forth several times since our move to (and from) Kansas.

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Annie is a long-time court reporter on Capitol Hill so she is a very busy girl. She used to work Congress and all the hearings there but now she works exclusively for the World Bank. Jim is the force behind the successful Riders Workshop, a mountain riding course designed to improve your motorcycling skills in the mountains. He knows all the “invisible roads” in the Virginia/West Virginia/Pennsylvania and North Carolina area and he has built a following of clients throughout the country. I am pleased to say that when he was developing The Rider’s Workshop I worked with him on his promotional material and website. See his site here.

The only reason we swung down to DC from Philly was 1) to visit Jim and Annie and Charlie and Diane and  2)  we were nearby. Since we lived there, we had seen all the historic stuff and just wanted to relax, recharge and eat and drink. And, oh yeah, we did. We didn’t even drive by our old house.

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On Wednesday Jim came out to Garden Gate and picked us up for a home-cooked dinner at their house. Whatever it is that Jim is interested in, he does it well and thoroughly and dinner was no exception. We started with chips and guac on the patio of their lovely landscape in Kensington. With cocktails. They have a beautiful back (and front) yard that has matured and grown beautifully since we left in 1995. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pics of the yard due to the aforementioned eating and drinking. And Zen, the Weimaraner was worthy of lots of attention too. He is a lot different from Scout, the Weimaraner they had when we lived there. Zen lives up to his name while Scout was, well, all over the place.

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Jim also showed us his “current” bikes, two BMWs and his newest love, a Ducati.

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Dinner was a treat, eggplant parmigiano that was cooked to perfection with a broccoli and veggie side. So delicious! And for dessert? Homemade peach ice cream! We continue to eat like kings! The evening went by so fast it was dizzying. Jim took us back to the bus afterwards; we were very thankful for the ride.

It was so nice to see Annie and Jim; we have a really special place in our hearts for them. And our stomachs.

Next stop: Damascus, Virginia to ride the entirety of The Virginia Creeper Trail.

DC Redux: Charlie and Diane

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Charlie and Diane Bowers, our good friends and gracious hosts

We had an uneventful drive to Washington DC, except for getting on a couple of toll roads (Rt. 200 in MD) where you had to have EZ Pass, No Cash. We never encountered a toll booth but friends in the DC area said we would be hearing from them, “If they can catch up with you.” We’ll have to see how that plays out.

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We parked in the yard at Garden Gate Landscaping in Silver Spring, a great spot and close to the DC area. I used to work there when we lived in DC and Charlie Bowers, my boss, friend and mentor set us up with a quiet and shady spot for the bus. We laid low the first day we were there and it was nice to have a do nothing day. My cold was in full swing by that time so probably a good idea not to infect the general public. Just our friends! HA!

Since we lived in DC for four years, we didn’t do any of the tourist stuff; we had seen plenty at our leisure while we lived there. We stuck to Silver Spring, Ellicott City and Kensington.

The landscape design around the Garden Gate office and yard is completely different than when I worked there and it was a delight to explore.

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On Tuesday Charlie and Diane picked us up at the bus and we went to lunch at a Cuban restaurant Charlie had scoped out with a purpose in mind. Charlie is an exceptional guy. Not only is he an accomplished landscape designer with many award winning landscapes under his belt, he is an adventurer and photographer extraordinaire. When I worked with him at Garden Gate, I was just getting into computers and imaging and having the exposure and his expertise at hand during that time made a big difference in my development. I did the landscape imaging; taking a picture of a house and adding plantings and hardscapes so that the client could imagine what the finished result would look like. Now they have whole propgrams designed to do this, but back in 1991 we built up a plant library of images and Photoshopped everything. Great experience for me since I was just falling in love with Photoshop.

When Jim got transferred by SAS to Kansas City, it was very difficult to break the news to Charlie; he had invested heavily in my training and I felt bad for leaving; I really loved working there. He hired me to come back a couple of times to produce some portfolio books in “The Cave” at his house where I developed serious and ongoing printer envy.

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I designed this logo after we moved to KC; it was cool to see it on the trucks still.
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After we moved to Kansas City, Charlie came out and drew us up a landscape plan for our pond, patio and garden. The landscape and pond were the very best things about our house and the hardest to leave. We certainly enjoyed ourselves thoroughly while we lived there though. My friend Shirley always said we had the most beautiful back yard. She was right.

Anyway, he has an upcoming show at a gallery in Frederick, Maryland called Faces of Cuba. There are so many remarkable images in the group; it will be a very difficult task to narrow them down to the 20 or so he is going to hang. He had the idea of going around to the local Cuban restaurants and seeing if they would offer a coupon for attendees of the show. We had a delicious lunch at Cuba de Ayer and enjoyed catching up with them. It had been about 15 years since my last week-long trip to DC to produce portfolio books. We fell back into easy conversation, the hallmark of good and lasting friends.

After the lunch, he approached the owner and she told him that she was at that very minute looking online for art to buy for the restaurant! Can you say Good Timing? His show opens October 31 and if you are anywhere near the DC area you should plan to attend. The images are killer. See more of his exceptional art/photography/digital painting here.

Then we headed to his house in Ellicot City to see the revamping of his home landscape. It too was completely different than when I saw it last. Plus they have three beautiful Maine Coon kitties. Every landscape is better with a kitty in it. Lots of rock involved too.

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What a great visit with Diane and Charlie. Charlie and I could have talked art for many hours; he is getting into digital painting and all manner of apps and adjustments. And the printers and paper, the whole printmaking process I love. His stuff is really exceptional and he is prolific. The prints come alive on the paper. He has several whole exhibitions in just the finished work we saw. Such  a privilege and a true delight to take in so much good work. A treat for the eyes and the soul! Go see his show.

We are very fortunate and we know it. Our humble thanks to the universe for our blessing of friends.

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More photos on Flickr.

 

 

 

 

Cabinet Makers Addendum

So it took me awhile to get around to it, but I’ve been meaning to finish the post on our computer cabinet. Wendy posted the first time showing the cabinet work itself, but after we got home from that trip, I started the wiring project in earnest. I just never posted the finished result. So here’s a shot of the finished cabinet in place sans wiring and network equipment.

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Previous Cabinet Makers post October, 2013.

My plan was to have a nice looking albeit small, low profile place to store the various laptops, keyboards, ipads, routers, hotspots, etc. Up to that point all of that stuff just got piled up in a corner or shoved into a bag of some kind. The other goal was to provide a convenient way to keep it all charged! My goal was to have all of our computer and network equipment stored in the cabinet and have everything running/charging on 12 vdc. I almost succeeded :).

I also wanted each component to have a specific slot for storage and charging. That way, we don’t have to keep track of which cable should be used for a specific device. The device will only fit in one place and the charge cord is already attached! Simple, clean and elegant! The plans for the cabinet already anticipated the various locations for each device, so when I started wiring it up I first had to build some padded enclosures for each device. I bought three sheets of dense packing foam and made some very basic drawings to guide the construction.

I took basic measurements of each device: Ipad, Ipod, cell phone and laptop. Just in case, I built the cell phone enclosures for an Iphone. I also included some open storage slots for miscellaneous cords, thumb drives, keyboards, mice, etc. Here’s a pic of my rough plans.

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I used Super99 spray adhesive and pieces of cardboard to shield that parts I wanted to protect from the spray.

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Construction paper worked nicely for templates and above you can see a few of the foam pieces prior to glue-up. I just built up the layers until I had an ‘empty’ space for each device.

Here’s are a couple of  shots of the Ipad/Ipod/Iphone enclosure under construction. Once finished, this will fit into the upper left cabinet door and all those expensive toys will have their own comfy, safe place to ride.

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I had to do some extensive internet research to find all of the charging equipment that I needed. For example, the Dell laptops came with chargers for 120vac only. I could not find any hard-wire chargers for the laptops, so I settled for chargers for a car lighter and bought a hard-wire lighter socket. Ipads use USB for charging, but they require a higher amperage charger in order to fully charge. Since most USB chargers are 1A, your standard 12vdc USB charger won’t work. In addition, Apple builds in some special circuitry that will prevent your generic hard-wire charger from working. Oh, by the way, those multi-port USB devices you can buy – they usually are for data only and often only have one USB port wired for charging!

I also wanted hard-wire devices so I could connect directly to a 12vdc fuse panel. Since the Ipods are also charged via USB, but don’t require as many amps, the Ipad solution works for them also. I had to find 12vdc chargers for our LG cell phones. If we ever switch to Iphones, the necessary wiring is already in place since they (planned obsolescence notwithstanding) require the same USB charging port as the Ipad.

Since I wanted everything to run on 12vdc, I bought a nice compact 12vdc fuse panel from Blue Sea, I found a plunger type switch at my local hardware store and ran a new 12vdc circuit from the house dc wiring distribution block using 6GA cable. That’s probably overkill, but better safe than sorry and I had it lying around anyway.

Here’s a shot of the wiring just before I put the cabinet back in place. I also had to run some antenna and Ethernet jumpers up into the cabinets above the salon windows. I wanted hard-wire Ethernet for the NAS, DVD and TV and I had an antenna for the hotspot cradle on the roof.

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The top row of coiled cables are the USB chargers hard-wired directly to the fuse panel. Below that to the left is a blank space outlined in blue tape for our WiFiRanger Mobile router. Just to the right of that is an empty space for the hotspot cradle and directly below is the charger for the cradle itself. The hotspot is powered from the router. Next in line to the right is the fuse panel, the plunger switch and then the socket and chargers for the laptops. The cabinet will nicely hide all of the wiring.

Here area few shots of the completed project with several of the devices in place. I think it turned out better than I hoped. The only thing I was not able to do is find and wire a 12vdc  power adapter for the NAS, TV and DVD. Those all require clean 120vac, so our Trace SW4024 inverter can power those easily off the house battery bank. All the computing and entertainment you need and no shore power connection required.

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Philly Part Two

Returning to Philadelphia was like coming home. Michael picked us up at the airport and we were back at the pool in no time. Felt so good to soak up the warmth after literally freezing in the services (and later catching a cold).

I must digress for a moment. The minute I walked in the funeral home, I said to one of the funeral guys, “It’s FREEZING in here!” He promised to take care of it, no problem. It just got worse. By the time the service was over, my feet and hands were blocks of ice. I checked the thermostat on the wall and it said the temperature was 66 degrees. Who do you know that keeps their house at 66 degrees in the wintertime? I went outside to warm up and held the door for several people who agreed that it was super cold in there. Also, I hate when I mention how cold it is to someone and they pinch my scrawny arm and say, “Well, you don’t have any insulation on you…” I really hate that. 

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When Jim emailed our arriving flight info and asked about the cats, Michael emailed back, “Are the cats OK? When I went in to feed them this morning I found two of them playing dominoes and the other sheepishly closing the refrigerator door with one paw and a snack in its mouth.” Anyway,  it was good to be back to the kitties and all was well.

We enjoyed more fabulous meals with Michael and Randy, most of them at home where your taste buds are always in for a treat. One afternoon we attended a cookout in the backyard by the pool, “nothing fancy.” The burgers were perfectly cooked, the tomatoes were ripe, the cranberry relish was simply indescribable. The whole company was great fun and we laughed and ate and drank all afternoon. There was also another of Randy’s famous apple pies involved. Also tiny grapes. Delicious tiny grapes.

We wanted to do something for these guys being so awesome and all, so one night we took them to Paris Bistro and Jazz Club where we dined on delicious fare. Unhurried, impeccable service and remarkable food. I had lamb that made me feel like I was back in New Zealand. A most excellent evening and as Randy told the server every time she came around, we were “happy people.”

A few nights later was our farewell dinner with them since they had plans on Saturday before we pulled out Sunday. I thought we had eaten well the night before at Paris Bistro! We started with Michael’s delicious roast fennel soup. Served cold, it was like nothing I have ever tasted. In a very good way. Then the main course of perfectly marinated and seared rare swordfish. Swordfish is one of my favorite foods anyway, but they took it to new heights. Melt-in-your-mouth with an unforgettable marinade. Served with “local” lima beans that had never been out of their back yard. Garden to table. It was fabulous. And a tart and tasty dessert too. We better get back on the bikes pretty soon.

Of course, there was a project for the guys. Last time, they propped up the vine, this time they removed a bent-over, sagging birch tree that was threatening the rhododendrons. Jim and Michael weeded the chain link fence row too. I sharpened the chain on the saw.

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When we got back from KC we noticed that Tikita, the white cat, was visiting the litter box more frequently than usual and only peeing a small amount. We knew this was an indicator for a urinary tract infection and after a little googling, Jim found a house-call vet who came right to the bus and fixed her up. Gave her an antibiotic shot and some medicine to poke down her for ten days. She actually seemed to like the medicine and improved rapidly. Tikita is a tough kitty.

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We did miss the PNBR but it was the evening before we left, it rained and I had a cold and we will make a date to try it next year. If Michael and Randy will have us, that is…

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The last day we were there, my sister Tina and her husband Albert came and visited us in the bus. We had a nice long visit and we were very happy to have them come over. Every time I hear Jim describe all the work he has done to interested parties (not everybody is) , I realize again how much he has done to make the bus comfortable, safe and workable for us. YAY Jim!
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We can’t thank Michael and Randy enough. It ended up being almost three weeks that we were there but we had a great spot in the garden and driveway guests beat houseguests every time.  We had a nice quiet spot in the garden in the middle of the city with art and beautiful plantings all around. Michael and Randy are the types that you just fall back into step with, the best of friends.

We love these guys.

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We did finally pull out with no excitement except a couple of missed turns (of course!) on our way to DC to visit old friends.

More pics on Flickr.

 

 

We Interrupt our Programming…

To fly back to Kansas City for Jim’s mom’s funeral. And for me to catch a cold due to the freezing arctic temperatures in the funeral home. Michael and Randy not only graciously allowed us to leave the bus in their driveway, but to also take care of the cats and drive us to the airport. We can’t say how thankful and humbled we are top have such good friends. Michael says, “Not a problem!” when we get a little too thankful about it all…

Except for sitting on the runway for an hour or so before takeoff due to weather, all went as well as can be expected at such an event.

Lots of cousins came in from all over so it was fun to see them and get together. New baby George was there as well as the bigger kids. Time is flying, folks.

Some pics:

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At the cemetery. She would have loved all the pink.

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Chris and Laura. “We made up!” Hallelujah!
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Mother and son, Janet and Ben
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They could be sisters!
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Two dads, Tyler and Matt
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Jim and me with his dad
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More pics here.

Frequent Flier Miles are Supposed to be for Fun Stuff…

But not this time. Jim’s mom died on August 22, just over a month after we got going on our travels. We are flying back to KC from Philadelphia  for the services this Labor Day weekend. Maybe not the best way to spend the holiday weekend; but appropriate too, since she always assumed the entire family would gather at the lake for this (and every) holiday. She had a good long life, well lived. We are sorry to see her go and Jim’s dad will be affected the most. But I am also thankful; that she is not living with the low quality of life she had for the last year or so. She was 91. So back we go.

We had been here about a week and were planning to move on to DC in a few days when we got the news. Fortunately, we are parked in some good friends’ driveway and they have graciously allowed us to not only leave the bus here while we are gone but they offered to look after the cats too. The services weren’t until ten days after her death so we have squatted here longer than we planned. What did we do to deserve such good friends?

Before we got to Philadelphia, where we are now, we stopped in West Chester, Pennsylvania to have a nice evening and dinner with old friends from Columbia. They made roast chicken, salad, corn on the cob and sweet potatoes. We have been eating like kings! We enjoyed catching up, dinner and seeing pictures from their recent bicycle tour of Austria. They took a tandem which broke down into two suitcases. Jealous much? I have never ridden a tandem but would like to try. Thanks Janice and Gary!

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Getting to the Elks Lodge in West Chester was a little tricky. We mistakenly took the bus right through the quaint downtown and missed our sharp right turn into the lodge which necessitated driving down some very narrow streets with cars parked on both sides. Why does all this high anxiety stuff always have to happen when it’s my turn to drive? Once we got to the Elks, we had a very nice spot to park.

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We drove partway across Pennsylvania on the Turnpike, not even across the whole state and our toll was like $63.00! Yikes! Some cool tunnels on the way.

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In the time we have been here I visited my sister who lives very close by, we have ridden bikes, I got some work done and we went to the beach, besides having some great meals and pie.

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Sister Tina and me. We had a great visit and I ate more pie.

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The day at Sandy Hook was absolutely worth the long drive. We picked up sandwiches at Edie’s in Sandy Hook and spent the day playing in the waves, reading The New Yorker and people watching. Oh and drinking beer.

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Our quiet and colorful surroundings and a delicious tomato pasta dish Michael concocted.

We are humbled and so very grateful for the good friends and the blessings flowing our way. When we get back, we will stay another day or so to ride the trails and to downtown Philly and then we will head for DC before swinging south for the winter.