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February 24, 2013

Carlsbad, NM

So, we left Medina Lake, and headed towards Carlsbad.  We had a planned detour based on a recommendation from some good friends.  They’d told us about the Monahan’s Sand Hills State Park. Since we didn’t plan on going to White Sands, this was going to give us a bit of a taste of the sand dunes.  It turned out to be a great stop.  Based on the timing, and our future plans for snow, we went ahead and purchased one of the saucer sleds they have.  Molly had a blast going down some of the sandy slopes.  Not much fun going up, but I agree with her on that part.



We then got back on the road, and headed to Carlsbad.  We had a reservation for the Carlsbad KOA, which is about 30 miles or so north of the main town area.  But, IT finally happened to us.  This particular IT, is a tire blow out.  Fortunately, it was one of the rear dually tires, on the outside.  Unfortunately, CoachNet picked the wrong intersection of Derrick and 285.  Seems there is one WAY north of where we were, and they chose that one, even though I said I was almost in Carlsbad.  That mistake cost me 7 hours of sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tire repair guy, when there was a shop, literally, 5 miles away.  Anyway, enough about that.  We got it fixed up, and headed to the KOA.  Diane and Molly had some time on the side of the road, and had also gone ahead to the KOA to let them know we’d be late, and get our check-in stuff.

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We’d planned to spend our one full day in Carlsbad by going to the Caverns in the morning, then up to Roswell for the afternoon.  Since we’d gotten into the park so late, we opted to sleep in a bit, and just go to the Caverns.  Diane was in the bat cave spirit with her hat, and we were all impressed with the size and beauty of the Caverns.

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The people at the Carlsbad KOA were fantastic.  They have a restaurant there, and even deliver to your RV after you order!  We were grateful for their understanding the first night, and overall hospitality.


Next stop, Tucson, AZ.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 David Gardner
February 21, 2013

San Antonio

After a stay in Livingston to get mail, car inspection, etc., we headed over to San Antonio.  There, we stayed at a couple places.  First, we spent a couple days in town at the Carefree Travelers World RV Resort in San Antonio.  This was a pretty nice, clean park.  They were pretty full, and the spot we got barely fit our RV length.  The location of the park was what we were after, as it was close to the Alamo, and provided a good launch pad to get to the local Sea World, and up to Austin.  Our first day there, we headed into town for the Alamo, and we were all surprised the the size, location, and such.  It’s quite the tourist attraction.  After milling about there for a while, we headed to the river walk sections, and had fun with more crowds and detours around work areas.  Eventually we found a fantastic Mexican restaurant called the Guadalajara Grill, and got some dinner. It had a fun atmosphere, and great Mexican food that hit the spot.

The next day, we went up to Auston.  The main purpose was to visit a work colleague of mine, but we took some time to also visit the capital building of my state of residency. Molly was able to add another stamp in her “State Capital Passport” book.  The capital buildings are all running together, but this one seemed pretty nice, with lot’s of information and historic photo’s on the walls.  We were able to get in to see all the buildings too, since we were there on a Sunday.  For the afternoon and evening, we enjoyed a great visit and meal with a fantastic family there in Austin.  

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While still “in town” in San Antonio, we hit up Sea World.  It was a bit of an off season time for them, but we were still able to see much of the park, and get a good feel for it.  I bet it’s hoping in the Summer, with ski shows and a water park area.  Molly got a caricature done as well. This visit also means that Diane, and Molly have now been to all three of the Sea World locations.  I haven’t been to Orlando, or it would have been for me too.

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Once our “in town” tasks were done, we headed to the famous Texas Hill Country, and stayed at the Thousand Trails park called Medina Lake, in Lakehills, TX.  We were there for a few days, working, and enjoying the quiet of the hills.  We also had LOTS of activity with deer.  We even picked up a big bag of feed corn for them on one trip to the market.


The lake at Medina Lake is very low.  I read up on it a bit, and it seems to be a normal cycle of drought and flood.  A few more years, and they should be back to a full/too full lake again.  It’s already a nice place in the woods, but the lake would make it that much better.


Our next stop is Carlsbad, NM.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 David Gardner
February 10, 2013

West Monroe, LA

First stop, Duck Commander / Buck Commander HQ.  We started watching the show several months ago after I caught it on TV.  It is really entertaining, and everyone here enjoys the show.  So, when we saw some friends “check in” there via one of the social media apps, we looked to see where it was, and if we could drop by as well.  Turns out, for our trip from Georgia to Livingston, it only took us about 5 miles out of our way.  That made it a must see in our book! We assumed we were going to swing in on our way out of town, as we’d arrive before they closed Saturday, but we made some good time and got there with 30 minutes of shopping and picture taking in.

The parking lot was quite crowded, but we found a spot for the RV with the car in tow at a neighboring Car Wash.  The girls had a great time, but were unable to spot any of the “stars” of the show.  Still, a fun stop.  And, we got a couple souvenirs.

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Bayou D’Arbonne Camping, provided a nice overnight stop.  For $20, and it was nice and quiet, with good hookups.  Neighbors are a mix of residents, long term campers, and even some in a tent.  Felt sorry for the tent people as it began to pour rain while we left.  The owners of the campground were pleasant to deal with.  We did have to call to reserve, but he was also kind enough to come over when we arrived and get us into the right site, and to make sure the hookups were all ok.  The name just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?


Next stop, Livingston.

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December 30, 2012

Florida…Clearwater Marine Aquarium…Dolphin Tale

Like many, we saw the movie Dolphin Tale, and really enjoyed it.  While in Florida, we wanted to get over and see “Winter”, the star of the movie.  The movie was filmed at her home, in Clearwater, Florida, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  You can get more info here…  They now have both the Aquarium, and a large building that holds some movie props, and lot’s of information about the true story, and filming.

We drove over and met Diane’s cousin Amity, and her two girls, at the Aquarium.  The drive was pretty easy, and Tampa is not far from Orlando.  The view’s in the Tampa area were amazing!  If we’re back in Florida in the future, we’ll have to try and spend some time on the gulf coast.

We started in the Aquarium, and had our pictures taken on the way in.  They asked for us to pose in some strange ways, standing in front of a green background.  So odd.  The pictures turned out pretty cool though.

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Once inside, we got to see Winter, and some of the other animals that were in the movie.  The Aquarium is focused on rescuing animals, and you can see that the popularity of the movie has greatly impacted the number of guests that come there now.  It wasn’t built for so many, but they do a good job of making sure everyone has a good time, and learns a thing or two.

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Everyone waiting for Winter to come out and show off.

We’d arranged for a big multi-room hotel spot for us in the area, so we spent as much time as possible at the Aquarium and at the annex area.  It was a great day with family.

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December 16, 2012


A couple years ago, Molly, Diane, and I were in Florida as part of a work trip.  While there, Diane and Molly got to go to Gatorland, and they loved it.  It may be hockey, or a bit of a tourist trap, but it is still a fun day none the less.  Since Megan and I were here with them, we decided we’d all go this time.

Needless to say, they have a LOT of Gators there at the Gatorland.  The surprising thing was how many birds they had there too.  A few were in cages, or with clipped wings, but the majority were just native birds, hanging out with the gator’s.  It seems the Gators had no interest in the birds.

We toured the grounds, watched them try to get the Gators to jump out of the water for some meat, watched one guy wrestle a Gator, and even bought some turkey dogs to feed the Gators.  A great time was had by all.  If you’re ever in Orlando, just head on down to Gaterville… er, Gatorland.

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We had some fun, and saw some weird things sitting on the Gators…

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December 15, 2012

Florida…Part 1

Ok, so, our Florida visit consists of several parts.  We have a few weeks at Orlando Thousand Trails, then a couple weeks at our Orlando timeshare (with a side trip to Tampa), then a weekend in Fort Pierce, back to Orlando Thousand Trails, and then up to Live Oak for the Fulltime Families Rally.  So, we’ll start with the first 3 weeks at Orlando Thousand Trails.

We arrived at Orlando Thousand trails, in Clermont, FL, on December 2, and picked out a spot in the office.  It was a fabulous spot, C-21.  If you can choose it, you’ll be pleased.  Close to everything, and a big “yard” right out front.

The first “thing” up, was to let Molly know that on December 3, she and Diane would be heading up to New York to get their trip that Hurricane Sandy prevented back in November.  I dropped them off at the airport Monday, and they returned late Friday.  They had a GREAT time.  I’ll get Diane to create her own post on that trip, someday.

While they were away, I got to explore a bit of the RV park, get some pieces parts to repair a few odds and ends, and generally hang out.  The weather was AWESOME.  I spent a couple of my lunch hours and post-work time in the hammock.  After the couple of months in the cold fall weather of the east coast, it was quite nice to have 72 degree days, with a light breeze.

After their week away, the girls came back.  The next week, I flew up to Rochester, NY, to provide some training for a customer.  The next week, Megan arrived for a couple weeks of college time Christmas Vacation.  Once Megan arrived, the girls were off to explore, and to hit a couple of the theme parks.  They were able to spend a couple days at Universal Studios and see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a special night at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

On December 22, we moved into the Orlando timeshare.  We were putting the RV in storage, so all the fridge and freezer stuff had to come with us, as well as most of the other food, and lot’s of cloths, and stuff, and presents, and more stuff, and… The move out and back in was crazy.  But, after a failed attempt to store the RV in Orlando, we were able to get it over to Diane’s Uncle’s shop in Fort Pierce, and it was there for them to work on when they had time.

Orlando Thousand Trails…


We setup some Christmas decorations, and rented a golf cart for a week.



My close up pictures did not turn out well, but there were plenty of these birds (Sand Hill Crane’s I believe) walking about.  Some tortoises as well.

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I heard a loud “whooshing” sound early one morning, and found there were a few hot-air balloons flying over.

I saw this little guy wandering in the middle of the road while I was out for a bike ride.  Picked him up, and put him in one of the nests that was nearby.  Hopefully it was the right one.


We also had a great time re-visiting with the Pickett’s that we’d first met in California, and then saw again in Indiana.  We also got to meet several other families, and Molly was not lacking for people to hang out with here.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 David Gardner
November 25, 2012

North Carolina

After Virginia, and the Indian Reservation visit, we headed down to Forest Lake, a Thousand Trails Preserve in Advance, North Carolina.  This was our location to stay over the Thanksgiving Day Holiday.

Because of the stop at the Indian Reservation, this was one of those rare times that we arrived to our stop after dark.  And, this one was hilly, with trees everywhere.  Fun.  Also, there was no one at the gate or office.  Just a box that had our info, car/RV tags, and a map.  Oh goody.

It took about a half hour, but we finally settled on a 50 Amp site that was easy to get into, close to the buildings, and had good clear view for satellite.  We thought we’d have to pay an extra $3 per day for that site, but it’s only during the summer.

This preserve is pretty cool.  There’s a big lake, and camping on both sides.  They have a large number of cabins, an adult lodge, and a family lodge.  Also, a pool at each lodge.  Everything but the adult lodge and laundry were closed for the season though, so not much else for us to do here at the preserve.  We did finally see some staff, and everyone we saw were very nice and helpful.

After all the travel, the lack of any friends/family around and such, everyone was getting, well, grouchy.  Just lot’s of grouchy ladies in the camper.  Not good, for anyone.  So, I told them to get ready, that we were going out for a surprise evening.  The big surprise was bowling.  It had been a long time since we’d gone, and it was just different and fun enough to get rid of the grouchies.  Hard to see, but Diane won… both games!

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So, for Thanksgiving, the plan was to hit up a local Cracker Barrel restaurant  and then go see the movie, Lincoln, to continue with the Lincoln theme of the trip.  We found a Cracker Barrel near a movie theater, and headed over around 1 pm.  Well, everyone else seemed to have the same idea, and the wait was going to be around an hour.  So, we headed next door to the not crowded Ruby Tuesday’s.  No turkey on the menu, but we got some decent food, and had time to head over to the movie and deal with the lines there too.  The movie was awesome.  No, nothing major or new to the story, but the way it is told is fantastic.



Back at the preserve, Molly and I were able to use the shuffle board courts and scoot the puck around a bit, as they’d left the equipment out.  Diane and Molly were also able to get in a round of mini-golf because we carried a couple putters and golf balls with us in the RV.  And, there is an old tobacco barn on the property that we got to check out while there.

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And, anyone that is a fan of Hunger Games, that finds themselves in North Carolina, is going to try and seek out one or more of the movie shoot locations.  Diane read up on some of the old abandoned buildings that were used for some scenes, and we weren’t sure what we’d find or be able to do while there.  To our surprise, we were able to park, get out, and spend plenty of time walking around and taking pictures.

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On one other holiday weekend trip, we went to tour the Latta Plantation in Huntersville, NC. It was another historic site with re-enactments, and we had a good time learning the history.

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Oh, and he’s not smiling on purpose, cause it used to take so long to take pictures in his day, and such.

We headed out of North Carolina on Sunday, and headed to Georgia.  We’d hoped to go over and stay at a place in Myrtle Beach for a few days before heading to Florida, but, work had requested me and a few others to come in for some meetings, so we hoped over to Cumming/Alpharetta, GA.

November 17, 2012


After D.C., we headed for Gloucester, VA, to stay at the Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay Preserve.  Our visit here was just a little over a week, and the location is close to Richmond (the state Capital) and Colonial Williamsburg, as well as the Jamestown Colony site.

Our first weekend there, we headed over to Williamsburg.  Now, we’ve been to a few different places that provide an interactive “back in time” type setup for their location, and they recreate life back in the 1800’s.  In Indiana, we have been to Conner Prairie a couple times, and there was a “one weekend only” recreation near Terre Haute that Molly got to participate in during our last visit.  So, the idea of paying theme park prices for one of these, was not on the top of our To-Do list.  Also, you can tour the grounds, shop in all the shops, and eat in all the restaurants, for free.  That’s what we did.  We did have a great late lunch.  Best “Bangers and Mash” I’ve ever had.  Love the simple meat and potatoes stuff.  We walked around, but we were feeling a bit overloaded on even more history, so we only spent a couple hours, and headed out.

There was a Yankee Candle Company store there however, and so we had to stop, I’m told.  One item we picked up was some wax hands, where Molly was the model for the hands.  Hopefully these survive our journey!

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The RV Park itself was right on one of the waterways that lead to the Chesapeake Bay, and the Fall Colors were in full form while we were there.  It was “off-season” of sorts, and so they didn’t have any activities, and the pool, store, etc., were closed.  Still, nice place, pretty, and quiet.  Oh, and we saw an RV there that we know we’ve seen at a couple places in CA.  The park here was recovering from some flooding they experienced during Sandy, but it was drying out nicely.  Only one section of the campground was impacted, and it was an area with mostly long term sites.  Oh, and they got fresh pavement for the main roads just before we left.  You can see it in the photo on the right below.

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Also while here, Diane and Molly headed over to Richmond to add another State Capitol to their passport booklet.  Diane was very impressed with this one, and thought it was pretty cool.  They even used this location for some of the filming of the movie “Lincoln” that is out right now.  They also visited the Confederate “White House”, which is located in Richmond as well.

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And, our last visit in Virginia came on the day we headed out of town.  We had communicated with my sister, who’s been doing some genealogy research in the last couple years.  We had known that my Grandmother (Granny, Dad’s Mom) was part Native American.  However, Granny never wanted to really talk about the past, especially things related to her childhood and relatives.  She passed away a few years ago, but Chellie (my sister) was able to find out that our Native American ancestors were from the Pamunkey tribe.  She also knew that they had a reservation in Virginia, and it was pretty close to where we were.  We had hoped to visit earlier, but as it turned out, we could only visit on the day we were leaving.

It was quite a journey to get out there, and driving in the RV was extra fun.  Diane followed in the car, and it was a bit easier being separated.  The museum is small, but nice, and they have a gift shop with locally made jewelry and other items, as well as books about their history.

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We had a nice visit, and then hit the road for North Carolina.

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November 9, 2012

Washington D.C.

We had looked at a few different options for places to stay near Washington DC.  All of them involved the use of public transportation, as that was just going to be easier for some of the places we wanted to visit.  In the end, we decided to go ahead and stay at the Cherry Hill RV park, which is one that comes up while searching, and is the closest to DC.  It seems to be expensive, but given that you can jump on the public transportation right at the park entrance, you’re actually doing pretty good.  No parking fees, and the staff will gladly help you figure out how to get where you’re going.  I must say, this is probably the absolute best RV park that we’ve stayed at so far.  The sites are all super clean and level, there are many there, and the services are phenomenal   There’s a restaurant  huge laundry, pool, big activities center, and the largest onsite store we’ve seen.  All of these things have hours that will work for any schedule, even though we were there in the off-season period.

On the first full day there, Diane and Molly headed up to Gettysburg, PA, to visit one of the planned sites for our cancelled PA stop.  They had a great time, and extended some of the Lincoln history theme that has been in most of our stops.

On the next day, election day, we had a scheduled tour for the White House.  We got up early, and headed into the city, to the Ronald Reagan building.  It’s an International Trade building, and has public parking that is near the White House and other area sites.  Our early start helped us avoid traffic, and we had time to grab some coffee and pastries, then headed over towards the White House.  We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, and we were glad to see that we could just head on into the security maze, even though we were early.

The tour basically took us through a few of the common areas of the White House, and provided access to a few rooms with historical furniture and paintings on the main floor, and then we were able to go through everywhere up on the State Floor, which is just above the main floor.  It was pretty cool to see the actual rooms, furnishings, and paintings that have been there for decades.  No pictures inside, but we got a couple shots outside once we were done.

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We then went over to check out the White House Visitor Center.  Well, the main building is under renovation, so we got to tour the temp building up on jacks.  It was closer to the White House, and still had a great video that showed a lot of the history and features of the White House.

Next on the agenda, was to tour the “Mall”, and see the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.  The Washington Monument is closed, and likely will be for a long time.  It was damaged pretty good during an earthquake a while back, and has not yet been repaired.

Heading down the way, we got to see the World War II memorial, and see all the fountains.  We also walked along the reflecting pool, and made our way to the Lincoln Memorial.  We spent some time here, and tried the photo trick with a $5 bill.


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From the Lincoln Memorial, we headed over to see the Einstein Statue.  I had visited this on a previous trip to D.C. Back in the early 90’s.  I remember it being hidden by tree’s at that point, but it has a bit more prominent role, and is highly visible now. (Or, my memory is out of whack)

Next up, a LONG walk back the other way.  We headed over to a couple of the Smithsonian buildings, had lunch, and checked out a few of the more interesting items that we had on our list of “must see”.  Some were there, some not, but it was nice to see all of the items they’ve collected over the years.  Free admittance is pretty nice too.

Next stop, the National Archives building.  This one had the longest line of anything we’d visited.  This building houses and display’s some of the original copies of items like the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.  There are others as well, but I don’t remember all of them.  There was just SO MUCH history and stuff for my brain to consume!  It was a bit full.  After this, we headed home.

The next day, Diane and Molly went back into town for a tour of the Capital Building.  They took advantage of the bus system that picked up right at the RV park, and had a good time for Molly’s first public bus ride.



The girls had a decent time touring the Capital, but were really impressed with Ford’s Theater, and the home across the street.  They still have the bloody pillow from the bed where they laid Lincoln after he was shot.  Lot’s more history!

The Cherry Hill RV Park was AWESOME.  It is expensive compared to your average RV park, but, it’s not your average RV Park.  I would say it is likely one of the best we have stayed at, as far as having everything you could want.  Granted, our visit was during cold weather, so we didn’t get to be outside at the pool and such, but it was wonderful in every way.

We left town the day after the Capital visit, and headed to Virginia, and the next post.

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October 7, 2012

Horseshoe Lakes – first 3 weeks.

We planned to be at Horseshoe Lakes for three weeks, and then move on to Pennsylvania.  But, as the move day drew closer, we started hearing about some bugs and things being at the park we were heading to.  Also, I was going to be gone for 2 weeks of the time at that park, and Diane and Molly would need to deal with the bugs themselves.  We investigated what it would take, and then decided to just go ahead and stay at Horseshoe Lakes for an additional 3 weeks.  This meant paying for one week, where we should be out of the park, and then two more weeks of our normal Thousand Trails reservations.  For this post, we’ll cover some of the activities and scenes from the first three weeks.

First, I grew up (age 5 to 18) about a quarter mile from the RV park.  I had only been in the park twice before.  Once before it became Thousand Trails, and the second for my 10 year class reunion.  I was pretty excited at the idea to be able to ride bikes with Molly, up and down the streets that I spent so much time on.  I had a paper route for something like 5-7 years, and put some serious seat time delivering the paper 5 days a week.

Upon arrival, there were some differences here.  Most notable was that you don’t check in at the gate, but rather at the office, which is on a side road before you enter the gate.  Ok, no problem.  We got in, got a basic briefing of what all the site groups had to offer, and we headed out to pick a spot.  The biggest “issue” was the number of tree’s, and how low on the horizon the satellites are here in this part of the country.  We found one site, but couldn’t get the dish to latch on, so we moved a couple sites over, and got a lock.  Another interesting thing about this park, is the number of Seasonal Sites that are occupied.  With the price they charge, and the fact you could stay there from park open to close (April to end of October), there are several people in the program.  Some parents of one of my classmates have their camper there in a spot as well.  It made for a nice community, and likely the park would be a ghost town without them.  I also saw how they basically ran the facility.  Some of them officially, and others unofficially.  It wouldn’t be as nice a place without them.


Now, all the visiting and fun.

We had a visits from family of course, and also another Fulltime Family came to stay at the park.  We had met this other family (The Pickett’s) in California at Wilderness Lakes.  They have three younger kids, but they all enjoyed spending time with Molly whenever we’d go over for a campfire. It was great to catch up with John and Mary, and do some in-person smack talk for our Fantasy Football league.  John was starting one at the beginning of Football season, and I was able to join.  It was my first, and it has been a lot of fun.

During this first three weeks, we got to go over and see the great Pumpkin Works that we’d heard so much about over the years.  This is a pig farm turned Halloween extravaganza, near Paris, IL.  The farm is owned by my Aunt’s family.  They started Pumpkin Works 20 years ago, and it is even on the map!   My Aunt and Uncle have also started their own horse carriage company, offering carriage’s for weddings, parades, and such, and they also give horse wagon rides at Pumpkin Works.  So, we got to go see them as well as the great Pumpkin Works.

Not sure if it has been mentioned before, but Molly is a great fan of horses.  She’s had several lessons while we lived in Orange County, and she was very happy to be able to get a ride with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Cathy’s horses.  Even better, she got to DRIVE!  And even better than that, she went back and worked as “Uncle Jeff the Great” (a name he recommended) assistant on several days.  The J&C horses were only there on the weekends, but Molly spent as much time as possible working with them.



Also during this time, we got some Woopie Pie’s from the Amish, took lot’s of fall color photo’s, rode bikes in the old neighborhood, took care of my Mom’s “honey do list”, installed a new bike rack on the back of the RV, and got a “Stay-a-while” gas line kit so we can use portable tanks and attach them to the RV Propane system.  A very productive few weeks.  More on the next three weeks in a later post.

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