July 2015 Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Washington

IMG_11981 July 2015

What a wonderful day! I awoke to the sound of rain with Thunder and Lightning that blew quickly across the Aquidneck Island and Newport. I truly enjoyed lying in bed listening to rain. The thunder was another story as it was a rolling, rumbling thunder that vibrated everything.

Paul Saunders joined me around 11am and I followed him in my Jeep to his house. From there we began a walking tour of Newport from the perspective of a native that grew up here. He showed me the home he grew up in, he lives in the house his wife grew up in and then he continued the tour with a continuous dialog of who lived where and how it was in his youth, mostly his teenage years. We walked past the Newport mansions on our way to the ‘Cliff Walk’. Mind you Paul didn’t mention we were taking a long walking tour so he is in flip flops and I am wearing some heavy duty leather top sandals that have plenty of tread on them. I say this because our walking tour on ‘Cliff Walk’ was 5.45 miles before we stopped off at the ‘O’Briens Pub’ for lunch that included a local beer brew. The fish and chips were great and the two beers better.

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We then took another mile walk around the piers, all the while Paul is giving me a history lesson. I loved the entire experience!

According to Wikipedia Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States. It is located 30 miles (48 km) south of Providence, and 70 miles (110 km) south of Boston. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and a major United States Navy training center. A major 18th-century port city, Newport now contains among the highest number of surviving colonial buildings of any city in the United States. Newport was known for being the city of some of the “Summer White Houses” during the administrations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

Here are a few photos of Cliff Walk, the mansions and other sights.

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No hike is complete without the flowers.

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A view from the Cliff Walk

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The ’49  Steps’

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Walking Cliff Walk

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A Rhode Island law states that the ocean access belongs to all. While there may be no parking, the city maintains access roads.

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Memorials are placed in the rocks on the beach to recognize those that have died on/in the sea.

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The Vanderbilt’s Tea House

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We passed through two tunnels on the Cliff Walk.

My Battle Buddy Paul Saunders

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All the rock formations and this Island were formed by the Glaciers of the Ice Age.

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Beggars Beach for all of us normal people on the right and the oh so rich people’s beach on the left!

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A couple of the beautiful trees in the neighborhood.

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Now a home but this used to be the garage for the owners of the Mansions cars and carriages or stables for the horses at the turn of the century 1880-1920.

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A very old graveyard in Newport.

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This building is not used for blacksmithing any longer but still retains the logo.

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4th of July 2015

Yesterday Paul and I again walked all over Newport. This time we headed toward the Newport Downtown area. We passed through the shopping area and he explained what the shops were when he was a teenager and the trouble he would get into! We passed through the historic area with all the colonial homes and it is amazing how close together many of them are. As he stated more than once, you can shake hands with your neighbor while in the bathroom!

We gathered up Cherie, Paul’s better half and we visited two wineries and beer brewery. I bought Paul a bottle of white port and myself a bottle of dry white dry Vidal Blanc. Cherie belongs to a couple of wine clubs and she picked up multiple bottles of wine from each of these vineyards. It seems that twice a year you receive an assortment of wines produced by the vineyard.  It was her time to receive her assortments. The peacefulness of the vineyards is a definite draw to slow down and have a quieter life! Hmmm, think I should retire and travel from quiet and beautiful spots to another equally as appealing? We stopped at the market and Paul purchased steaks for dinner and I contributed vegetables that I had in my fridge, acquired from a farm market in New Jersey as we never had time to prepare them with all the rain at the festival.

I went to Paul and Cherie’s house a little early to take them up on their kind offer of letting me use their laundry facilities as I will be leaving Newport tomorrow. After the laundry was in the washer Cherie and I left to go visit another vineyard. Paul is all about the beer and doesn’t especially like the vineyards. It seems that there is a prescribed tasting protocol at these vineyards. You either pay a fee to taste the wine or you are a member of the vineyards club and receive wine tastings as perk of membership. We received the basic 5 wines to taste and each vineyard seems to have 2 additional selections that you can pay additional money for.  The young man provided me with one of the bonus wines and thanked me for my service. How sweet of him.  Cherie and I visited a second vineyard but honestly I didn’t care for the wines of Newport. I thought they were weak and without body. Nothing to write home about!

Paul grilled vegetables and chicken for dinner and we talked until the fireworks started. As none of us were interested in joining the crowds I chose this time to leave Paul and Cherie to beat the crowds. I thanked them both for such a wonderful visit. This visit would’ve been more complete with Elena and Martina but I was able to come to closure with the issues from Afghanistan. Seeing Paul was the last step in this for me. I don’t tear up every time I think of MG Harold Greene and SGM Wardell Turner. I am now able to discuss them and the events in Kabul without emotion. I do hope that I’m not just suppressing it all as I have so many other tragic events in my life.

So, lessons learned on the road. I boon docked in a Knights of Columbus parking lot the entire time in Newport and the day before in Kearny, NJ. My fresh water was basically empty and my gray tank was basically full. So no shower before I went to bed on the 4th! The cost to purge my tanks was $20 and I didn’t like the looks of the place so I elected to drive the 120 miles to my next destination, Westover Air Force Reserve Base, Massachusetts before emptying my tanks and acquiring more water.

Some favorite photos from Newport.

The Providence in for repairs – Mast is broken

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Public Park at the North end of Newport near the old Colonial homes.

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The Harbor.

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Horseshoe crabs inside the harbor near the boat launchCrab1

One Crab riding another

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Oldest active Armory in the U.S.

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Cliff Walk

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11 July 2015

Westover Air Force Reserve Base, MA was a pleasant surprise as some of the reviews were pretty critical of the state of maintenance and cleanliness. The showers/restrooms were very clean as was the sites that I viewed. The grass did need cutting but that was my only complaint. The first thing I did upon checking in and dumping my black and gray tanks was to take a shower! The rest of the 5th of July was just checking out the Base. They have a bowling alley with snack bar and a fairly well stocked PX. The gas station and food shop included chocolate ice cream so all is good in Paula’s world!

On Tuesday the 6th I reviewed and edited both books I have in process: Afghanistan 2014 and my personal story. I had originally planned on staying all week at Westover and then head to the Good Sam’s Samboree in New York. I found out that the rally actually started Wednesday with tours of the local area and that I could check in on the 7th. So I changed my reservations at Westover and conveyed my plans to the Good Sam’s northeast director.  This is the camp site at Westover Air Force Reserve Base.

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All was good until I spoke with Alexis. She received her treatment schedule going into 2016 and she is having surgery on the 16th of July and would like for me to be there with her. Awesome, can you say ROADTRIP in a big way!? I’m sitting in Springfield, MA and I begin planning the trip to Indianapolis, IN and then onto Seattle. About 4,000 miles! I have 9 days to get there! I boondocked each night to save time and money. In Pennsylvania the Pilot station on I80 at exit 75 is a total NO GO! You cannot get in and out easily. I could have parked on the side and just blocked some of the parking spaces but the guy using the pump next to me had a very long trailer so I had to wait on him to finish and then he went inside the station on a shopping excursion. Of course by the time he finally pulled out my chosen spot was taken. I followed the signs for parking only to find that it is a dead end parking area and I cannot back up with the Jeep in tow. Yep, you guessed it, I had to unhook the Jeep, drive the RV to the area that I originally wanted because it is now empty! Then drive the Jeep over and hook it back up.  WOW, another lesson learned – walk the area before driving into it. Oh, it rained and rained some more just to make sure I am adept at driving with sheets of rain hitting the windshield. I survived. Maybe I’ll be able to take some of this rain to Seattle as they are having a drought!

I arrived in Indy on Thursday the 9th and used the afternoon to do laundry and Emily, Devin and I went out for a Sushi dinner. Lucky me I was able to talk to Gene Tumbarello and his wife Heidi for a few moments as they were also having Sushi for dinner.

Friday morning found me once again on the road west! I elected to travel northwestward on I74 through Illinois then Iowa, then on I80 to Omaha, NE to catch I29 to Sioux Falls where I began travelling on I90. I arrived in Rapid City, SD early enough to go to Mount Rushmore and take a couple of photos. Below is my first ever selfie.

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The horse in the foreground overshadows the Presidents on Mount Rushmore in the background!

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I’m finding that Flying J and Pilot gas stations are a hit or miss adventure. Most (not all) Flying J’s are good with having RV lanes that you can get in and out of. Pilot seems to have made their basic model on only cars or trucks. If I used diesel then that would be great but getting into and out of a Pilot is a challenge and I’ve learned to do a quick recon first to make sure I can get out! Flying J in Montana doesn’t give the discount to Good Sam’s members either. One station attendant gave me cash back and in Butte, Montana they told me too bad, no discounts offered.

Montana is pretty though. Just look at that sky and clean, clear air. I stopped at the border and ate lunch. I would’ve pulled up more if I had known so many other cars were going to pull over and take this same photo.

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I have reservations at the Thunderbird RV Resort in Monroe, WA for Monday, the 13th. I shouldn’t have a problem getting there as I’m averaging 600 miles a day.

Getting that first view of the mountains in the distance.

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On this trip I have crossed the Continental divide twice. I think the first time was in Pennsylvania and then here in the west too. Poor RV struggles up that last leg before seeing 6393 ft elevation at the Continental divide

Driving across the plains is somewhat of a challenge as there are strong wind gusts and trucks passing me that require quick adjustments to keep from being thrown off the road In Wyoming I kept passing large herds of Antelope. Joe would appreciate the ‘racks’ on some of these! These Antelope are much bigger than the ones I grew up knowing in the southeast corner of New Mexico.  I’ve seen many animals on this trip, many of them roadkill; porcupine, skunk, antelope, hawk, llama, goats and of course horses and cows.

So to pass the time on the road I am listening to music through my Bose noise cancelling earbuds because 1) radio reception is spotty, 2) using satellite radio via my iPhone uses data and I’ve almost used 15 gigabyte of data and my plan goes through the 17th! and 3) hearing the on my RV radio is bad with all the truck noise. I’m rocking out on the road listening to Enya, Jim Brickman, Burt Bacharach, Kenny G and other great easy listening artist! I know, you didn’t realize that these artists are road warrior rock stars did you?

Rain seems to have followed me for most of the trip and once in Washington State it was only a slight mist that messed up the windshield without the benefit of a soaking rain that is desperately needed here. It is very cool here though. 63 degrees at 0930! Definitely jacket weather! A strange phenomena that I’ve experienced in both the East coast mountains and the West coast mountains is the feeling that I am driving downhill when I’m actually driving uphill! My RV Rand McNally GPS has the option to provide elevation to me and I watch the numbers increase when it definitely appears that I’m going down. Optical illusion or old age?

Montana seems to be the land of the gas station casino. Names like Lucky Lil and American Indian names highlight the billboards. The road conditions in the western United States are MUCH better than those in the Midwest and East. This surprises me because the roads out west go on forever with many more miles and Interstate 90 gets horrible winter snows that close the road. The scenery is overwhelming in that nature and what the glaciers did to the land are ever present as I drive. I would have preferred to travel these states with an intent of taking a long, long time and just wandering the backroads but I’m ok with this fast trip. I passed by Yellowstone and marked that it is about 800 miles from Alexis so we may still be able to make the trip before she resumes her life again after surgery and radiation treatments.

As I passed through Coeur d’Alene I was reminded of Lake Tahoe and my summer excursions while a Finance Director with Job Corps where we would ride an old boat on the lake while socializing with other directors from around the country. The landscape after Spokane turned into desert! The highway follows the Columbia River for a period.

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As I approached Seattle I wanted to find a National Forest park to sleep before completing the trip on Monday. I finally found a place in the Wenatchee Nat’l Forest. This was not without its own drama though! The signs stated that there were two campgrounds. One was clearly identified as being across the highway and I chose to follow the one of this side of the road thinking it would be closer. There were also picnic areas identified on the signs but no real indication of where the campground was. The first road I turned down ended in a barred road where lots of cars were parked, apparently day hikers. No way to turn around so I had to disengage the Jeep, turn around and re-engage to travel on. I did find the correct road for the campground on my third try and drove the few miles through heavily wooded, twisting and winding roads. At the campground itself the entrance appeared to me to be a one-way exit so I continued on the road a short distance until I realized I was outside of the campground and that there would be no entrance. Yeppers, you guessed it. I had to disengage the Jeep, turn around and then re-engage the Jeep to tow it to the campground. I’m getting pretty good at this! But it was worth it. The campsite was nestled in among huge trees towering into the sky. Just at the entrance to my site is the roots of a fallen tree that must’ve really shaken the ground when it fell!

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The photo below puts the size of this tree in perspective!

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I arrived Monday, the 13th at the Thunderbird RV Resort in Monroe, WA where I will be until the 23rd. I’ll make arrangements on Tuesday for another location on or near the coast but still close to Alexis in Seattle.

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That first hug from Alexis was so anticipated and it did not disappoint me. She stayed for dinner and we just talked for a while before taking the Jeep so Alexis could take photos of the cows and the river. At the river we were able to drive out on the rocks for quite a way due to the low level of the water. I sure hope it rains soon! Apparently there wasn’t the snow fall last winter nor rain this spring to support the river and I hear that California is almost out of water.

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A fitting end to a wonderful day is the lavender sunset seen through the trees at the Thunderbird RV Resort.

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17 July 2015

Yah! Alexis has successfully completed surgery and is in terrific spirits! As I was called into the recovery room I find that Alexis is already munching on cheese and crackers while drinking orange juice.  I’m so glad that I was able to be here in Seattle for her. Now she only has 28 Proton radiation treatments to accomplish over a 5 ½ week period. She should be able to start those within the next three weeks.

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On the way home we stop and purchase her some extra boxes and packing supplies that included mattress covers and sofa covers. Now it is all about helping her to move into a new apartment. While not visiting with her and my friend Joe that lives here in Seattle I am getting back to writing on my books.

First let me tell about a couple of innovations I have done with the RV. I went to Lowes and purchased ‘Sun Screen Fabric’. This is a roll of fabric that is 6’ by 15’. Perfect size as the sides where the sun is killing me here is 7.5’ and cutting a roll in half has provided me with the needed sun screen for this location. I bought 2 rolls though and have used a decorative duck tape to seal the edges against unravelling so that I’ll be ready for the next location that may require me to place the screen across the awning length. I was able to get light holders and S hooks at Wal-Mart that allows me to connect to the grommets that I placed every 2’ on the screen. Life is much more pleasant with the bright sun screened off and the temperature is actually lower in the shade!

Next I purchased a much thicker rubberized shelf liner to help keep things from sliding around. Now I just have to envision how to organize/reorganize my shelf space as I put it in place. I was able to secure the three burner stove top better so hopefully I won’t have as many issues with the shake, rattle and roll noise as I travel down the road!

Last night some of the children from the RV Park put on a concert. They even wrote out and issued tickets for the event. I did record a couple of their songs on my iPhone as a memory!

I woke up this morning to 55 degrees. By noon it was over 80 degrees but I like to sleep in the cool so having all my windows open at night has  been very pleasant and then sitting outdoors as much as possible, catching the cool mountain breezes as it passes through these tall pines is so sweet. It was cool so I decided to prepare breakfast inside the RV this morning. I prepared what I call the Jennifer daily vegetable omelet.  Jennifer stated to me that she gets her daily dosage of vitamins by sautéing vegetables and placing them in an omelet each morning. So I chopped and diced a scallion, a Yukon potato, some zucchini, some yellow squash, a baby portabella mushroom and a sweet red pepper to sauté prior to adding a couple of eggs and cheese.  Well as I was chopping the veggies I was also cooking the sausage using the induction plate. Even though it was chilly outdoors I had to open the door as the smoke/fire alarm goes off! I should’ve just been cooking outside anyway!

I’m going to have to find some biking or hiking trails near here to provide me with some exercise or else I’ll spend all day writing and eating and drinking. Isn’t retirement sweet?

29 July 2015

My how time has flown by! I don’t remember days of the week or even the dates of activities but here is what I’ve been doing. Most importantly is Alexis and her health. She is feeling great and is getting much better as the chemo works its way through her body. She is still waiting on news from her medical team to begin radiation therapy. She has no body fat and that concerns them. Proton radiation may be out and regular radiation in because of that. I’ll let you know when radiation starts. I am scheduled to be here in the Seattle area until Sept 4th and hopefully she will be finished by then. A state department friend of mine, Mary Eileen, is planning on joining me after Labor Day and we can begin traveling eastward and visit the Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons and Mount Rushmore. I don’t know how much time she will have but I’m really looking forward to a travel companion for a while.

Alexis picked the hottest day ever – 99 degrees – to have me come help her pack up her apartment and move a few items into storage. At least the day we loaded up the UHaul truck it was only 77! Two loads that we finished at about 1930 and I was exhausted. I’m so glad that her friend Jeff stopped by and helped with many of the heavier boxes and bulky items. Then Alexis cleaned the apartment and I stayed at the RV Park and recuperated!

Alexis and Orion, her Dalmatian pet came and stayed with me as she is now officially homeless! I moved from Thunderbird RV Park to La Conner RV Park where I will be until the 14th of August. Alexis was with me as we made the move and we found this nice little spot with full hook up. Alexis cleaned up the table and placed a tablecloth on it and I hoisted the colors! Ready for visitors and relaxation!

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La Conner is actually on an Indian Reservation and we took a walk on the beach before going into town and enjoying a local restaurant.

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Alexis asked me to come in and help get her new apartment together. Alexis and I took on the yard work while her new roommate Janice began in the house. A trip to Home Depot proved fruitful as we were able to get a weed eater, lawnmower, paint, paint brushes/rollers and pans, electrical cords, materials to make screens with (had to build 3 to cover windows where there is no air-conditioning), air mattresses for the girls to sleep on until the furniture can be moved in, rake, hoe and of course trash bags. After just a couple of days the landlord is unable to believe the transformation that the apartment has undergone. Janice is a whiz at patching and plastering and has made major improvements by patching large areas in all the rooms. Every room has been painted and looks so much better than the before pictures would ever suggested. Each night I have cheated and returned to the La Conner RV Park where I have showered before going to bed. The girls have not been able to shower for a couple of nights because the bathroom was totally in shambles. Yesterday the shower curtain was put up and I hope they were able to enjoy a luxuriating shower!

While I was scouting the neighborhood to see if I could find a dumpster to use for the multiple trash cans and bags that we had accumulated I encountered the self proclaimed ‘man of the neighborhood’. As I began walking toward him he warily looks at me and asks if he should be afraid of me. I immediately answered ‘absolutely’. We had a long conversation and he gives me the history of the neighborhood. It seems that all the work the girls and I have been doing is noticed by others in the neighborhood as some of the neighbors are now cutting the grass by the street and picking up around their yards. The ‘man of the neighborhood’ asked me yesterday if I was taking applications for yard work as there was much more to be done! I told him no. I’m done! So now the house is freshly painted and I’m just waiting for the girls to tell me when moving day is so I can come in and complete the task!

La Conner is an interesting place. As I’ve said this is an Indian Reservation with a beautiful view. I’m not certain what these pavilions are for but they look like volcanos and are at an angle. Then the view of the mountains has a ‘wow’ factor!

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