Thursday, July 7, 2016

The tardiness of this update is a direct reflection on our level of activity:

Aaaannnnnnddddd it's going to be a loooonnnnngggg one:

Last month at J. Tree, a month on the road and The CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS.....It is now 2 months and 3 weeks since my last update (sorry loyal devotees!).  We are now settled in at Camp Zion, Ellison Bay, WI, where we will summer for the most part.

We quickly settled back in to our Camp Zion routine: work hard (HARD) all day and wind down
around the campfire

or watch sunsets


or dive in the bay 

(or all of the aforementioned) at night:

But, in the previous 2 months enough events have occurred that could fill ones lifetime, much less 2 months!

We begin by going back to the end of March, while still at Joshua Tree.

If it wasn't so ridiculous, I would put this story into the LAUGH OF THE MONTH category....oh, what the heck, let's put it there anyway.  When you have been Camp Hosts as long as we have you begin to recognize the signs of a lost camper, especially when they are maneuvering awkwardly (at best) a 26 ' rig.  As this big class "C" stood still for a moment (apparently in the decision making process) I approached the driver (a woman in her mid 60's), her husband in the passenger seat:
ME- "can I help you?"
HER- " no, we don't need your help, we know to read the dates on the tags".
ME- "OK, let me know if you change your mind".

20 minutes later I find them trying to navigate between 2 campsites that were so close together, I would not have taken my truck into them.  As the driver very nearly mows down two Joshua Trees and a tent, she, by the Grace of God, makes it out of there in one piece, and as they pass me on the road I say:
ME-  "Can I help you?"
I am quickly dismissed by the male passenger (now on foot).
20 minutes, while on evening rounds, I spot the RV backed into site #97,  bump outs extended,jacks down, apparently bedded down for the night.  This would have been fine, except for the fact that site 97 had been reserved by another set of campers who were due to arrive anytime.  I locate Mr. "No, we don't need your help" and point out the obvious reservation reflected on the tag, and explaining that they will have to move.  As this man begins to protest, he turns and looks in the direction of the tag.  Suddenly he stops talking, mid sentence, and says:
HIM- "Oh Yea"
ME- "how about I help you find a spot"
I quickly scan the campground chart and assign them site #79 along with an offer to lead them to the site.
HIM- "no, we can find it".
Now the funny part: moments later this guy is back at our RV, pointing the wrong direction and saying ...
HIM- "is it over there?"
ME- pointing the opposite direction "no, its over there, would you like me to lead you there?"
Almost an hour after our first conversation Mr. and Mrs. "No, We Know The Ropes" were settled in at their campsite.  
Yes, it takes all kinds.  The world is made up of billions of people, and we are all very different from each other.  Good reason not to be critical of people.  I would hope that when it becomes clear how different I am from everybody else, maybe I will catch a break and a good laugh instead of criticism.

It was this kind of acceptance of people that kept me from:
A-becoming very discouraged in our work, or
B-saying something to a citizen I was sure to later to regret

Patience and an ability to know when to keep my lips closed came in handy again before we left Joshua Tree (rare situations indeed, especially having 3 close together).

Setting the scene:  it was our final 3 days at Joshua Tree, our last day of work which as to be followed by 2 days off to break camp and head east.  Now, 10:30 PM, well after "quiet hours" and we were experiencing a louder than usual campground.  Rather than drive the golf cart around to quell the overzealous campers, Bill and I began to walk our "noise abatement" rounds.  Short and polite conversations occur between us and the campers at sites 15, 17, 21, 22 and 24.  A very loud group of 5 (3 guys and 2 girls in they're early 30's) at site 26 gets our attention and in the glow of, our flashlights we approached.  It takes a bit, but the group finally notices our presence and Bill launches into our usual appeal to "save yourselves some money" and bring the volume back to acceptable levels before Law Enforcement comes through and starts writing those $250.00 tickets.  One of the two "ladies" in the group, voice becoming louder and louder, begins a verbal attack on us.  During her tirade, she became so out of control, her boyfriend tried to quiet her by placing his hand over her mouth.  She simply slapped his hand away and continued on.  Bill and I escalate our reasoning skills, but this young lady, possibly under the influence of alcoholic beverage, continued to berate us using language not repeatable here.  Her last words to us, as I grabbed Bill's hand to pull him away, were"I'm a f______g attorney and I know the law!"  Back at the safety of our campsite call was placed to our law enforcement Ranger.  A record response time and 20 minutes later we were explaining the situation to our L.E.  (M) then headed to the area of the offending campsite.  45 minutes later M returned to us, leaving campsite 26 quiet and dark in his wake.  M's observations:  there was NO, I mean ZERO, signs of alcohol consumption at the site.  Also, upon M's initial approach to site 26, he found it dead quiet.  Despite the current state of affairs, M conversed with these young people who did admit to using some colorful language.  They also stated "Yes, the camp hosts spoke to us last night about quiet hours".  "But we weren't making any noise tonight and they were harassing us".  As the group was about to retire for the evening and scheduled to depart the next morning, M issued a verbal warning and let it go.  As our goal (a quieter campsite) was accomplished, this action met with our full approval.
The next morning at 10:00 AM I overheard some VERY loud music coming from the area of campsite #24.  As music THIS loud is prohibited at any time of the day, now in my golf cart I approached site 24.   A group of young people were standing around a car, with all 4 doors open, while they bade each other adieu.  With a backdrop of blaring rock music I approached the kids and asked:
ME-"Could you guys drop that down just a notch?'
They responded with blank faces and:
THEM-"it's not our music"
ME- (quizzically)- "Who's music is it?"
All six of those kids in site 24 turned as 1 and pointed at site #26, where the young people from the night before sat around the picnic table, boom box blaring away.  The night before M had asked us: "do not deal with them anymore, call us".  Being a rule follower, I backed away and headed to our Visitor Center to notify our Ranger.  I could hear the music all the way back to the VC, no small a distance.  I then advised Janice, and donning her Ranger hat, she headed out to speak to the group.  I suspect site 26 had a "lookout", for when Janice approached, she found a very quiet campsite.  Janice walked a short distance past the campsite before beginning her return leg.  As she again passed the campsite, the entire group started laughing loudly.  Janice returned to the VC and told me what had happened.  My first thought was "what are you 5 years old?".  My next thought was:  we did our job and we did it well.  Don't let  the little people get you down, otherwise they win.  End of story!

Now, during our time at Joshua Tree this was the most negative incident we had encountered.  Not  bad for 7 months.  Then came our final two days, days off!  How much trouble could we get into?

Once again I set the stage for you: 7 months in the high desert...can you say "desert dust?"  Our blue/green plastic patio was brown with it, and in preparation for packing it away clean, I began to rinse the driveway off to prepare a working surface.  As I attended to the first step in this process, my attention was drawn to the road, where a man walking by stopped to watch me.  Within seconds he (a white male in his mid 60's) made a sarcastic comment:  "boy if I did that I would get arrested".  Thinking he was kidding , I smiled and continued with my chore.  This man continued to make a few more snide remarks, both derogitory in nature and foul in language.  I was caught off kilter by both the tone and the words.  I simply continued on with my work, it being obvious this person was emotionally unstable and any remarks I might make would just escalate the situation (whatever it was).  The man eventually left without getting any satisfaction from me.  A few minutes later an RV pulled up and stopped at the end of our driveway.  The same man jumped out of the vehicle with his cell phone raised and saying:
HIM-  "congratulations you're going to become famous for making YouTubes first A--H--- of the week".
ME (admittedly tired of this guy) looked up and smiled-"No, I think you beat me to that".  I immediately regretted giving him even this much satisfaction and continued on my task.  Well, the resultant explosion was like gasoline on a fire!  NOW, he really blew!  Carried on for another 4 to 5 minutes.  I never really did figure out what his problem with me was, though whatever my indiscretion, it had to be great considering his level of displeasure with me.  Later, when I spoke to my Ranger, she said it had something to do with me "watering the concrete".  Although this is uncertain, as this man never asked me what I was doing.
Suffice it to say, our time volunteering in the National Parks, Historical Sites, Seashores etc is not without its challenges.  But, the occasion of really mean people is so rare as to be almost nonexistent and certainly not a deterrent to Bill and I continuing to give away our retirement to a National Park System that we love so much.


A full week prior to this last event the mood was much lighter as Bill worked around the RV.  Then he noticed a couple standing in campsite #1 (next door to our host site).  Not unusual for people to be standing at a campsite, but this couple's stance got Bill's attention,  for lovers of nature know that familiar look of other nature lovers who have spotted something interesting.  Hard to describe, but we nature lovers know it when we see it (akin to our Yellow Lab being "on point").  This is what was being observed:

What turned out to be a new home/den to 3 adult Badgers.

The den had appeared overnight.  

Bill and I "coned" the area off and notified "protection" (those in charge of protecting ALL natural resources).  Protection moved in and cordoned off 8 campsites.  Seemed a little extreme to us, but that's Protection for you.  Over the next week Bill and I watched people slip under the tape and cut straight across the safety zone to get to the bathroom, rather than walk the length of 1 additional campsite (30 feet).  We also had a young boy (11 years old) ride his bike, right in front of us, into the protected zone (almost over the den).  The boys Dad was walking down the street watching him.  When Bill and I called the boy out of the protected zone, he continued to ride his bike in circles, very nearly on top of the den.  The father continued along on his stroll, indifferently, except for giving us a dirty look.  Fortunately, the badgers were hunkered down during both of these incidents and they continued to make daily appearances to the pleasure of our nature loving photographers and Education Rangers.  The latter used the opportunity as a teaching tool for school groups who needed little encouragement, other than the promise of seeing the Badgers in the wild, to stand very quietly outside of the barricaded area and wait patiently.

Other random critters we had close encounters with near the end of our time at Joshua Tree:  

With the warmer weather, our campground tortoise returns...and Yes, that is dinner hanging out of his mouth.

Female Gamble Quail

Male Gamble Quail

Chuckwalla Lizard
Rosy Boa Snake (lots of these)

Mourning Dove
Scott's Oriole
  The closest encounter of all was between this guy and Jan, when she disturbed his sleeping quarters at the base of the woodpile.  I think he was as startled as I was!

In addition to all the critter fun, our final week at Joshua Tree was sprinkled with several "goodbye" events which gave us the chance to hang casually with our cohorts from the National Park Service, as well as, our California friends and family.

Always wanted to see Quartzite, AZ and lunch there, the halfway point between where our friends Brad and Lynne were wintering in their 5th wheel and us, gave Bill and I the perfect opportunity!  Lunch was great, but Quartzite wasn't much to write home about!

Lynne and Bradford

Bonus: the cloud formations on the way back home were spectacular:

The parties began in earnest soon after Quartzite....this hummingbird crashed the gathering at Lorna's and Mikes!


A "so long" lunch was a must do with George and Kathy, our fellow volunteers and friends, as they head off to Dana Point a week before we leave for Door County.  Very tough saying goodbye to these new friends!

George and Kathy Cunning

We had fun watching the "pet" chickens at Mike and Terry's, as well as, the revelation that "Elk" burgers taste great!  Still, the highpoint of the day was the sidewalk art time with Mike's granddaughter:

 LAYLA is a budding artist and Mr. Bill was happy to give her some pointers!

Driving north to meet with Jennifer, Bri and Levi for lunch in Riverside was, as always, fun family time.

Levi finds Uncle Bill fascinating

Bill, Jan Jennifer, Bri and Levi
And, last but not least, on our final night at J. Tree we had a nice dinner at Connie and Jerry's home in Yucca Valley, CA.  

Connie and Jerry Seaburg

Involves not a "child", but MY child, now a grown man.  James arrived for a visit with 3 of his friends.  Their purpose?  Climb Joshua Tree National Park(JT is a world renowned destination location for serious mountain climbers).  A week of climbing, cooking (with Greg) and eating, and the "kids" were headed back to their homes near Denver.  In James' case, his 1st house, who's sale to James and Sarah was completed just after  his visit with us.

Wayne, Ranger Janice's hubby, was their guide.

James loves to free climb

Angela is, according to the guys, a very competent climber.

It will make a great picture James, but tough to get to.



A final dinner:  these guys can eat!
If your "KID MOMENT OF THE MONTH" has to be  a child, look no further than

these precious moments between this little camper and Tessa.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.


Seven months at one location is unusual for us (the average being 4 months), but the heavy rains of spring and summer 2015 promised a wonderful dessert bloom!  I (Jan) had never seen the dessert in bloom, so my request to stay a few months longer was a no brainer for Bill, who just likes to make me happy:-)

The dessert did not disappoint, with every hike some new bloom greeted us:

Prickly Pear
Paper Bag Bush
Purple Mat
Dessert Dandylion
Apricot Mallow

Scale Bud
Hedgehog Cactus
Dessert Dandylion
 Phacelia (purple) 
Wallace's Woolly Daisy (Beavertail in the background)

 The Joshua Trees were the first to bloom and staying the extra 4 months was worth for the Joshua Trees alone.

Joshua Tree

So, except for a couple of disgruntled campers our last few days at Joshua Tree, we had a great time there.  Those two little situations had no effect on our love of people and enthusiasm for the job!  Leaving J. Tree and heading "home" was about to take us on some crazy new adventures.  When it comes to heading home, one thing is/has been true:
#1- we NEVER schedule or plan any distances/hours of driving in a day/stopovers, nighttime stops etc.
So, we fly by the seat of our pants and have been blessed with good luck thus far.
Our return to the Midwest this year was going to be different.  With scheduled stops on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd nights.  Reservations were a necessity, we did not like being on a "schedule", but the people and places we visited were well worth the inconvenience.

First up, just 5 hours out of J. Tree:  The Hualapai (wall ahhh pie) Ranch at the West Grand Canyon, 

Hualapai Ranch: nice accommodations!

I managed to keep my problem with heights under control as we stepped out onto this marvel of man's engineering.  With the Colorado River 3.5 miles away, we were thrilled to see not 1, but 2 flocks of white Seagulls migrating south in V formation.  The young man shadowing us taking pictures said "in 8 years of being out here, I have never seen that".  We felt pretty lucky. 
The Grand Canyon Skywalk

Staying that night at The Hualapai Ranch, we had planned to take advantage of the "Cowboy Campfire" as well as the horseback ride.  Though  the weather did not cooperate for those events, the overcast skies made for a very different mood of the Canyon.  

The canyon, was to us just as fulfilling as being there on a bright, sunny day.    In the background you can see the promise of interesting skies over the west rim.  You know us, not to let a little weather get in the way of a good time, in the evening, when we should have been riding the horses, we strolled around the paddocks to visit with them.  

Even Tessa made some new friends

Since we were so close to the Petrified Forest , we figured a quick stop to get a Passport Stamp and a short look would be time well spent.  If you do not have a National Parks Passport book, you are

missing out.  Check out  I have about 20 stamps in my book, and am proud of those....but I talked to a guy in his 90's when we were at LBJ NHP who was there to get his "last Texas stamp".  He had already filled 6 other Passports.

Because our time is usually our own, and it was a short trip the next day to the Denver area, when we see this sign, or  Gander Mountain or Bass Pro Shops, a stop will be made!

Continuing East, our travels take us thru Denver.  Yay!  We get to see the Royal Gorge (which I have not been to since I was 13 and with my parents.....

Dad and I walked out to the middle together.  Mom couldn't make it.  Mom is the reason I strive diligently to overcome my fear of heights as evidenced by these last few days.  If we let fear stop us from doing things, our lives would be pretty colorless....

AND:  we get to see James, Sarah and their new home in Arvada,CO

This gave us the perfect chance for a housewarming gift, and we hauled home a Red Maple.  Tessa's patience seemed like it was worth it and they seem to love it, because James (and Ken) immediately dragged it to the back yard and set it down.

When Sarah saw it she said "when I heard about
it, THAT is the exact spot I thought it should go".


Sarah, by the way, is my new daughter-in-law.  She and James were married in Mexico, June 25th

And speaking of married, Kelly (AKA my Baby Girl) was married to Michael on May 29th in New York.

The weddings could not have been more different from each other, but both were beautiful!  And, in one respect, they were very much alike:  both weddings were small, intimate gatherings, comprised of parents, siblings and best friends only.  That was how Bill and I did it, and how nice it was!

Back to Arvada for a moment to bring you: THE RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH!
Just a short day and a half stop over wasn't long enough (never is), but we closed our time with James out with lunch at Fuzzy's Taco Shop.  Now keep in mind, Fuzzy's has some stiff competition after 20 years of eating Mexican food every week and all across this country, and with Lily's (Parker, AZ) holding the number 1 position, Fuzzy's didn't really stand a chance!  Yet, despite these obstacles, after lunch with James and his buds, Fuzzy's emerges as the new 1st place holder for "BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT".  The food UNBELIEVABLE!!!!  At really good prices!  The staff warm and friendly!

And BONUS!!!!!  It is a "chain", so check out their locations at

And for those of you lucky enough to live in Oklahoma or Texas (or Arvada, CO), do not blame me for your new addiction.  I think Bill and I will start planning our driving routes based on Fuzzy's locations....just sayin.  Try them out whenever you will be saying...

and I will be saying...

We are now, by this time, off a schedule again.  The next leg east toward Lake Zurich ends, on a comfortable day of driving, near  Des Moines, Iowa.  So, it is a no brainer figuring out where to stay:-)  

Jill and Ben Bright and their kids live in Van Meter, Iowa, a perfect 6.5 hours from our destination.

Jill is the sister of our son-in-law Brett.  One of the most fun families we have ever known.  When we stop, they graciously provide us a place to park, a great meal, friendship and cut throat games of Wizard.  A visit there is always something we look forward to.

After this, unusually late night, we head off to Lake Zurich, IL and my bestie Audrey,

who's absence from, I take the hardest when we are away.  

The short time at "home" was a whirlwind of visits with friends: the old "hood"

... in it's entirety for the first time since we moved away, 

Kevin and Beth at our old stompin grounds of a/every Fiday night (Tacos El Norte),   

Audie's 80th birthday party (surprise)

dinner with Sandy and Bill, time with Linda, 

and our Italian friends from long, long ago Angela and Adrian and her brother Vince,

"stop chewing Vin"

AWA family time: Mother's Day with Tami and Brett,

Kelly's wedding in New York,

We were grateful that step-sisters Tami (husband Brett, daughter  Natalie), and Cindy (with boyfriend Michael) were able to attend. 
seeing the youngest grands,
Teagan and Papa reading time
Moira singing "this little light of mine" to papa
My (Jan's) cousin Lee, Bill's daughter Christy and her husband Jim (a fabulous grill cook),  Bill's youngest daughter Cindy with grands Johnny, Christine and Kate,

and Bill's kid sister Kathy
(who lives in a group home for people with special needs) and Jan's cousin Lee.... these are always the most special of times.

Closing with the thought that I better start the next blog update.

Since our friends are such an important part of our lives I leave you with this Bible verse:

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Until next time!


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