Remember that when you leave this Earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given, a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage. -St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing a
 and Prosperous
 2013 to everyone.

2013 is going to be a great year.

Good Times Ahead!

Lots of new and exciting things to look forward to.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Altamira Oriole

All of these pictures were taken with my iPhone.  I was working in the Visitors Center and took the pictures through a window

Visitors come here looking for this bird and never seem to arrive when the birds are right outside the window. I have been fortunate to see this pair come to the bird bath several times last week and today.

Today, one was in the birdbath and the other was on the log that has peanut butter.

click on pictures to enlarge

The shape of the Altamira Oriole nest is unusual, it it very long. It looks as though it is hanging by a thread on the branch. I'm wondering if this is so that squirrels or other critters can't get to it. 

This nest is near the Refuge Office
which is a short walk from the Visitor Center

The nest is just swinging in the wind.

It looks like a heavy wind would blow it away,
 we had some heavy wind on Monday and the nest is still there.

The Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis) is a New World oriole. The bird is widespread in subtropical lowlands of the Mexican Gulf Coast and northern Central America, the Pacific coast and inland. It also can be found in the extreme south of Texas, ( the Rio Grande Valley).
At 25 cm and 56 grams, this is the largest oriole of the Icterus genus. This bird nests in open woodlands. The nest is a very long woven pouch, attached to the end of a horizontal tree branch, sometimes to telephone wires.
This bird forages high in trees, sometimes in the undergrowth. They mainly eat insects and berries.
These birds are permanent residents, and unlike the migratory orioles that breed in the US, the species is "sexually monomorphic"—both the males and the females have elaborate coloration and patterning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jack and Coke

Copyright JGS / email:

If you had invested $10,000 in Coca-Cola 50 years ago, you'd be sitting on a 6200% gain
 without reinvesting your dividends.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

When originally created,
Coca-Cola's two key ingredients were cocaine and caffeine.

Coca-Cola now uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey.

In the United States, the Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri, pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.

(If you do not drink Coca-Cola on a regular basis, it is still a good headache medicine)

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Jack Daniels' signature whiskey is the Old No. 7 brand. There were not 6 previous incarnations, and the secret of the 7's real meaning died with the original Mr. Jack Daniels.

Moore County, Tennessee, where Jack is distilled, is still a dry county. However, the distillery is exempt from the law and sells Gentlemen Jack in its gift shop.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Does anyone use the WiFiRanger?

If you do, what do you think of this product? Does it help you to pick up a stronger signal?

This company also sells the Millenicom router.

I ordered a Millenicom router last week
 directly from Millenicom's website and sent it back.
I could not get online at all with it, at least with
the Sprint iPhone hotspot, I could occasionally get online,
and they have a 24 hour return policy - I would lose about $189.00
 on the initial payment if I didn't make a fast decision.

If I had the correct antenna and booster before I purchased
the Millenicom router, it may have worked.
 I called their customer service,
they were helpful but the limited return policy did not give me
time to order an antenna or other parts.

I am concerned about doing banking and entering passwords when using the wi-fi from an unknown source. The description for the "wifi-ranger" addresses this issue and is why I am thinking of purchasing this product.

from their website:
Connect all of your devices to the WiFiRanger, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, printers, etc., then have the WiFiRanger securely connect to available WiFi for internet. You can even have a WiFiRanger connect to your smartphone's WiFi hotspot or your MiFi hotspot for internet. This unifies your own private network and allows for standard LAN applications such as printing and file sharing to happen securely behind the robust WiFiRanger, while simultaneously connecting to public WiFi systems for internet.

I'm still trying to figure out the best solution for the long term.

Although I am reaping the benefits of the repeater that my neighbor purchased, I will still need something to boost wi-fi signals at other locations, including my daughters house.

I use Sprint for my iPhone and the signal is very weak or non-existent around here.

Currently, I am trying to boost the signal of the cell phone and my cell phone is set up as a hotspot that should benefit from any increase in signal that I can obtain.

While browsing @, I came across a phone number for "Wilson Electronics" and called them.  They gave me 3 part numbers to order @ Amazon.  A large outside truckers/RV antenna, a connector and a "sleek cradle".

The antenna mount does not fit on my outside mirror and I do not have a ladder on the back of my RV.  I am looking into setting up something on the bumper of my vehicle, similar to what "RVsue" has recently put on her Casita.

RVSue has a "techno angel" that helps her out
 and we all reap the benefits by reading her blog.

The sleek cradle needs to be plugged into a 12v outlet and luckily I have one next to my bed. Otherwise, the cell phone would need to stay in the cradle mounted in the cup holder in the front of the RV - not very convenient.  The cup holder attachment was an option that I ordered from Amazon because I didn't want to stick the mounting bracket to my dashboard.  

I will put the mounting bracket next to the 12V outlet in the middle of the RV and use the cup holder mount by the dashboard - then I can easily move the iPhone around the RV.

Hmmm, I wonder how difficult it is to add additional 12V outlets to the rig?

First impressions of the "Sleek Cradle": Without hooking up the large outdoor antenna and just setting the iPhone in the cradle and plugging it in, I can already see an increase to the iPhone signal. There is  a small antenna attached to the cradle with a long cord. The small antenna is supposed to be mounted outside, but I have not put it outside yet.

I move the RV every week or so, and I need to have something that is easy to remove and disconnect.

I am frustrated with all of the cords and connections.  What happened to "WIRELESS"???

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cooper's Hawk

Last week, I startled a hawk that was near the path behind the Visitors Center. I was able to get a few pictures with my iPhone.

clutching a rabbit, trying to fly

hiding the rabbit, I was too close, he was not happy with me

trying again to fly away from me, dragging the rabbit

Cooper's Hawk

click on pictures to enlarge

Another attempt to fly with the rabbit
he dropped the rabbit and is in the tree
so I decided to move on and leave him alone.

red dragonfly

Amazing stuff...
being this close to wildlife

earlier the same day
the alligator was out of the water again

today on lunch break
Indigo Snake near the pond

A big thank you to another volunteer here, Henry. He purchased a wi-fi repeater to access the wi-fi from the volunteer outpost. Today he added my computer to the repeater.  Its been a long time since I had access to such fast internet.  I need to talk to him tomorrow and make sure I am not affecting the speed on his computer.

Took just a few minutes to add pictures to this post, normally it would take hours or days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lazy Day

Today I thought I would go for a 6 mile bike ride to the overlook at the Laguna Madre......but I didn't.

Today I thought I would sort through some papers to scan and shred......but I didn't.

There are a few other things that I should have done.  

I feel that I have been running since I left Mesa Verde.  So, for most of the morning and afternoon, I sat in a lounge chair outside daydreaming, watching the hawks, and napping.

Tomorrow, I will go to Port Isabel to get the Texas safety inspection for my RV (it expires Nov. 30th) and then spend the night at Diane and Karl's house.

Today was for daydreaming.
I  was thinking about Alaska
 and reading my favorite book about Alaska.

This book was published in 2005, but any information
 that may be out of date can be found on the internet.

I have read hundreds of books about Alaska: travel guides, biographies, history. This is the only book about Alaska that I kept when I moved into the RV.

I want to visit every location listed in this book.  There are 8 National Parks in Alaska, this book has one chapter per park.  It also includes information on the nearest town, State Parks, State or National Recreation Areas near the National Parks.

It may take several years to see everything, as I will be workamping while visiting Alaska.   Even without workamping, it would still take more than one short summer season to visit every location in this book.

My plan is to "see Alaska for free".  Paying for my basic needs: transportation, food and shelter by working my way across Alaska.

I am considering staying in Alaska for more that just the 4-5 month tourist season. I am working on a source of income for the winter months. For the winter months, I will need to winterize the RV and put it in storage, then find a furnished studio apartment to rent. If I decide to stay through the winter, I will stay in the southern part of Alaska. Not your typical snow-birding location, but I never said I was typical.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Watching birds...

...or birdwatching.....or birding???

I enjoy watching the birds, but am not sure that I want to become a birder.
Do I want to start keeping lists? I am not good at keeping lists, I misplace the lists and then need to start a new one. I keep lists on my iPhone and then forget they are there. 

Do I want to memorize names? I have been reading some of the birding books at the V.C.  Each specific bird has a picture for juvenile, male, female and also shows winter and summer colors.  Too much information.

I want to take pictures, but I do not want to carry around a huge camera with a big lens. I'll be happy with the pics from my small camera with a zoom lens.  Many birders have binoculars and scopes along with the cameras. And birding guides and lists.  I just want to look at the pretty colors and listen to the birds.

Eastern Screech Owl

The other day, I was sitting outside the RV and watching some hawks gliding on the wind currents. There are many different types of hawks on this wildlife refuge.  I have no idea what the name of the hawks are, but I still enjoyed watching them.

Other wildlife sightings

There are Javelinas and Armadillas roaming around near my RV sight each evening and sometimes in the early morning hours.  I also hear the coyotes during the night.  My RV is at the end of a row, near the bushes that are along the maintenance road. There's not a lot of traffic on this road, I usually ride by bike or walk along this road.  I see deer every morning and evening.

Monday morning as I was riding my bike to work, I startled a bobcat. He was sleeping on the side of the road, he slowly got up and crossed the road in front of me. I slowed down to watch him and when he got to the other side of the road he was watching me.

A few days ago, the alligator decided to make an appearance when my daughter came by to visit me. He was next to the water trough.

I was originally scheduled to work here only for November and December.  The volunteer manager thought that other volunteers would need my RV site, but some of the volunteers are not going to show up.

They have asked to me to stay through March and I will as long as they adjust my schedule so that my days off are the same as my daughters.

I did not want to ask them to do this if I was only going to be here for 2 months. They seem to be willing to change the schedule and will let me know as soon as they talk with the other volunteers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for...





New Opportunities


~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~

Happy Thanksgiving

from my family

to your family

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last week: A few pictures

3,100 acre lake
@ Laguna Atascosa NWR
White Pelicans
(click on pics to enlarge)

Less than 24 hours after I arrived, I was working in the Visitor Center at LANWR.  No orientation, just learning on the job. They are really short on volunteers for the Visitors Center, a few couples are here, and a few guys doing maintenance. One couple will be arriving later this week, but most won't be here until January. 

There was a big birding festival in nearby Harlingen on Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sunday so that brought in a lot of visitors. They can't start the "tram tours" for the visitors until our tram driver shows up.

I have talked with a lot of people from all over the U.S. and from Switzerland, the U.K. and Canada.  It is very interesting listening to their stories and they ask me about my volunteering and then we start to talk about RV's. Some visitors travel in an RV, but many were here for the festival or they are Winter Texans/snowbirds with property here.

Last week, on my days off, I drove over to South Padre Island. This week I will explore around the trails - hiking and biking. Next week, on my days off, I will go back to SPI to celebrate Thanksgiving with Diane and Karl and Karl's family.

The visitors are always asking "Where are the alligators?". The alligator pond is dry, so I did not see any when I went for a bike ride on Wednesday morning. 

There is one that lives
 in an old ranching livestock trough near the V.C.
He's in there, you can see his eyes sticking out.

 Walking paths near the Visitors Center

not sure what bird this is
we put out citrus and seed for the birds
and there are several areas with small ponds

Green Jays are very popular around here
they are in this area year-round

my small camera has that irritating delay 
when you press the shutter
so I only got his feet as he flew away.

This Friday, the Refuge is hosting a Thanksgiving potluck luncheon, they are providing the turkey and ham. I will be here for this, but I will miss out on the Volunteers Thanksgiving dinner next week.

Seems I volunteered to make home made stuffing/dressing (even though I don't eat wheat).  I have made it dozens of times and will use our family recipe.  Since I don't have pots and pans and some of the ingredients, it will be a group effort.  One of the employees, that is a hunter, is supplying his homemade sausage, the refuge manager is bringing the bread and some baking dishes from home. I borrowed an onion and poultry seasoning from my neighbor. I have the celery, apple, potato, a can of broth and butter. Only thing that will be missing are the gizzards from the turkey, but I have left those out in the past.

I am off work Friday and will cook in the kitchen of the Volunteer Outpost on Friday morning.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Laguna Atascosa NWR

Thanks for all of the comments on my "anniversary". I had written that a few days ago and had it scheduled to post on the 6th. I am hoping to have a post soon about my expenses for fuel and RV sites during the first year. And the difference in costs of traveling vs. workamping.

I have been having some problems commenting on other blogs and/or opening blogs with a lot of pictures.

There is really fast internet in the Visitors Center, I have been using my iPhone to access the internet there,  but I get no cell phone coverage when I am in the building, and the cell phone works on and off around the property.  The iPhone can pick up an internet connection even when it does not get cell service, I can send messages though email or facebook, but can't make a phone call or send a text when in the V.C. I will take my "netbook" or laptop to the Visitors Center on my next work day, I wonder if it will work outside, sitting at one of the benches, or if I will be allowed to use the computer inside when there are no customers.

The internet barely works while in my rig and I even tried the booster yesterday.  It worked really well the first night I was here, so I called Sprint yesterday and they gave me a code to update my phone - but of course the signal was too weak to download the update. I will try again today. Stacey, the manager for the volunteers here, has two internet boosters and is waiting for someone to install them on the property.

There is a volunteer "outpost" and I will check out the speed of the internet in there. It is just down the road from my rig.  I am parked at the end of the RV sites, which I prefer, I have just trees and woods on one side of my rig.

I ride my bike to and from the Visitors Center when I am working, I arrived here late Sunday afternoon and I started work on Monday.  I think my schedule will be Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I have not been around the entire property yet, Stacey said when more volunteers come in we will do Orientation and tour the property. I guess they don't want to drive around with just one person.

I will take my bike and tour some of the property today. I like the job and enjoy talking with the people that come into the Visitors Center. I do not know enough about the birds or features of the park, but give them as much information as I can. I have already learned the name of several of the birds that can be viewed out the large windows of the V.C.
~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

This morning at 5:55 my phone started beeping with messages that my daughter had sent last night, so I knew that I would have internet. I quickly turned on the computer and found all of your comments.

As soon as I get the connection issues straightened out, I hope to post some pictures.  I need to charge up my small camera that has a zoom lens and try to get some decent pictures. (I usually just take pics with the iPhone).

I walk over to the gazebo on my lunch break and usually have an apple and some crackers, the green jays have been coming really close to me, they probably would like some of the apple.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nov 6 - One year on the road

6,636 miles

6 states

Oceans, Rivers and Lakes

Mountains and Valleys

1,000,000 Awesome Views

I left my house in Illinois on Sunday, November 6th, 2011. One day later than planned due to a minor incident with the right outside mirror on the RV.

My first night was at an RV park in Southern Illinois, I was planning to stay just one night.  I ended up staying for 4 nights to decompress from the craziness of emptying and selling my house and getting rid of a ton of stuff.  While I was sitting beside the lake relaxing, the buyers of the house signed the paperwork on Tuesday November 8th.

I was now officially without a home address. I would become a Texas resident at the end of November when I stayed at the Escapees Ranch in Livingston, TX for several weeks.

On this journey, I have traveled through IL, MO, AR, TX, NM, CO. I camped in driveways in Arkansas, Texas and Colorado.  I spent the winter at the beach, and then drove north to visit with my daughter and son-in-law near Denver before starting my first workamping job on April 11th at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

I enjoy finding places to stay overnight that are near a small town or at State Parks that have a lot of walking/hiking trails. I do not tow a car.  I did not want to constantly be jumping in the car to drive from here to there.  I did enough of that when I was living in Illinois.  I wanted to stay put when I parked the RV. I prefer to explore on foot or on a bike.  It's easy to stop along the way to pick up groceries and to visit attractions.

I am sure there are times when a car would be handy, but I have not felt an overwhelming desire to have one, yet.

I have found several small cities with a "trolley" or bus system that will take me where I want to go.  Many of these are free or they charge a nominal fee.

Some of these cities are: Eureka Springs, AR - Port Aransas, TX (Mustang Island) - Corpus Christi, TX - South Padre Island and Port Isabelle, TX.  At Mesa Verde they have an employee shuttle to take employees to town for groceries, movies, etc. and they also scheduled outing to other cities.

There were several small towns where I could walk/bike from the RV park to grocery stores, libraries, etc. - Rockport, TX - Port Lavaca, TX - Palacios, TX - Cortez, CO - Goliad, TX.

My favorite town, so far, to get around easily is Rockport, Texas. I could walk or bike for hours at a time around the entire town and along the beaches.

Eventually, I would like to do some dry camping/boondocking - camping without electric and water hookups.  In order to do this, I will need to upgrade my refrigerator and at some point install some solar panels. There are many state and federal forest service campsites that do not have electric hookups.  There are thousands of acres of BLM land that are free to camp on. The scenery at these locations will be better than some of the commercial "RV Resorts" that I have stayed at. 

I am really happy with the RV that I purchased.
  It is the perfect size for me.

There are a few changes I would like to make inside, but nothing that is necessary, just things I want to do.  It would be nice to have a desk, instead of the typical dinette that is added to most RV's.

I have never used the awning, I feel it is too much trouble to open and close. I would like to replace it with an automatic awning someday, just push a button to open and close.

While traveling, there are some "bumps in the road".....the weather, road construction, noisy neighbors, crowded RV sites - but its all temporary and nothing that really bothers me. I can park for the night, close the shades and easily "shut out" the rest of the world. I am an easy-going person and it takes a lot to get me really upset or frustrated. I am good at "tuning out" distractions and noises.

I have met a lot of people and I have enjoyed my job at Mesa Verde.  This week I will be starting a volunteer position at a National Wildlife Refuge, only 25 minutes from my daughter's house. And I am looking forward to a finding new job for next summer.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

3 years ago, my life changed suddenly.  We never know what tomorrow will bring.

Some of the things that were on my life list of dreams and goals are happening, but it is not what I expected my life to be. That does not mean I am unhappy with this lifestyle, just that I never planned for the possibility of living alone.

I feel we need to take advantage of all that life has to offer. I am visiting so many places, and meeting a lot of people, and totally looking forward to more adventures.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

So, that's it, my first year on this journey.  I still have many, many more places I want to visit. And my biggest dream of all is to spend a lot of time in Alaska.  

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

When I started this blog, I had a list of things to accomplish and checked them all off the list.

The only items to put on a "TO DO" list right now are:

Spend several months or longer in Alaska

Take a cruise anywhere (on a small ship)
maybe a Tall Ship on the east coast

Visit Iceland

I would like to visit all 50 states eventually, I have not traveled on an airplane since 1976.  I could take a cruise to Hawaii - or maybe even fly - and there are several volunteer opportunities in Hawaii, or maybe a temporary job to help keep the cost down. Of course, I would have to leave the RV behind if I decide to go to Hawaii.

 Anything is possible

I have not put a deadline on these goals, because I am living life
 "one day at a time".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

South Padre Island

A few days of R&R before reporting to work.

Although I like to travel to different areas, I think I am happiest at the beach.
Walking or biking around a small beach town, whatever I need just a short distance away.  Walking along the shore. Low key, laid back living.

I'm thinking coastal towns are going to play a big part in my travels over the next several years.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation
Sea Turtles on SPI

"Gerry" is a big guy and he eats
500 heads of Romaine lettuce each year

these little guys are missing a part of their flippers

Monday, October 29, 2012

Driving across Texas

Which way should I go?
Where do I camp for the night?

Saturday, October 27th
Lost an hour, time zone change, and needed a break from driving, so I did not go as far today.

When leaving Tucumcari in the morning, I headed south on 209, then 268 until it met up with Highway 84.

I stopped in the town of Clovis, NM and walked around for about 2 hours, window shopping and picking up a few small items.  There are a lot of "antique", resale and thrift stores here. For me it is a diversion from driving, I only spent a few dollars and I was able to get out and walk around and stretch my legs. Not much I need to buy, but I can pick up used magazines and books for 50 cents or a dollar. There was a craft store that advertised a restaurant that I planned to have lunch at, but when I arrived the sign on the door said the restaurant was closed this week. Oh well, I ate lunch in the RV.

I left Clovis and headed east on Highway 84, this road is in terrible condition, there was some chip sealing going on west of Clovis, but east of Clovis and into Texas and halfway to Lubbock it was just terrible.  Washboard, teeth chattering, the chip sealing had worn away and created ruts. I drove at least 40 miles like this until it finally smoothed out with real paving on the highway.  All along this highway are cotton fields and smelly cattle feed lots, I will never drive this section of Hwy. 84 again. I should have stayed on I-40.

Saturday night I stayed at the "Mesa Verde RV Park" in Wolfforth, TX.  I inquired as to why they called it Mesa Verde, and the person working in the office did not know.

There are no mesas here, this is flat, windy, high plains prairie.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Sunday, October 28th

Central time zone, the sun didn't rise until 8:00am.  I have a long drive today but I waited until the sun warmed things up before I unhooked the water this morning.

I pretty much drove straight through to my next campsite, stopping only for gas and to rest for a few minutes in an empty parking lot. I traveled on Hwy. 84 again, but this stretch of road was in much better condition.

I then traveled on Hwy's 153, 83, 87 and 71 through central Texas, these roads were in good condition - the speed limit is 70 on most of these roads. I always hear about the back roads being the slow, lazy traveling roads. Not here.

A few of the small towns looked interesting, but it didn't look like anything was open on Sunday, so I just kept on driving.

Drove past a lot of wind turbines, hundreds, no - actually, there had to be thousands of wind turbines (some very close to the road) and more cotton fields today. 

Sunday night camped at the Llano River Golf Course and RV Park. This is a very nice city run park along the banks of the Llano River. There is a day use area, no one was in that area of the park today, I'm thinking Fridays and Saturdays are probably busy here.

I walked all through the park along the river when I arrived and again at sunset.  

This is a park that I would be happy to stay at for more than a day, it is only about a mile to town, an easy bike ride or walk.

Site #12 said there are no
river view sites, I could see a little of the river
from my windows - but the trees are blocking the view

I am only about 2 hours from Camping World (I have a service appointment Tues morning) and I'm nearby family in San Antonio. I will be in this area for a couple of days and then head down to South Padre Island.

Sunday - drove 317 miles
fuel @ Post, TX - 3.499
fuel @ Eden, TX - 3.499

Drake Tax Software

Overnight stays in these states:

Overnight stays in these states:
It is the sandstorm that shape the stone statues of the Desert. It is the struggles of Life that form a person's character ~ Native American Proverb