Monthly Archives: November 2013

Day 149 – Do Not March on Moscow

Day 149 – Friday, November 22, 2013

We “Did not march on Moscow” as advised by British Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery;

Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: “Do not march on Moscow”. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. (In the House of Lords, 30 May 1962)

We did however drive from Cobourg to Moscow, ON to spend the week at Julie’s (maiden name Holmes) parent’s home. We met her sister Susan and brother-in-law Ron at the “Holmestead”.

We left Cobourg around noon in the cold wet drizzle and headed east on the 401 to the Napanee exit. We stocked up on food and drink in Napanee and then headed north to the village of Moscow. Ron and Susan were already there and had opened up the house and turned up the heat. Julie made us all grilled cheese, tuna melts, and clam chowder for supper. It was really tasty on a cold damp evening. We visited and got caught up on family news and all reminisced about the good times at Jim and Vera’s. Julie notes “Yes the house was warm, along with the welcome. It was good to be ‘holmes’ again. Different without the folks here, but good. The family has been working at organizing and sorting so stuff has been shuffled and moved. WTF (Where’s The Furniture?) But as Tom Jones sings ‘The old house looks the same…at the green, green grass of Holmes.’ Thanks to all of them for bearing the brunt of that burden.”

The east bound 401.

Of course, we pass The Big Apple at Brighton on the 401. Our kids always thought this landmark was a highlight of the drive.

Brother-in-law Ron (Montreal Canadiens #1 fan) and Julie’s sister Susan.

I think they were glad to see us. Otherwise they get pretty silly by themselves. J Julie notes ‘With the telephone, satellite and wifi all disconnected they have had to find ways to entertain themselves. This is one of them. The other was watching some of many movies and shows that their son Jacob downloaded for them on the big computer. Johnny Depp had us laughing in our seats as Tonto, in the Lone Ranger. A good pick by the movie gurus.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick.

Julie notes “The spiders have been busy holding the house together with their webs. Enjoy the night my 8 legged, 8 eyed little arachnid friends. Tomorrow you will see the wrath of the spider hunter.”




Day 148 – Oh Canada!

Day 148 – Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today we crossed the border into Canada. We drove 527 kilometres from Munroe, MI to my sister Janet’s home near Cobourg, ON. Julie notes “Gordon Lightfoot aptly started off our journey with ‘In the Early Morning Rain’. It was a bit gloomy day but it didn’t dampen our spirits as we were homeward bound (a Simon and Garfunkle song that should’ve played but didn’t). The Lovin Spoonful sang ‘Darling Be Home Soon’ though to keep our motivation up.”

We followed I-75 into Detroit, MI and crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada at Windsor, ON. From there it was a straight shot on the 401 to Cobourg, ON.

The Detroit skyline as we approached.

We’re close!

Crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, ON, CANADA.

The Windsor, ON skyline from the bridge.

The border crossing for passenger vehicles was pretty much empty and no wait time. A nice treat compared to Central America border crossings. We spoke with a Border Services Officer who directed us into the main building after we declared our goods. We had to pay the GST on the items over our individual allowance. We were across the border in less than 30 minutes. No complaints here. Julie notes “One trucker was getting a talking to while we were in declaring but the dressing down was in that polite but stern Canadian style and no machine guns were involved. We wanted to tell him how lucky he was this wasn’t the Panama/Costa Rica border.”

I love our flag. Nice to be “home”. Julie notes “WTF! Wave That Flag!”

Julie’s windmill money shot for the day. WTF – Windmills Turning Freely

Some beautiful old south-western Ontario farms. It is very flat in this area of Ontario.

If you don’t believe the Canadian flag picture, then this should prove our arrival back in Canada.

A toast to our homeland!

More contours in the land appear as we travel eastward through Ontario.

And more traffic as we traveled the 401. Julie notes “To keep us motivated in the heavy traffic, the iTunes came through again with sister Janet’s favourite artist Tina Turner blasting out ‘Proud Mary’.”

Janet was still at work when we arrived in Cobourg but her daughter Jenny was there to greet us. Julie notes “First family member after 4 months and she looked amazing! A sight for sore eyes.”

We ordered a chicken fajita pizza from supper. No, again, it’s not a salad. Julie notes “But note there are green things on top so again we are calling it ‘salad like’.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick posting from Canadian soil.

Julie notes “Now let’s hear that collective sigh of relief. It was an adventure but there’s no place like home.”




Day 147 – Holy Toledo!

Day 147 – Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Julie notes “Sorry for the lapse in reports after our ‘Three Blog Night’ a week ago. We are now speed blogging to catch up. Get ready to be superblogged.”

Today we drove about 627 kilometres from Effingham, IL to Munroe, MI right through Toledo, OH. It is a very industrialized area around Toledo. There is also quite a bit of agriculture in the rural areas. The trees are mostly hardwoods so we know we are in the east. Julie notes “For those of you concerned, we did start gradually speaking to each other again as we realized we were stuck with just each for a few more miles before we would reach family reinforcements. The iTunes belted out the ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ which is what we may have been suffering from as we come to the realization that our adventure is slowly winding to a close. Then K.D. Lang was singing ‘Hallelujah’ maybe praising the fact we were soon to be back to our home land. Or that we were speaking to each other again. Or maybe echoing Brad’s thoughts that there weren’t near as many windmills to take blurry pictures of in this region. But there were lots of nice farms and some silos.”

We stopped for lunch in Anderson, IN at Ruby Tuesday. This was our first visit to this chain and it was pretty good. We both had the salad bar, as promised. Don’t tell anybody, but Julie also tried their Tempura green beans and I added a chicken tortilla soup. Julie notes “My porridge from the hotel breakfast bar was wearing off, and I needed to keep my energy up in case we did get back into a windmill zone. Need to keep the energy up for camera clicking.”

We got a room at the Hampton Inn in Munroe, IL before heading out for dinner. We had some accounting to do before crossing the border into Canada. A 20 minute job of sorting out our purchases turned into about an hour and a half. Julie was right again. I was going to try and sort this out at a gas station parking lot but she convinced me we should just get a hotel in Munroe for the night to get things sorted out. Julie notes “It’s not easy being right all of the time, but being the humble, quiet sort of person that I am, I just take it all in stride and mumble loudly under my breath ‘I told you so’, leading to Lesson #147 ‘Listen to the Sidekick ’cause she knows stuff.'”

We wondered if we were going the right way when we were welcomed to Brazil. Maybe we made it to South America after all?

Holy Toledo!

There were some beautiful old farms in the rural areas. It was actually quite flat through much of our travels today. Julie notes “Must’ve been homesick for the old farmsteads because I took numerous shots along the way. The itchy camera finger is a curse.”

This is a shot of a guy who didn’t want the factory air option and thought his red-neck idea was better; a small generator and a window mounted AC unit in the back of the truck. He is heading to Detroit to sell this idea to the big manufacturers. Julie notes “Best of luck to him. Looks like a sure thing to me. And while we passed him and his creation, Jim Croce was signing about ‘moving me down the highway.'”

After some bill sorting, we headed to Red Lobster, right next door to the Hampton, for a late dinner. No, it’s not salad but the Bar Harbour Lobster Bake. We both ordered this special; a roasted split Maine lobster tail, tender shrimp, sea scallops, mussels and linguini in a garlic and white wine broth. Excellent! Julie notes “There was a lot of garlic and bits of tomato so it was ‘salad like’. Plus we walked both to and from the restaurant. (all 100 yards).”

…over and out for today, the muleskinner and his sidekick (who is always right and is speaking to him again, now that he has acknowledged that)

We’re Still Here!

Update: November 30, 2013

I know all you loyal blog followers are wondering where we are and if we’re still talking to each other.  Let me assure you that we are fine, we are speaking to each other, and we are in southern Ontario.  We spent last week with Julie’s family in Moscow.   Julie and her family organized, sorted and processed many things at her parents home.  We celebrated together and there was laughter and tears.  We are now near Cobourg, ON at my sister, Janet’s, home.  We are getting together with the Emond side of the family today.  Our plan is to head west on Monday morning.

We know we are a week behind on the blog but have every good intention of completing a post a day.  Stay tuned.

…the muleskinner and his sidekick


Day 146 – WTF (Where the F) is Effingham?

Day 146 – Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We left our beautiful room at the Downstream Casino & Resort around noon and continued our cross country trek north easterly. Julie notes “We had the breakfast buffet at one of the restaurants in the casino. Very good but not salad. Traditional biscuits and gravy were among the many offerings but we had given that a try a couple mornings ago so weren’t tempted. It was tasty but there is no way to fool ourselves that that was anywhere close to being a diet food. Got a few blogs sent out finally. On top of being behind in our posts we were again having technical difficulties posting the ones we had ready due to our server connection. Sorry for the delays. We hope it didn’t cause anyone too much stress.”

We drove about 638 km and arrived in Effingham, IL in the dark. We had planned on trying some St Louis, Missouri famous BBQ for supper (even though we have pinky swore numerous times to only eat salads) but it was rush hour and dark and we decided we just wanted to drive through St Louis and find a hotel. We ended up driving another 100 miles (162 km) exactly before we found a place with a nice hotel and a BBQ joint. Unfortunately, the BBQ place was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Julie found the #1 restaurant in Effingham, the Firefly Grill, on Trip Advisor. The place was packed on a Tuesday night and there was a 45 minute wait. We went back to the hotel and unpacked a bit and then headed back for our reservation time. We were both tired after long days in the truck and a little grumpy I would say. This led to a bit of a disagreement during supper and in our traditional style of fighting, much silence ensued. Even so, Julie really enjoyed her meal choice but mine was not great. Julie notes “Silence is golden… sometimes. And he was in a BBQ pout because I stopped him from buying BBQ at a place in Shepherd Hills for lunch. “We’ll get better BBQ at St. Louis for supper. (I say) Here have a granola bar.” Famous last words. Literally almost the last words we spoke for the rest of the night anyway.”

The view of our white truck (on the far right) in the Kansas parking lot from the 6th floor of our hotel in Oklahoma.

One section of the Downstream Casino and Resort in Oklahoma.

The scenery is beginning to change to hardwoods and rock cuts as we head into the East. Julie notes “This would’ve been glorious with fall colour a few weeks ago. There’s that timing issue again! oh well.”

By the way, silos are the new windmills since windmills are getting fewer and farther apart. So here you go.

They love their billboards. I guess advertising must work. Julie notes “This is the land of the ‘World’s Largest… everything from toy museums, to wind chimes to golf tees to rocking chairs to gift stores as you see below. This makes us feel much smaller than we did in Central America where we were the giants. PS: We weren’t tempted to stop despite the free chocolate samples. Remember our pinky swear. (Plus that kid on the billboard looks pretty scary.)”

We stopped at the Shepherd Hills Factory Outlet (because of the billboards they had) to look around. Julie notes “Brad took a page out of the Kelly M. vacation book and decided to try out an outlet mall. I figured having a bowl just for walnuts was pretty highfaluting. Brad carefully explained that the bowls were made of walnut. I thought they’d be awfully small then, considering her size of the walnut shells. He again patiently explained that it was the pieces of walnut put together in a bowl shape. All sounded pretty nutty to me!”

I imitated my son Jordan’s pose when he fainted at the sight of the cast iron products in the Edmonton Bass Pro store. It is now a classic Emond pose anytime we get near cast iron products. Julie notes “This is not an act. The Emond men actually do faint at the sight of cast iron arranged in displays. Luckily he didn’t faint into the display. That would’ve hurt.”

Julie ordered the grilled salmon, pureed squash, and Japanese pumpkin ravioli. Very good. Julie notes “Oh sooooo good. Yes Susan, I ordered squash on purpose. Not sure what a Japanese pumpkin looks like but let me tell you it tastes like a little bit of heaven.”

I had heard about the classic southern chicken and waffles dish many times but had never actually tried it. Once is enough. Just not my kind of cooking, I guess. I’m not a big fan of waffles to begin with and this combination is not one of my favourites, let’s say, even though it was very well prepared. Julie notes “And it wasn’t BBQ. And I kind of encouraged him to try this, along with our server. Who was very good at her job.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick (still not speaking to each other)

Julie notes “The return of the iPod blessed us with four songs about my friends Linda and at least four songs that made us think of Dad. A good day all in all (except for the BBQ debacle of course).”



Day 145 – Downstream Casino & Resort – Meet the Players

Day 145 – Monday, November 18, 2013

We left the beautiful new hotel room in Amarillo and again headed north and east. We traveled I-40 to Oklahoma City and then I-44 through Tulsa, OK to the intersection of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. We stayed in the Downstream Casino & Resort which is in Oklahoma. We entered the resort in Missouri and parked the truck in Kansas. The best part is that Julie and I are “players” now so that we could get the large king room for $75/night which included a $40 coupon for dinner. The hotel is less than a year old and very nice. This was a great deal for us. The casino will be very disappointed in their new “players” because we never spent a nickel on the machines even though there was a $5.00 coupon to get you started. Julie notes “Despite now officially being ‘players’ I reminded Brad this did not mean he was automatically allowed to go the ‘Players Gentleman’s Club’ that we had passed yesterday. He just giggled. This was a very nice hotel room. Spacious and clean and new. The only thing missing was a bathtub. Try not to be too sad for me. I distracted myself by watching some funny older movies on the big, clear TV and thinking about salad for supper.”

The entrance, parking, and hotel & casino in 3 different states.

Today’s money shot out of 135 pictures. Most of them taken again at 70 mph on the Interstate. Julie notes “I really restrained myself today, honest. But they are so purdy.”

We passed the 19 story cross at Groom, TX. Do you think this might be the Bible Belt of the midwest? Julie notes “A very impressive sight for sure.”

We also passed the leaning water tower a little further east on I-40. Julie notes “The Leaning Tower of Groom. I think I’ve read about that. But I thought it was in Italy near a Pizza Place or as they say in Italy, a Pisa Place.”

More windmills. This time they were generating electricity. Julie notes “This one is for my Dad who declared jokingly that he could reverse the rotation of the Wolf Island windmills by staring at them from his hospital bed when he was in the Kingston General Hospital last spring. And when he controlled them to turn the other way the power was actually drawn back out of the system and released back into the wind. He was a powerful guy!”

The muleskinner and his sidekick having a drink in the Downstream Casino & Resort. Julie notes “You can see all the sparkly machines with all their bells and whistles behind us, but we weren’t tempted. We were looking forward to free range on the Casino buffet, the salad portion only of course, as per our pinky swears. Notice how my Bloody Mary is mostly salad already. Tomato juice, celery, olives, lime. I can feel the weight just falling off of me as I drink this little garden delight.”

Today we promised ourselves that we would have a salad. Unfortunately, it was a salad bar and we both overloaded our plates. Not really sure this is any healthier than the Big Texan. Tomorrow, we promise to do better. Julie notes “We pinky swear! (again)”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “The lost is found!!!! And yes it was in the last place we looked. Go figure. Although we had looked in this place at least twice. The slippery little iPod was hiding right under our noses in the console where we always keep it. Maybe it just wanted a little break like Jim Bob o.g. (Oh Goodgriefpeople!). I think it felt bad for hiding on us as the tunes just flowed from it once it was plugged back into the system. It had even held its place in the shuffle countdown despite not being used for over a week and a half. Starting off with some Simon and Garfunkle, telling us ‘each town looks the same to me’ in ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Monday, Monday so good to me’, the Mammas and the Pappas, four songs for Mom, ‘I’ll be seeing you’ by Vera Lynn and the song ‘Vera Lynn’ by Pink Floyd. John Denver declared ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy’. We had just been reading about the bazaar table in Mom’s home town, dedicated to her crafts. Many of her items were for sale along with items made from her stash of material, created by the community ladies. The proceeds from this table were given to Mom’s favourite charity, Martha’s Table, a community outreach program. Our cousin Cindy also donated a beautiful quilt for a silent auction and money raised also went to the charity. Just after reading about this great honouring of Mom’s memory, Krista’s heartfelt recording of ‘Coat of Many Colours’ played appropriately. There were tears. For Susan, ‘Wake Up Little Suzie’ plus four Anne Murray songs played before noon.”

“Okay I know you are wanting a trivia question so here you go. What famous person’s home town was claimed as Yukon, OK in the Canadian River Valley? At least that is what it says on the water tower as you enter.”


Day 144 – The Big Texan and the Windmill Woman

Day 144 – Sunday, November 17, 2013

We left our $59.00 Travelodge in Grant’s, NM and continued our trek north and east towards Ontario, Canada. We drove about 588 kilometres today to Amarillo, TX following I-40 eastbound. Julie notes “$59.00 meant not quite a full tub of hot water and a hole in my towel and a frozen donut for breakfast but overall not too shabby. Well a little bit shabby but we’ve stayed at way worse. That’s one good thing about this trip is that we can always ‘well it’s not great but it wasn’t as bad as when Norm did this or said that.’ Everyone should have those kinds of comparison trips to let them know how lucky they are when the good stuff happens. If you don’t, feel free to borrow some of our stories.”

We are back in windmill country. Julie has happy fingers as the kilometres clicked away along with the camera shutter. This is the money shot. Julie notes “I think I earned my blades as Windmill Woman as I took about 175 pictures today, the majority of them different shots of windmills travelling at 70 miles per hour. So when I say different shots I mean blurry ones, crooked ones, ones with the truck aerials or rear view mirrors or Brad in them, ones a bit too late so no sign of the windmill in question at all, ones that weren’t even windmills but TV antennas or cell towers, but they just kept popping up all around us. He doesn’t mention that I passed by many that I just admired from a distance and took pictures of with brain. And I am grateful that my windmilling every few minutes yelling ‘there’s another one’ and swinging the camera around did not send us off road. We decided early on that opening the window for shots is no longer an option though. The breeze blowing those windmills is getting cooler as we head north east. We left Jim Bob o.g. (Off Guard) back in the camper, leisurely lying about with his batteries removed. We thought he’d enjoy some Phoenix downtime. ”

I-40 scenery.

We checked into the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Amarillo, TX. The #1 of 66 Trip Advisor rated hotel. After we got checked in, we headed out to the Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner. It is rated #24 of 415 restaurants but you have to go to the home of the free 72 oz. steak at least once! Julie notes “Back in Phoenix we had quite a shock to our system when we finally figured out how to get Bill and Mary Ann’s bathroom scale to work. Not good! Who would’ve thought eating big meals, drinking heavily, and sitting in a truck for hours a day would cause you to gain weight. There should be a warning on restaurant menus and truck doors about that kind of thing. So we pinky swore that we would eat nothing but salads for the rest of the trip. Hmmmm this does not look like a salad eating kind of place. We have now double pinky swore to start our salad bar tour tomorrow.”

The Wiener mobile on display outside the Big Texan. Julie notes “If you are not humming ‘I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener’ right now then there is something wrong with you.”

Julie really liked the place but only because they had a windmill. Kind of like a kid likes McDonalds because they have a playground. Julie notes “This is like a Windmill Woman award for taking the most windmill pictures in one day. I’d like to thank my family and the kids for getting me hooked on those pin-wheels when they were kids, my mom and dad for always telling me to go outside in the wind to get the stink blown off me, my husband for being the always inspiring Windmill Man, my camera for that slightly delayed click that allows me to get those off centered, ‘creative’ shots and everyone who has ever built or installed a windmill or admired a windmill.”

My excellent 12 oz. Big Texan Ribeye Fort Worth cut with blue cheese and sautéed mushrooms. We weren’t brave enough to try the “Mountain Oysters” appetizer. The menu says “If you think its seafood, go with the shrimp.” J

Julie ordered the steak tacos. This would be a fun place to go with a group. Julie notes “I know tacos again but they were delicious and almost like having a salad, right? They did had coleslaw and jalapenos in them and the decorative green pepper on the side should count as a veggie as well.”

While we were there, a Pharmacy student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, attempted the 72 oz. steak eating challenge as a fundraiser for the SnackPak 4 Kids charity. The challenge is to eat a 72 oz. steak along with a shrimp cocktail, roll with butter, and a baked potato in 1 hour. Seventy-two ounces is 4.5 pounds of meat or for younger metric Canucks that is 2.04 kg.

Oh yeah, Julie photo bombs the challenger. Julie notes “This is me trying to make my eyes big and smile at the same time. An almost impossible feat for us Holmes’.”

This kid, Gui, and his enthusiastic supporters were really inspiring. Julie and I added to their total fundraising after his 1 hour time limit was up and he hadn’t quite finished. They were a really great group of socially aware kids trying to improve someone’s life. Julie notes “Gui, was so close to getting the job done, but as the time ticks down to a few minutes you have to decide, can I actually complete this in that time frame and keep pushing hard? Or should I just slow down and try to avoid an even bigger stomach ache. Gui kept plugging along as the time ticked down.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “We are still missing the iPod. Where are you our old friend? We are worrying and keep checking the same pockets over and over again, coming up with lint, old Kleenexes and miscellaneous stuff we “borrowed” from the Smith’s house. The iPhone did play out John Denver’s ‘The mountains and Mary Ann are calling me again’ so we thought that probably meant we will be heading for the mountains soon and that Mary Ann was probably trying to call us to thank us for the ‘surprise’ we left at their Encanterra house. We also had a very funny moment when an old phone message played as part of the iTunes shuffle and it was Frank, the day before Brad’s retirement, phoning the city telling Brad he better shape up or he wouldn’t have job come the next Monday. That gave us a good laugh. Okay, the Windmill Woman better rest up. We may still be in Windmill Country tomorrow.”

Day 143 – Kelly Heads Home

Day 143 – Saturday, November 16, 2013

After some of Dan’s delicious homemade eggs benedict, we finished packing and cleaning and headed out. Julie notes “After the delicious eggs we decided we better get ‘crackin’ to ‘beat’ the ‘scramble’ to the highway. No ‘yoke’ about it, we were very sad to say good bye to our wonderful hosts Dandy Dan and his amazing tenderloins and my new sister from another mister, Maureen. Thank you for making us feel at home at your place and helping us settle at Bill and Mary Ann’s.”

Lola (Kelly M.) and Brenda left shortly before us for the airport in their rental car. We weren’t sure how far we would get today but we drove 568 km and ended up in Grants, NM to a $59/night Travelodge. A bit of a let down from Bill and Mary Ann’s place but the price was appropriate. Julie notes “We weren’t sure how far Lola (Kelly M.) and Brenda would get either before the law was on their tale. Turns out Brenda’s claim to the shopping championship was in dispute when she found one of the store theft dye packs still attached to one of her ‘purchased’ items. Either she was desperate to win and got light fingers or the slightly distracted clerk (probably because of their beautiful rejuvenated faces) missed removing it. So they were making one more trip to the Outlet Mall on the way to the airport. (or to the jail if things don’t work out as planned.)”

We went out for a late dinner at the new Italian restaurant, La Bella Vita, in Grants. It has only been opened for about 3 months. The owners were very friendly and sociable and made sure we had a great experience. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. Not quite as high as Trip Advisor rated it but still very good, freshly made food, and reasonable prices. They could use some background music though. It is very quiet in there when there are only a few guests. Music would improve the experience, I think. Julie notes “Now those of you who remember the ‘oh man is there going to be music there? Bradley’ of the past, are now shaking your heads. I think all that time spent in Central America and Mexico have brought out the dancer in him, and he can’t keep his feet still when he hears the beat. Either that or he wanted to drown out the crunch of croutons coming from across the table. We have spent a lot of time in close quarters listening to each other chew.”

We can’t thank our hosts enough for all of their hospitality. Thanks Dan and Maureen! We had a great visit and enjoyed our stay immensely. Julie notes “Ditto that!”

Our stay in Bill and Mary Ann’s home was a real respite from our 174 square feet of truck camper. It was such a treat to be able to relax and enjoy all of the amenities. Julie notes “Yes we can’t thank them enough! They are wonderful people to share their beautiful and comfortable home. We truly appreciate it. One small item though. I do think there might be something wrong with their television because according to Brad, the only TV channel he could get was the Wild channel, 24 hours of hunting and fishing. But Brad assured me that it was Mary Ann’s favourite pastime. So I didn’t object.”

Bill and Mary Ann (in a different location) wishing they could be at Encanterra, as well. Julie notes “Thanks again guys! We have left you a surprise as a token of our thanks. We remember how interested Mary Ann was in our javelina encounter so just a little heads up when you get to your place in Phoenix in January. I don’t want to spoil the surprise so here are a few tips when you arrive, open the door slowly, no sudden moves, some protective gloves and boots might be in order, paper training was in progress when we left, so the newspaper on the floor serves a purpose, don’t count on a soak in the tub on your first day there, it serves wonderfully as a trough. And other than that enjoy your surprise! (Turns out all of that time watching the Wild Channel came in handy!)”

One final check on the camper before leaving it at Cimmaron Trails Boat/RV Storage lot. Julie notes “Did we leave the iron plugged in? Or the TV running? Or enough crumbs lying around to keep that toad alive until we return? (Only one of those is actually applicable to our camper lifestyle.)”

We were then on the road out of Greater Phoenix heading north and east. We drove north on some secondary highways until we reached the Interstate I-40. Our route took us through Payson, where we stopped for lunch, and then on to Holbrook where we joined the Interstate. Then it was peddle to the metal. Wow! This thing flies without the camper loaded! Julie notes “We are also a bit lighter in the luggage. We took the camper cleanout as an opportunity to clean out the cupboards and closets. We found a clothes donation bin at our first gas station and said goodbye to some old favourites.”

We stopped for lunch at Macky’s Grill in Payson, AZ. This is Julie’s soup and sandwich special. I had the split pea soup with cornbread. Both were very good.

Julie notes “I think this picture speaks for itself. But please feel free to add your caption. I’m not allowed to print the one I was thinking of.”

We were then in windmill country again. Here is your fix for today. “Julie notes “WooHoo! I can feel the wind pumping through my veins. Hmm that’s probably not actually good for me though.”

Our calamari appetizer at La Bella Vita. Julie notes “The owner is an artist and has painted all of the tables, chairs, cupboards, etc. in this happy upbeat flower style. The bathrooms are a thing of beauty as well. Is it weird to take pictures of the ladies’ and men’s room?”

Lola (Kelly M.) in her happy place. A fishing charter boat in the Bay of Banderas near Bucerias, Mexico. Kelly (Lola), remember, you didn’t catch the biggest fish. That honour went to moi and the best part was that I collected $10 from both you and your husband Frank. Julie notes “Whoa! Even I am getting confused as to who is married to whom. But not who won the fishing contest. Brad reminds us of that often. This is also how happy Kelly (Lola) looked all week here in Phoenix whether golfing left handed, getting a facial, finding a bargain outfit, sharing some girl talk in the spool and now heading back to the land of snow, ice and family and friends.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Bad news! The iPod is lost. We have checked every pocket, shelf, under seats (still trail mix under there from the great spill of 2007) to no avail. So we have been forced to use the iPhone. It has all the songs PLUS all the deleted songs and all the Christmas and Halloween scary music and so on. But it did give us some good ‘back on the highway’ inspiration. The Eagles told us to ‘Take it to the Limit’ by ‘putting me on the highway and showing me the signs’. Neil Diamond told us ‘The Road is long, with many a winding turn, leads us to who knows where…But he ain’t heavy he’s my brother’ and we’ll see those brother and sisters soon. ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ made a brief appearance before someone vetoed it. Too soon for that I think. But we still miss the iPod. Oh where oh where could you be?”

Julie notes “Kelly M. vacation epilogue – (is that the right word?) – Well Kelly, as you know you had a great week but it flew by too fast. We sure enjoyed spending time with you and your lovely wife, Brenda. Let’s hope you were able to keep that young looking wife of yours out of jail despite her shoplifting tendencies and safely on to the airplane home. We know, although you had a fun, restful time here you are ready to get back to the family and the business. Our iTunes knew that as well and aptly played ‘Mighty Quinn, the Eskimo, …everybody’s going to jump for joy’. Thanks for being a great sport and we’ll see you in person in a few months.”

Day 142 – Butcher Jones Trail #463 Hike – Kelly M. does the Outlet Mall

Day 142 – Friday, November 15, 2013

Julie and I were invited to go on a hike with Harvey, Dale, and their daughter Leah. Harvey and family picked us up about 9:30 AM and we headed out to Saguaro Lake in the Tonto National Forest. It was about a 45 minute drive north of Phoenix. The hike is rated as easy to moderate and is about 4.6 miles round trip. It follows Saguaro Lake for the most part, on a good trail with some slight elevation changes. The trail winds through the desert with many species of cactus and desert plants on display. We really enjoyed the hike and the company. The Syrota’s had prepared a snack for us to enjoy once we returned to the car. Julie notes “We did the whole hike with very little whining and were rewarded with yummy snacks. These guys know how to hike.”

On our way back to Queens Creek we stopped for lunch at the In-N-Out Burger. This has become a Syrota family tradition after a hike and is one of our new favourites. They only have a few freshly made items (burgers, fries, and shakes) on the menu but it is excellent. Julie notes “Again, they’ve got this hiking thing figured out.”

Julie and I got dropped off at our storage facility to unload the camper from the truck. We had to pack up everything we didn’t want to leave behind and move it to the truck. Julie cleaned the inside of the camper while I unloaded the back of the truck and emptied the storage compartments so we could get everything organized and re-packed. It was a big job and took us a few hours. Julie notes “The fridge had a whole new layer of stuff to identify and scrub off. We have been slowly saying goodbye to our Spanish labelled groceries as we used up the margarina, mantequilla, queso crema, (2 of 3 containers), etc. and finally tossed the pink chalky stuff called Gastric-Bismol. That little bit of our life fading to fondish memories. We packed up non perishables to donate and pawned off some things on Maureen and Dan. Resulting in empty nest syndrome. Actually we’re really hoping for no nests at all.”

Dan and Maureen were hosting “rib night”. It is a not-to-be-missed rib fest. Glenn and Judy Keddie, another GP couple with a property in Encanterra, joined us for dinner. We had a great dinner with some great folks.

Two old coots in front of a lake full of coots.

Our hiking partners, Dale, Leah, and Harvey on the trail above Saguaro Lake.

The trail and the scenery.

At the high point on the trail at one of the nicest overlooks.

Unique cactus variety yet to be identified.

The view from the final overlook at about 2.3 miles. Now we just have to turn around and hike out.

The trail out.

Harvey picked up a jumping cholla cactus and was picking out a few spines all the way back to the car. OUCH! Julie notes “These are Mother Nature’s strong reminders to stay on the trail!”

A big feed at In-N-Out Burger.

In-N-Out burgers ready for devouring.

The camper unloaded and in its winter home. Julie notes “Stay safe! You served us well. Sorry about all the sweat and the occasional swear word. We’ll be back but while we’re gone maybe work on expanding the size of your bathroom.”

Dan’s margaritas ready for rib night.

Some of the guests at Dan and Maureen’s after feasting on delicious ribs. Julie notes “We had thought of leaving today for our trip home but who can say no to ribs? They were scrumptious.”

…another great day, over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “We were tired and stiff from our hike today so needed an easier way to get from Bill and Mary Ann’s to the ‘spool’. So just for future reference, jumping off the roof onto a box spring and four mattresses will just about clear the iron fence. You need to add the couch and chair cushions to achieve the correct loft. Be sure to holler ‘In coming!’ as a courtesy to the other spoolers.”

Julie notes “Kelly’s vacation is winding down – Kelly, you and your lovely wife went shopping again today. The main destination for you was the Outlet Mall for some bargains. But first you loosened up some of those shopping muscles with another massage. Remember how naughty, or was it knotty, you were earlier this week. While you were loosening those calves and shoulders, your wife was loosening her purse strings and pulled ahead of Maureen in the shopping contest! You were very happy for her. Dan’s ‘One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor’ margaritas took the edge off the shopping stress. Ribs with all the fixings and a glass of wine rounded out the day, topped off with some curling coverage and a spool. Life is good.”

Day 141 – The Good Life – Touring with Kelly M.

Day 141 – Thursday, November 14, 2013

Another day in paradise! This is the good life. We are so lucky to have friends who invite us to share and enjoy such a beautiful place. Dan and Maureen are fantastic hosts and Bill and Mary Ann so generous to offer us their accommodations. Having the happy couple of Lola (Kelly M.) and Brenda there really makes for a fun time for all.

Julie notes “Well this day in paradise did start with a bit of jolt at 7 am. It sounded like the house was being attacked by a very large swarm of big angry bees. Turns out the gardening staff had arrived with a leaf blower and other tools to do some yard maintenance. We think maybe Bill has been reading these blogs and arranged this early morning attack as a way to gently suggest we move on. But he will have to be less subtle to budge us from paradise. Thanks again for this real treat.”

Today we went with Lola (Kelly M.) to a few shopping spots; some new ones and some we were at yesterday. We also toured a few places around the greater Phoenix area. Julie notes “Dan and Maureen were busy burning up the golf course. And it was Brenda’s spa day. Leaving Lola (Kelly M.) in charge of us.”

The gates at Encanterra Golf & Country Club.

The first stop was BevMo; another warehouse wine, beer, and spirits outlet. It is huge but not quite as big as Total Wine. This, however, was one of Frank’s (Lola’s husband) favourite places when he visited. This shot should make him green with envy. I think Frank even has a member card!

While I was shopping in BevMo, Julie wandered off on her own and found a candy cane. She wouldn’t let go.

I told her tongue would freeze to it if she licked it so she had to prove me wrong. I guess she knew the weather report for Phoenix was in the high 20C’s today; 28C I think. Julie notes “Their candy canes taste a lot like plastic here.”

Julie captured this windmill shot as our chauffeur Lola toured us around the area.

Lola (Kelly M.) toured us by the enormous Mormon Temple being built. I had to get in the picture to give it some scale. It is HUGE! Julie notes “This even makes Brad’s head look small. Those of you familiar with his huge cranium will relate.”

Next was some shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods or as Brenda calls it “Big Dicks” Sporting Goods. haha Julie notes “Yes this is the company I have been keeping. Brenda and Maureen were driving us the other day telling us to keep our eyes open for ‘Big Dicks.’ Gasp. I was aghast and kept my eyes shut the whole trip.”

Lola then took us to Crown Plaza Resort San Marcos in Chandler, AZ. The resort was undergoing some significant renovations for their November 22 100th year anniversary celebrations.

Lola and Julie met one of the golfers at the resort and were both quite smitten. I think it was the size of his putter? Julie notes “Maybe this is Big Dick?”

Being the farm girl she is, Lola (Kelly M.) wanted to ride the ostrich through the lobby but needed a leg up. Julie notes “Or is it an Emu? We never did get that ironed out. Either way we had to reign her in after several laps around the lobby. (The establishment frowned on her yelling ‘Hi Ho Ostrich, Away!’) But she’s a natural Emu/Ostrich jockey if that lab thing ever falls through.”

We wandered through a shopping area and discovered the SanTan Brewing Company where we stopped for some refreshments.

Julie notes “Beautiful shot of Lola (Kelly M.) but what is that woman behind her plotting?”

Julie notes “Yes I am camouflaged but again, check out that lady behind us. What is she planning? Doesn’t look good.”

The old vault in the SanTan Brewing Company was a good chance for me to exact some revenge. Julie notes “The guy coming out of the men’s room to the right let me out again. He thought it was the money yelling ‘help, let me out!'”

Thursday nights are Happy Hour nights at Encanterra. Harvey had booked a table for 20 people but we had about 24 in total. We had the chance to meet some other guests and members and enjoy some terrific food.

Julie notes “You can’t really see them at the left end of this table, but this was Dan and Brad’s second man date. Another success.”

Harvey and Dale then invited everyone to their place for Harvey’s margaritas and some dessert.

Both of the margarita makers; one human, one mechanical. Julie notes “Too many of these and you’ll be out dirty dancing with the cacti possibly with a full moon of any kind.”

…another great day in paradise, over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Kelly M.’s vacation update – Kelly you had your hands full today touring the Emonds around Phoenix but you have always enjoyed hopping in the vehicle and taking to the road. You were happy to pick up some more pants at Lucy’s for your lovely wife. Then you snagged another great outfit for the upcoming holidays. You are going to be turning some heads! You got to experience trying to walk and read history facts to Brad but you both realized what you really wanted to read was the beer menu at the SanTan brewery. Your wife was spa-ing today and as you already know, she has beautiful skin, certified today by the spa facialist. And now looks even younger. It will knock your size 5 socks off! Okay rest up. Tomorrow is another day.”