A National Park BOGO

20180828_1923481417496275.jpgOur last national park stop was actually going to be two, but we didn’t know it. Even though I grew up just a few hours from Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, I’d never been. Neither had Albert. And I had no idea they were connected parks. We planned to visit Sequoia NP, and since we were coming from Fresno, we’d have to drive through a small portion of Kings Canyon NP to get there. Who knew?!

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The boys are standing on the trunk of what was a Giant Sequoia. It was so huge and tall. They had fun climbing up onto it.

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Across the road from where we spent the night, there was a grouping of granite rocks. What boy can resist climbing around and conquering them?!

We spent the night at the Cedar Grove Village. The night got chilly and it felt so wonderful!

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As soon as the Visitors Center opened up the next morning, we explored some of the exhibits. This is a scale model of the Kings Canyon. Such a cool way to show the canyon.

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These beautiful murals were on the walls. They show the different ecosystems of the park.

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This is an up-close portion of the mural above.

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All of these are hand painted. The artist who created these truly was amazing.

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This is the up-close of the mural above.

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There’s so much detail in these.

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This is a close-up of the mural above.

Then it was off to visit to the General Grant Tree.

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This was another Giant Sequoia (not the General Grant Tree). I wanted to capture this as quickly as I could because there’s a man standing to left of the tree trunk. His being there really helps show how gargantuan these things are!!! God is amazing!

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This is a Giant Sequoia whose trunk you can walk through like a tunnel. That was cool.

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I don’t have a fancy camera that could capture the entire tree from top to bottom, so this is the best I could do in capturing the image of the 3rd largest living thing on earth!

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Here’s some other interesting info we saw along the trail to the General Grant Tree.

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Walking among these giants really is breathtaking.

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Then it was off to the next park. We only had a day here, so we maxed our time as well as possible.

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That’s the General Sherman tree in the background.

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Because of its volume, this is the largest tree on earth.

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Another trunk-turned-tunnel. It’s pretty neat to think we walked through a tree trunk.

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We came upon this grouping of three Sequoias. I couldn’t help but think about what Albert and I wish most for the boys, and for everyone. It comes from Ephesians 3:17-19. “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love;Β and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God Himself.”

 

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We enjoyed lunch after our visit to General Sherman. We had vegetarian BLT’s and enjoyed tomatoes from Wade and Donna’s garden. So juicy and perfect!

After lunch and enjoying a movie about bears at the Lodgepole Visitors Center, we began our drive back toward the Kings Canyon exit. Being that Big Boy was longer than 22ft, we were restricted to that exit only.

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We stopped for one last hike, a 4 mile round trip out to Big Baldy.

 

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Along the way, we encountered a yellow-belly marmot. He (I’m assuming – I have no idea) came out of his burrow as we were walking by, so we stopped for a visit. He then proceeded to lay like this on the rock, as if unphased in the least that we humans were just feet away.
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The boys were about 6 ft away. Brodee took the photo above this one.

 

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After our Mr. Marmot visit, we continued on to our destination — Big Baldy.

 

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From the top of Big Baldy, the view is just magnificent.

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It’s so quiet. There’s just the low whistle of a slight breeze.

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It’s such a peaceful, solitary feeling to be up here.

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The beautiful Sierra Mountains range goes on for what seems like forever.

20180828_180839-1905305465.jpgWe saw these beautiful evergreens. The needles at the end turn a beautiful, more vibrant green. It’s almost a lace border to the rest of the bough. This hike was the perfect way to end our short stay in SEKI.20180828_182247-1461100481.jpg

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This tree had such a perfect Christmas tree shape!

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I had shoes and socks on for the hike, but there was such fine dirt on the trail, it got in my shoes. When I took them off, this is what I found. YUCK!

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On the way out, we saw a group adding their rock design to this large collection. I’ve never seen so many of these in one place. I have no idea what they’re called. These guys didn’t, either.

 

 

Turlock, Someplace Special

Years ago, my sister and I used to get hand-me-downs from our grandma’s neighbor’s granddaughters. (Was that confunsing? πŸ™‚ It was like Christmas, and we’d dig into those black garbage bags with gusto. There was a shirt that had metallic/glittery wording that said “Turlock, someplace special”. Turlock is where my sister and I grew up. Our grandparents lived here and were a big part of our lives. Mama’s job was near downtown. Albert and I got married here. Brodee was dedicated to God by one of our favorite pastor’s here. It’s special because it’s home.
But Turlock was never one of our official stops. However, our schedule ended up with some extra time, and we were passing through on our way to the next stop, so we stayed awhile so I could try to catch up on the blog and spent the night.
20180827_0822161475423750.jpgWith morning comes something extremely special in Turlock. It means Olde Tyme Pastries has opened for business. They make unequivocally and absolutely the best pastries, cookies, and sweets in town. Most likely the valley. And quite possibly California. Maybe even nationally. They could hang world-wide. It’s just yummy. Our wedding cake was made here. 20180827_075321-770337202.jpg20180827_075334-1216702450.jpg

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I asked the counter girls how early in the morning the bakers start baking. They said 10pm — the night before!! Then a shift comes in at 4am. These girls have to be in by 5am to start loading the display cases. Wow! All these years, I had noooo idea!!

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It’s OK if you wish you could climb inside and gobble these goodies up. You wouldn’t be sorry!

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If you’re in Olde Tyme in the morning, you’ll not only get to enjoy the delicious aromas, but you’ll also see many regulars. Groups of people who get together to enjoy some coffee and a muffin or pastry.
20180827_081308-2110317377.jpgWe met one such group. I asked these precious ladies if I could take their picture. They graciously agreed, and told us the history of their gathering. For thirty years now, these dear friends have met every Monday morning. (This was another God gift – that we were in Olde Tyme on Monday morning, just at the right time to meet the ladies.) At the time, they were all attending the same church and had been friends, and thought this would be a fun thing to do. Thirty years later, their group has gone from twelve to five. They’ve had to say good-bye due to illness and death, but they continue together with such cheerful, fun attitudes. They even shared their ages, all of them being between eighty and eight-seven. Really amazing. They wanted me to refer to them as the Oldies, but later came up with Silver Saints. I’d like to think of them as precious friends who made our day. Our short time visiting with them was simply lovely. May God give them many more Mondays.
20180827_083654521250309.jpgOur next stop was breakfast at Latif’s. This restaurant has been in town for decades. There have been oodles of regulars that go there to eat. We thought it’d be fun for the boys to experience some “essential Turlock”.20180827_0957201113312532.jpg

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It’s not every day you get to sit in a chair that a former President sat in. We’re not necessarily Bush fans (we prefer presidents who revere the Constitution…those are hard to come by in the last few decades…). Barbara’s chair was marked to the left.

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Latif’s has maintained its retro look flawlessly since before it was retro!

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Latifs is not far from downtown. Vintage Market is in the photo on the right.

After breakfast, the guys took off for haircuts, and Mama and I went to our favorite shopping spot in town, Vintage Market. The store is full of rare or fun finds from different vendors. It was fun to browse again and feast my eyeballs. The lady running the shop that day was so fun to talk to and it turned out, the few things Mama and I bought were all from her stall. That made me happy becasue she was so nice.
We met up with the guys again and said good-bye to Grandpa and Nana.
We have four days left to our trip. We’ve been a lot of places and met a lot of people. It would’ve been fun to get to know even more, but there are a lot of folks who keep to themselves. They don’t care to make any connection. We’ve experienced that a lot. I’m happy to say, not in Turlock. It was so nice to talk to the ladies in Olde Tyme and the girls behind the counter. To talk to the vendor at Vintage Market. The boys got to know their barber, and our waitress at Latif’s. Life is more beautiful and rich when we’re willing to open up and reach out…to connect and invest in one another, and share life, even if it’s for just a little bit. I’m proud to say Turlock is someplace special. And always will be.

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Before leaving town, Dayne wanted to measure to see if he’s passed up Nana. You be the judge…

Goin’ Back to Cali

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Entering CA, we could see fires from the freeway.

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As we drove through Redding, overpass after overpass had thank you signs for all the firefighters who’ve helped that community fight the fires.

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Many businesses had billboards and banners up as well. Their gratitude was as obvious as the smoke.

We entered our former home state sooner than expected due to skipping Crater Lake. We’d be taking I-5 all the way down to the Bay Area. This would take us past Orland, CA, which when you look at a map, isn’t too far from where some really special friends live.20180822_195756.jpg
So, I texted Kimberly and asked if, last minute, she, Nic, and Jack would be able to come out to meet us. Thankfully, it was after school and they had time to visit. What a cool thing God did – if we’d gone to Crater Lake, the timing wouldn’t have worked out for us to see them. But God is so good at turning a disappointment into something beautiful, and time with friends is always that – beautiful!20180822_195905.jpg

 

 

We ended up taking the exit for where my grandma used to live, and ended up driving right by her old church, the El Sobrante SDA Church.Β 

We continued the next day into Oakland, CA. Albert had heard of and watched online videos of a vegetarian chef named Chef Chew. This isn’t just some screen name. His name is actually G.W. Chew. Isn’t God fun? I think He loves irony, too. So Chef Chew has a vegetarian restaurant in the Dimond District that serves a lunch and dinner menu.20180823_120328.jpg

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That’s Chef Chew, making some yummy grub!

 


One of the items Albert was really excited to try was Chef Chew’s fried “chicken”. But we noticed the fried chicken wasn’t served until dinner. So, what do we do?

 

Left to right, top to bottom: Nachos, Philly Cheesesteak, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Cheese Steak Fries, Kale and Sesame Salad – all vegan!

We ate lunch (above)Β and then headed off to a dog park for Mel. We were back in familiar territory. Places we’d been near for years but never stopped at. This park was on the bay near Richmond, and it was so breezy and cool.20180823_142510.jpg
Then we stopped at another place we’d always driven by — Rosie the Riveter WWII National Historic Museum. This ended up being such a fun stop. The Museum is so well done and packed with so much history. We enjoyed the two movies on the history of Richmond and the shipyards there during World War II.

 


As dinnertime rolled around, we headed back to The Veg Hub for some fried chicken and mac-n-cheese.

 

 

After dinner, we drove to Novato for the night. We had another fun “always wanted to but never did” adventure awaiting.

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This is a hike we’d driven by for years, and always wondered what it was like. Now we know πŸ™‚

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This is just as you head north out of Novato.

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If you’ve ever watched the CBS news show, SUNDAY MORNING, this reminded me of the end, when they always show some peaceful place in nature, with the lovely sounds of nature.

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White Pelicans

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I apologize for the blurry picture. This doe was so cute with her big ears. It reminded us of Mel.

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Brodee spotted this big beauty on the bridge.

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Mel proudly carried her hiking stick.

Friday took us back up into our old stomping grounds of Sonoma County. Our first stop was to see some friends of Albert’s when he worked in Petaluma. These two brothers work together, and we took them a yummy treat we brought from Montana. Next, of course, stopped at Amy’s for some veggie chili-cheese fries.

 

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We tried to do a quick load of laundry at a laundry mat in Windsor. That’s Albert, talking to the laundry mat owner, getting instructions on how to possibly get our laundry out of the machine it was stuck in. Eventually, at almost 10pm, we did.

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We stopped by Hauth Family Taekwondo, where the boys took classes for almost four years. Mrs. and Mr. Hauth (rhymes with out) are on the ends, and Miss Brem, another instructor, is in the center. What’s awesome about this place is that the Hauths and the adults they have helping them really care about the kids and want to help them grow as people and in character as much as anything else. You can’t beat that! (Ean and Miss Brem were having a tippy-toe war to see who was taller for the picture πŸ™‚

We ate yuuuuummmmmyyyy Round Table Pizza with our friends Wade and Donna. It was so fun to sit and feast on delicious pizza while having such a fun time catching up.

 

 

Sabbath morning, we were back in Healdsburg SDA Church, worshiping with our dear friends. We hit the jackpot when we found out our friends Paulette and Bob were making their famous breakfast. And Brodee had the honor of helping pick up the offering – his first time. He did great and was even partnered with our friend Bill. My parents and our friend Leslie joined us at church, along with Albert’s side of the family. In the afternoon, the cousins enjoyed a few of the local parks together.

 

 

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The cousins enjoyed lunch together out on the steps.

Later that afternoon, we had the privilege of visiting 4 week old Border Collie puppies. Their mama, Georgia, is doing a lovely job of raising eight little ones. Needless to say, we loved every second! The non-puppy (cat) in the middle is Reno. He’s a lovie! And then we got to meet some of the beautiful horses and of course, Thomas, the miniature donkey. Emma, Leslie, and Cooper were so gracious in hosting us out at Emma’s home.

 

 

 

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Saturday night, we enjoyed another meal with Wade, Donna, and my parents. This time, it was at the Himalayan Restaurant on the Town Green in Windsor.Β  We LOVE their lentil soup!!!

 


On Sunday morning, we had a fun visit with our friend, Will. While in Windsor, we stayed on our old street in Big Boy, parked along friends’ homes. We didn’t have far to go for our morning visit.

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It was an incredible surprise to find out our Windsor courts had been resurfaced! They look so official now — and just in time for the US Open!!

Then it was off for a court date. We met our friend Bill at the Windsor Tennis courts. It’s always so fun to play tennis with him when we’re in town.20180826_110658.jpg
Another unexpected God gift was meeting some Taekwondo friends there, too. They were having a tennis lesson. We haven’t seen them since we moved a year and a half ago, so this was such a surprise! We had no idea they’d been taking tennis lessons for several years while the boys had, too!20180826_110407.jpg20180826_110437.jpg

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This is our dear Coach Anna. We first met her here on these courts. (You can read more about that back in our Carolinas post.) She coached the boys for years. She stopped by for a quick visit and to see how the boys’ game has progressed. Her mother stopped by as well, so this was a memorable time on the courts!

After all the fun and special time playing tennis, it was time to head out for the next leg of our trip.

Ore-gone to Pot!

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Coming into Seattle on I-90

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We’ll first begin with Seattle, which of course isn’t Oregon, but since Seattle was a short stop, it really doesn’t need a post of its own.
So, our first stop was in Bellevue, at a Lego resale store. Our friends, the Privats, had told us about it, so of course, the boys wanted to make a quick visit. Three mini-figures and two sandwich-size Ziploc baggies later, we left, ready to make the world a better place, brick by brick.

Our next stop was the Seattle Seahawks stadium. It was also game day for the Seattle Mariners, and we saw scads of Dodgers fans on their way to the game.

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If you look closely, you can see the boys at the bottom middle.

After the stadium, we headed to the Space Needle. Since we’d already been up in a big glass tower in Chicago, we figured we’d save a wad of money and just take a picture out front.

The Space Needle wasn’t as tall as I expected. Makes me a little wary to ever see the Eiffel Tower. What if it doesn’t live up to my expectations? Oh well. I’d love to at least be able to judge it for myself in person πŸ™‚
(walk around pics)

Then we were off to Discovery Park. It’s acres and acres of walking trails along the bay. There’s also a playground and some ball courts.

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Just as our hike was beginning, we found a plethora of blackberry bushes with juicy berries. We ate and ate until our teeth were dark purple. It was delightful!

We hiked the 2.8mi Loop Trail. It took us out by the water. Even with the haze of smoke, it was still beautiful.
We then headed out toward Portland. We planned to stop around Olympia, but Albert felt like eating up some more highway. We stopped just short of the Oregon border.

We parked next to blackberry bushes for the night, and in the morning, the boys picked some for breakfast.

In the morning, we drove across the Columbia River and into Portland.

We planned to park Big Boy and take the commuter train in to downtown. Since we were close, we decided to drive around downtown a little first. Albert and I have both been to Portland before in our younger years, and were completely impressed with how clean and beautiful it was. I remember walking around downtown and thinking, “Wow! This is a beautiful city!” Albert had had the same impression. So we were both excited to take the boys here. We knew they’d love it like we had.
But Portland has become Port-a-potty. It’s trashed. There are vagrants everywhere.

And piles of trash and junk strewn all around. It’s mind-blowing. Back when I was fifteen, it was pristine. Like a magazine photo shoot. Now it’s filthy and the stench of urine is everywhere. We walked by several piles of clothing and other items lying on the sidewalk. It turns out this is called a “yard sale”.

This was a “Yard Sale”, complete with cardboard sign saying so, on an I-5 on-ramp.

Vagrants leave their unwanted items out for other vagrants to dig through and take. The items are filthy and have all kinds of stains on them. Can you imagine how many germs and diseases are being spread around?

Here was another yard sale outside where we parked Big Boy.

Portland has hired a “Clean & Safe” crew to walk around downtown to clean up after the vagrants. The cleaning crew push their janitorial carts up and down the streets, sweeping up the piles of trash. So the vagrants can live as trashy as they’d like because someone will clean up after them. There’s also extra security guards that walk the streets. Portland is paying so much extra in salaries and pensions to people to address the symptoms rather than address the problem.
In front of food truck row, if you were to stand there to order, it smells like urine. The Health Dept. is OK with this??

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Those guys are sleeping right where you’d stand to order.

Vagrants lie sleeping on the sidewalks as you walk, trying not to step on them or their belongings. They have absolutely no idea what’s going on because they’re passed out. Vagrants are in the parks, under overpasses in their tents, behind bushes, grouped together on corners — on their smart phones. Or yelling out obscenities at no one or someone going by.
As we walked through the blocks, we passed store owners who have hired people to paint or powerwash. Why? It won’t be long before things are filthy again.
We passed many professionals who walk this every day, sipping their Starbucks. I couldn’t believe this is normal. No one seemed fazed at all by what was all around. How come this is OK??
And this is where it’s impossible to pass up the spiritual application. First of all, that city is filled with people Jesus loves. I, as a self-professed germaphobe, have a really hard time seeing all this. But Jesus sees children He loves dearly, and it breaks His heart. And me, in my sin, am no different than those people. I live my life making the same mistakes day after day. How come I don’t notice anything? How can that be OK? I really hope the people of Oregon get it together to help the ones who really need help and start expecting adult contributions from the many who are capable. And I really pray I am willing to allow God to come in and help me clean up the mess in my heart.
We planned to spend the day in Portland, but we ended up spending less than two hours. And if the Portland board of tourism is reading this, we did no shopping, either. We had no desire to spend any more time in a city that doesn’t want to promote something different than what we experienced.

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The door to disappointment!

One of our biggest reasons for visiting downtown was Niketown. We walked in the door, only to find out Niketown doesn’t exist anymore. This place was once an experience, not just a place to buy Nike items. There was a room for each of their big athletes (like Jordan) with posters, videos, and clothing for that athlete. They had huge TV screens in the floors. The layout was funky and vibrant. Now, it’s like shopping in Kohl’s. No creativity. No experience. Just normal. Bummer. Big bummer. The boy’s would’ve loved it.
We headed west toward the ocean. Albert has always loved the ocean and it was a great way to “wash off” the Portland feeling. Rockaway Beach was the answer. Even though the water was so cold, the boys enjoyed their time splashing and wrestling.


Our niece, Kayla, recently visted the Tillamook Creamery and told us about how great it was. Being huge Tillamook fans, we mooed our way to this cheese lover’s haven.

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This was the only time on the whole trip I’ve told the boys to say cheese before taking a picture!

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The stairway to cheese heaven!

In the picture on the right, Dayne and Ean teamed up to see if they could milk a cow in less than 25 seconds. They did!

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These people cut the cheese every day….I don’t think I’d want that as my job title…

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Tillamook tests every batch of ice cream to make sure it has enough of the good stuff throughout it. And they also taste test it. That’s way better than cheese cutter!

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They cut the ice cream carton open so they can see all inside. Pretty fun video to watch!

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Ean found his favorite cheese of all time!

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We bought a grilled cheese to share – yum!

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And then we all screamed for ice cream!!

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These gals love to cook with Tillamook, and you can find their recipes on their blog and Instagram.

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It was fun to see the Oregon Ducks’ beautiful stadium while passing through Eugene.

We woke up Tuesday morning in Tillamook and drove to Eugene. We have a church friend who lives there and he gave us a tour around the printing/media ministry, Lightbearers, he works for. The pictures below show the printer (top left), the stacks of literature drying (top right), the folding machine (middle left), the big door they bring the shipping containers through for sending the literature off into the world (middle right), and the warehouse where literature is stored until ready for shipping. They print in twenty languages, and send out about 1,000,000 pieces each year, including Bibles. The Bible studies are shipped world wide, and are prayed over before being sent. That’s special.

The bottom right is the vegetarian restaurant we had lunch at. That’s a wrap we got to eat – very refreshing! Then we picked more blackberries πŸ™‚

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The drive out of Eugene toward Crater Lake is mountainous and beautiful.

We were headed to Crater Lake. We pulled over along the way into a forest rest area and spent the night there. Before showering, the boys had a fun time playing out in the forest, and again in the morning before breakfast.
We’d noticed the fridge was not as cold as it had been, and things in the freezer were softening. Our auxillary batteries hadn’t been charging up completely and were in need of replacement.

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We made it as far as the Ranger Station. Crater Lake will have to wait…

We arrived at the Crater Lake north entrance where the ranger said due to smoke, the lake wasn’t visible. Well, we had a decision to make. Either we continue on and drive the miles into the park and through, taking time to stop and not see the lake, or turn around and get on the way to Klamath Falls to get a battery, hopefully in time to save our food in the freezer and fridge. Well, we chose to save the food, and we’re glad we did. After stopping at Walmart for batteries, we headed for the California border!

Walla Walla Watermelon

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We passed this really tall train trestle while on the way to Walla Walla.

We stopped by Walla Walla, WA, for a short visit. Albert had never seen the Seventh-day Adventist university there, and the best part, we have some more friends that live in the area. Albert and I taught with Trasa (TRAY-suh) back in the South Bay of CA. She and her husband Brian moved up to Walla Walla about ten years ago. He’s a professor at WWU, and has recently become the head of the engineering department. We were very excited to see them again after all these years. Here’s a little of the campus.


Both our families have grown as well. We added Dayne and Ean, and they had sweet little Julia. I remember getting her birth announcement in the mail and seeing her sweet, chubby cheeks. She had such a precious smile. I was looking forward to seeing it in person.
Trasa and Brian invited us to park Big Boy next to their temporary home, their camping trailer, parked on her mom’s property. They’re in the process of building a home, so we’re both “RV-ing it”. Brian commented how they’d love to have friends come visit more often, but with them living in a trailer for now, that makes it more difficult. But since we’re living in Big Boy, we’re the perfect set-up for them to entertain! We brought our own house!!

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We attended the University Church the next morning.

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The pastor’s sermon was on the cloud that protected the Israelites while in the desert, and she arranged to have cotton candy served after church as a sweet reminder of God’s love and care.

Then we enjoyed a perfect, shady afternoon picnic and fun in the backyard. We consumed a LOT of watermelon during lunch. It was a delicious variety they get from Oregon. The boys each had at least eight pieces, Julia ate four, and we adults ate a generous amount. Then the Roths (rhymes with both) sent us home with the other half of the watermelon. We couldn’t believe all the watermelon we’d eaten came from only half of a watermelon!!

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Julia got to have fun running and playing with the boys, and they got to enjoy the company of a little lady who cracked them up!

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Brian brought out Slammo and he and the boys had fun playing it.

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While picking raspberries earlier, Julia told us Slamo was her favorite game.

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The boys also had a wrestling tournament.

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Brian and Albert enjoyed catching up. Trasa and I are also enjoying a conversation, you just can’t see us πŸ™‚

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Then it was time for a tea party hosted by Miss Julia.

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Mel looooovvved the grassy shade.

It was a special afternoon we’ll always treasure! As evening came, we packed up to begin our drive to Seattle. Hopefully it won’t be another ten years before we see them!

Simply Idaho

20180811_105258.jpgOne stop we’d been looking forward to since the beginning was Idaho. It’s a place we all love, and even more so because we have some very special friends that live there. They live out in the country between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.
From the moment we arrived at the Privats’, the kids didn’t stop playing. It wasn’t long before they were shooting at targets.20180815_154744.jpg20180815_155157.jpg And then the baseball equipment came out and really, was never put away. The boys even came up with a code for waking up early in the morning to begin playing again without having to wake any adults up in the process. 20180816_081916.jpgThe first evening, we went down to Beaver Bay for some fun in the water. The Privats have some church friends staying on their property while house hunting, and they joined us, too.

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After so much fun in the water, it was time for roasting hotdogs and smores! Richard had a wonderful fire going in the fire pit he made.

Melbee thoroughly enjoyed herself in once again being a country dog. That hadn’t happened since Orlando! Albert likes to say she went to Disneyland. She met Mickey (Tucker), and Minnie (Nala), and went on all the rides (ran around everywhere there was to run). She slept so deeply at night, and was having fun dreams – we could tell!

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Tucker and Nala are waiting for Nikki to send their tennis balls flying!

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Melbee and Tucker had a fun time wrestling. Nala was never interested. She wanted to chase tennis balls instead.

The Privats have a boat and very kindly took us out on Lake Pond Orielle (pronounced Ponderay, and sometimes you’ll even see it spelled the way it sounds. Imagine that!) Due to the fires in the area, the air all around has a haze to it. 20180816_165615.jpg20180816_175226.jpg

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Bradley and Jillian joined the boys on the tube. Nikki gave them a fun ride! Normally, you’d see beautiful green trees on tall mountains behind, but the smoke took away a lot of the pretty view.

Some of the seasoned locals are quite sure the fires and smoke are so bad these past few years because environmentalists have made such a fuss of thinning timber. What they don’t realize is that most of the timber that gets thinned is dead or diseased. With less to no thinning taking place any more, there’s a lot more dry, dead wood out there to fuel the fires. That sounds like pretty sensible logic to me.

Dayne, Brodee, and Ean all got up on the kneeboard and had a blast! Their muscles reminded them about all the fun the next day. πŸ™‚

It was hard to say good-bye. The boys never look forward to this part. Back in Tennessee, leaving the Wickhams, same story. But we just have to keep reminding ourselves that each time we move on, there’s something/someone else to look forward to at the other end.

While one the lake, we saw mountain goats. They don’t usually come down so low, but it was a special treat. They must’ve known we were in town πŸ™‚

Adventures in Yellowstone

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This parkway connects the northern entrance of GTNP to the southern entrance of YNP.

We left GTNP Friday morning and drove up the Jonh Rockefeller Memorial Parkway to the south entrance of Yellowstone.

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While taking the boys’ picture above, I heard a foreign language being spoken to my left. I glanced over and saw three people on bikes. I couldn’t believe what I thought I was seeing…so I asked them. “Are you the Danish family of three (mom, daughter, dad) bicycling across America before your daughter goes back to school?” With a surprised look on their faces, they said, “Yes.” This was the same family our buffalo watching friend from Grand Tetons had told us about. And they were right there!! When we first heard about them, we were so amazed someone was doing that. And then for those someones, out of all the thousands of someones in these two national parks to be right next to us, well that was another God gift. When God is a part of your life, it becomes a small world. You find His personal love in your life in many places throughout the day, sometimes right in front of the Yellowstone sign. This family began in Washington D.C. and will finish in Washington state. They’ve cycled many parts of the world – Asia, Namibia, all over Europe. They take their bikes whenever they travel. While pregnant with their daughter, they were cycling Alaska! I told her she was literally born to do this, it’s in her blood. I asked about getting sore. They said for the first two weeks, you feel it. But then it gets better. Climbing the Ozarks was a challenge, but these guys are tough!! Meeting them was inspirational, and a blessing. It was an honor to have given them all a hug! Thank you, God.

We were on our way to West Yellowstone, MT, but planned a stop at Old Faithful first. We figured this was a great way to break the boys into their first official trip to Yellowstone — seeing this world famous wonder!

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We checked into the RV campground and picked up our rental car. Then we took off for Ennis, 77 miles north.
We planned to board Melbee while at Yellowstone. That would make it easier to stay out in the park and see as much as we could see each day. When we got to the vet’s office where she’d stay, it was hard to leave her. The space they had for her was tiny. And they would not be walking her during the four days. We left with heavy hearts, praying our little girl would be alright. That night, it was hard to sleep. Torturous, really. Because we felt Melbee’s situation must feel torturous to her. Sabbath morning, I called the vet’s office. Thankfully, they were open until noon. We got back in the car and drove back up there to get our girl. We would just have to adjust our Yellowstone expectations and make due. Mel was ecstatic to see us. Albert, at the front door of the office, could hear her tail banging against the stainless steel sides of her enclosure, even though it was in another room down the hall and around a couple of corners. It felt wonderful and right to have made that decision. None of us ever regretted it, even though it meant missing out on seeing some of the wildlife farther away in the park.

That afternoon, we went into the park and stopped at Madison to go to the river. One thing we’d missed while being on this trip was Communion. So we decided to have Communion with the boys in Yellowstone as a special memory. When Jesus was spending His last evening with His disciples before being crucified, they shared a special Passover meal together of unleavened bread and grape juice. He told them to do this in remembrance of Him. So we did. Jesus took the servant role and washed His disciples’ feet, so we symbolically washed one another’s feet, too, in the Madison River. We took turns serving each other the bread and grape juice. We read the story from John and Luke in the New Testament.

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After Communion, the boys had fun in the river.

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We found some somewhat fresh bear poop!!

Our friend, whom we’re calling “The Wetherman” for this episode, gave us animal sighting reports for each day so we’d have an idea of where to go. That was really helpful and fun. We visited Slough Creek Saturday evening where wolves had been sighted the night before. We never saw wolves, but we did see their poop in GTNP! If you’re willing to look closely, you can see hair follicles from its last meal. (Click on each one to see it bigger)

Here’s who we met at Slough Creek.

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This guy was 6ft away as he walked down the road.

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There were calves everywhere. And they did Rupert Runs!! It was adorable!!

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This is a courting couple – he’s on the left, she’s on the right.

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This was rutting season (mating), so the males were constantly making this throaty sound that reminded me of lions.

This is how Albert and the boys watched the buffalo while I drove around…

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On Sunday, we went to Mammoth Hot Springs area to see some of the park’s geological features.

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It was fascinating to watch the water run over the mineral deposits and see the scaling pattern that’s developed over time. (But not millions of years like the signs say. We know it’s only been several thousand since the flood.)

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This was Albert’s favorite.

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There’s a maze of boardwalks that take you around to see all the sides of this…thing…

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We stopped by the Mammoth Hotel, and they have something called the Map Room. You can see why. This map is 17ftx10ft, and it’s beautiful! An architect from Seattle designed and made it in 1937. It took him five months. It’s made from fifteen different woods acquired from nine countries. The detail is amazing, making it a true work of art. It’s been here in the hotel since June of 1937.

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We stopped by the Visitors’ Center and found some buffalo horns.

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The boys had seen these rocks and were hoping for a chance to climb them…

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Climb every mountain…

We took a quick peek at Tower Falls on the way back to Melbee.

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We woke up at 2:45 am to drive to Hayden Valley. This was our last hope to see bears or wolves. We arrived with plenty of night sky left, it being 4:30. We saw coyotes, elk, and bison that morning. And the mist rising off the river as the sun came up was just breathtaking.

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We stopped by the Mud Volcano before leaving Hayden Valley.

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While we were walking along the boardwalk, this guy came out from behind a tree!

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We wrapped up our time at Yellowstone with the boys being sworn in as Junior Rangers. They’d worked on completing their Jr. Ranger booklet and attending a ranger talk.

While driving out of West Yellowstone toward Bozeman, we were able to see some of the fires that have been burning through the area. At one point, we saw flames above the trees.

Wow-oming!

We were headed to Cody, WY, by way of Billings, MT. We stopped there to let Mel have some fun at a dog park. The cool thing about this dog park is that it’s owned by a veterinarian’s office. They have this 3.5 acre off-leash park as a courtesy to the community, and it was wonderful. Melbee got good and pooped just running from the back of the park to the gate when I was exiting!
We made it to Cody, uneventfully and thankfully. Dayne saw a tack and saddle shop, so we did a quick buzz through. Then we walked around downtown a little. Cody has a fun charm.It claims to be the rodeo capital of the world! We stopped by one more dog park, where Mel was the life of the party. Then to McDonald’s to try to catch up a little on this blog.

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This is not an RV lot. It’s what we woke up to the next morning in WalMart’s parking lot. There were at least twenty-five of us RVers parked there to sleep.

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Before leaving town, we witnessed history…a road crew of eight men, seven of whom were actually working — not the other way around!

Our drive from Cody to Grand Teton National Park was a beautiful one. Driving through this part of Wyoming is beautiful. Horse ranches everywhere (Mr. Bo, from the Ingalls’ Homestead, had told Dayne this was horse country, and Dayne was thrilled to see so many.) The tunnel in the photo below goes through the mountain for at least half a mile. Impressive!

To most people, our route to GTNP wouldn’t make sense, because we drove through Yellowstone. Yellowstone would be the next stop after GTNP, so why not just stay and do YNP first? Well, it made sense to us, and we’re glad we planned it that way. The boys enjoyed the trip through YNP, and it wet their whistle for our return.20180808_115454.jpg
Our goal was to drive all the way through GTNP down to Jackson, WY, and then start our way back up, enjoying as much as we could with our day and a half allotment. After several stops, we made it to Jackson. It had that same “wild west” feel to it that Cody did, just with more people.

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From the Teton Glacier Overlook, we watched the sun disappear behind the Tetons, and elk graze in the valley below near the Snake River.

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We slept in a dark turnout along Jenny Lake, and the next morning, enjoyed a walk along the water.

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We began our day’s journey up through Grand Tetons by driving down Antelope Flats and stopping at Mormon Row.

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Several Mormon families settled in the valley. You can still see the dwellings they built, and see the canals they dug bringing the river’s water to their crops.

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Then we drove along Hwy 191 and stopped at the Snake River Overlook.

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That’s Ansel Adams taking his famous photograph from this very spot.

Our lunch stop was Elk Ranch Flats, and it ended up being our whole afternoon.

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Buffalo herds grazed on both sides of the road.

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We watched from atop Big Boy.

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It was such a beautiful scene, even from my meager phone camera.

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Eventually, three males broke off from their herd on the west side of the road and started running for the fence line. Albert and the boys ran for a closer look. (Don’t worry, we still have all four of them with us πŸ™‚ You can see the path they took. The guys could feel the fence wire vibrating from their hoof beats.

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Dayne is pointing out their tracks in the dirt.

While watching the buffalo (bison, if you want to sound more scientific), we met a young 20’s girl who’d been out backpacking the last ten days. It was a trip she and her dad had planned together, but instead, she ended up helping to care for him before he died. So this trip was an ode to him. Very, very touching. She had a rental car that day and was out trying to find some bison. We talked some more while watching. It turns out she lives off the BRP, which happens to be one of our favorite places now. She also mentioned how the previous night, she’d camped with a Dutch family of three who’re biking across America before their daughter goes back to school – how cool it that! It was really fun chatting with her while watching Albert’s favorite mammals. We pray she finds God’s healing in the loss of her dad.
After spending the afternoon in the sun, we headed for Colter Bay. You’re allowed to swim in every lake in GTNP, and we were happy to exercise that freedom in the cool, refreshing water.

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Many visitors to our national parks are international. Some of them have different ideas of what swimming attire is. On either side of these Malos are guys who felt swimming in underwear was cool. Yikes – TMI. I zoomed in as quickly as possible.

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Our last stop for the day would be the Oxbow Turnout. It’s known for being able to see some of the park’s wildlife, and we wanted to get a front row seat as the evening came on.

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Our front row seat to what we hope will be some “wild” action! If you look at our chair on the left, and its left corner specifically, you can see a faint trail in the grass across the river. Some large animal uses that path regularly to come to the river’s edge. We were hoping to see it…

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Dogs have very limited access in this park, so Mel enjoyed be able to be out of Big Boy for several hours while we waited and watched.

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a White Pelican

Eventually, after 2.5 hours of waiting, down the river, we heard people talking about seeing beavers. We could see their little tiny heads poking up above the surface. It was so special, but they were so far away. But then Dayne noticed one swimming to where we’d been earlier down by the river. The boys and I took off on a stealth mission to see what we could see. This is what we saw!!!!!!

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This beaver swam right up to our side of the river.

 

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Isn’t he darling?!?!

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Brodee and I were less than 10 ft away when taking this picture. The beaver had come back to the bank a second time.

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His waddling was adorable!

 

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Ean and Dayne are hiding just above him in the grass. They’re less than 10 yards away!!

 

We never did see the large animal that made that path across the river. But that’s OK. We got to see this precious beaver up close, and see the tracks he left. We got to see his other family members across the river. It was absolutely a God gift. And we’ll always be grateful. Grand Teton grateful.

 

Technical Difficulties

My phone has recently begun its decline, and decided not to let me get online unless it’s with WiFi. And finding WiFi out here in Cowboy Country can be very tricky, to say the least. And then finding WiFi that’s fast enough to allow uploading of pictures, well that’s asking the near impossible.

WordPress also is very slow when I’ve had the opportunity to upload, and one picture can take 15-20 minutes, no joke. It’s hard not to go crazy after an hour with only four pictures done.

So, please forgive us for the delay. We know we’re behind and have our people (Albert and Christina) working on a solution. We’ll get more posts up ASAP.

Thanks for sticking with us and please be sure to check back often for new posts. We are working on it.

A Big Memorial in a “Little” Place

We decided to take the country route on the way to The Battle of Little Big Horn National Monument. On this trip, in taking back roads, we’ve had such special memories. God had another one in store for us.

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We drove into the cute little town of Broadus, MT, and found a calf roping event, to Dayne’s delight! Horses, horses everywhere!

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This was a father/son duo competing together. Dayne was later able to chat with the dad about horses. Mom was riding that day, too, and came in third with her partner. We saw the family later and the dad let the boys feed his horses some carrots. Very kind!

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The boys were invited to love on Rosie. She’s so docile, she can be ridden bare back.


The next morning, we rolled into the monument grounds bright and early. We ate breakfast, and then headed off to do some soaking up of history.

The photo on the top right shows Last Stand Hill, where George A. Custer died with his men. The bottom right shows the trees along the Little Big Horn River. On the other side of the river is where Crazy Horse and other chiefs had their combined village of over 2,000. The monument on the left names each US soldier that died that day in less than two hours. Seven hundred fifty men.

This monument below honors all the Indians who fought that day. There were no winners in this battle. Only losers. The US Army lost many men who died brutal deaths. The Indians would eventually lose their way of life due to the swift retaliation of the US government. Heartbreaking loss.

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Beautifully detailed dioramas depict the battle.

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The soldiers on Last Stand Hill shot their horses to use as shields from the Indian attack. This act, in itself, was admitting they knew they would die that day. Many took their own lives before the Indians could.

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As you walk along, you see white marble gravestones marking where soldiers were killed.

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Ranger Steve Adelson pulls no punches as he makes the story come alive.

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Using an arrow as a pointer and the actual battlefield as a backdrop, he draws you into the stories of both sides. You can find him on YouTube.Steve adelson https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q2UzKRUgzJ0 His presentation was excellent. Hopefully if you’re ever there visiting, you can sit in on his talk.

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beauty among the sadness

After leaving the battlefield, it was time to head to camp.

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We stayed at the 7th Ranch RV Campground in Garryowen, MT.

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It was a beautiful, simple, peaceful place to stay. (Except for the train that went through the valley at night. Albert couldn’t believe it. Brodee said, “They’re playing our song!”)

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When I was checking us in, the office lady told me to help myself to enough ice cream bars for each one in our family. Gratis, none the less.

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Should anyone ever offer you a Wilcoxson’s Fudge ice cream bar, DO NOT turn it down. Your ice cream loving tastebuds will never forgive you. These are thick, creamy, refreshing, and absolutely delicious!!!! And huge. They’re made by a local Billings company.