Monday, June 28, 2010

Find A Grave

One thing Randy and I committed to when making the transition to become vagabonds was to not let church attendance nor responsibilities decline. We were both concerned as we wouldn’t have a calling so how could we serve but with Randy’s experience in the Bishopric we knew there would be some way we could help if we just volunteered. Again, the Lord is providing and we are partaking. The ward we are attending in Casper has a huge super cool project going on this summer. There is a fairly new internet site called which is a database of graves from cemeteries all over the US. The data is input by family members, various clubs or groups, churches and even the cemetery staff itself. This is very helpful when doing some family research; especially when someone is unable to travel to personally gather the cemetery information. Back to the ward, they have committed to inputting the information from all the cemeteries in Casper. Big, big undertaking as there are several, big and little to do. The family history librarians obtained the burial information from the sexton at the main cemetery and input this into the website during the winter. Then the young women and young men did their part last fall by going and taking pictures of each of the headstones. Next step, several people worked on cataloging the photos alphabetically and dividing them up into various folders for individuals to work on either at the church or at home. This is where we were/are able to participate and give service. Last Friday evening, we went to the Find A Grave activity and were able to attached a folder of photos to the data already on the website. It was sort of a race (one of accuracy though) to see which Team (husband and wife made up a team) could get the most done. Randy and I had a late start but held in with the pack. All the teams were able to get through the Es before calling it a night and then we enjoyed various pies as our reward. We are going to return to the family history center on Tuesday evenings to try to finish our folder while we are here this summer.

Wyoming has Record Amount of Water this Year

During all the years of living in Wyoming, I only remember it being very dry and brown most of the summer. Well, not this year! Due to the amount of snow (which is just starting to melt in the mountains) and then spring rainstorms there are actually several parts of Wyoming flooding. Now the state has pretty good control of its water flow but nature can still baffle the best. As I mentioned in an earlier post, our campground monitors the flow of the Platte River very closely. The river is about ½ a block from us and is seeping its way closer. The river is about double its size in width and running very fast causing unusual force and turbulent. Casper is built right along the river and several parts of downtown and riverfront property have been sandbagged to contain the river where they can. One afternoon last week, Jason took us out to the reservoir which holds the snow melt for Casper water during the year. It was absolutely amazing. The water is coming around the dam and cascading down to the river because it is too full for the dam to hold it. This hasn’t happened for 35 years and is really attracting lots of people to view it. I knew there was lots of water coming across Nebraska and then up to Casper as the lakes and Platte River were very, very full but it is amazing to see where it starts and the force of the water cascading down the overflow. Sure wish some of the power could be captured for electricity or such.
Two years ago when Paul and family and Randy and I were here visiting, the guys went fishing at this very reservoir. Here is a picture of Paul fishing that day and then the next picture is the exact same spot, only it is under about 15’ of water. Just wild!This is Paul fishing two years ago. This is as close as we could get. That is the top of the trees that were behind Paul when he was fishing.

Midsummer’s Eve Celebration

Branch, Root and Twig -- spirits of the trees on the mountain.
Lavender Witch handing out treasure.
Topaz Witch standing guard at the gate of the celebration.

One afternoon of exploring with our GPS (Kathryn), we went to the top of Casper Mtn to a place called Crimson Dawn. While visiting the museum, we found out that the next Monday was going to be the Midsummer’s Eve Celebration at Crimson Dawn. Immediately it was put on the calendar to attend.

In 1929, a young woman and her two small children moved to a very small cabin on Casper Mtn and lived there for several years. The mother’s desire was to be an artist. To entertain her children, she told stories of witches which lived on the mountain. Most of the witches were good, fun witches but there were a couple trouble makers in the group. On June 21 of every year, a group sponsors a live walk through the woods by the cabin with a storyteller sharing about Crimson Dawn and the witches. There were various shrines created by this lady and her children throughout the walk and at each of the shrines was an actor dressed up as the character and sharing gifts with all those whom attended. There are seven different witches which have very unique parts in taking care of nature on the mountain. Sylvia and the children were able to attend with us. Randy and I purchased the book which has all the stories in it and are spending our evenings reading it to each other. It was just a cool way to learn of a delightful approach for a mother to entertain her children when they were so isolated.

Wild, Wild West

The west is just not the west without a rodeo or two to experience. Our first week in the new campground was the College National Finals Rodeo held here in Casper which we attended on Thursday, June 17. This rodeo featured qualifiers from colleges and universities across the country in events of saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping and others. Of course, we cheered for the Wyoming competitors whom did very well. What's more, there was a calf roper from the University of Arkansas. I had to straighten out the announcer though because he said they called the hogs by saying “Whooie, whooie” and I yelled saying it was “Whoo Pig Sooie”. We took all three grandchildren with us and I think I embarrassed Kathryn and Patrick by being so verbal. Addy loved the horseys and clowns. A good time was had by all I believe.

We also went to watch my cousin’s son, Dalton, ride (saddle bronc) in the Wyoming High School Rodeo finals in Douglas last Friday. We got there just in time to get seated before he came out of the shoot. He had an anxious bronc which was giving them difficulty even in the shoot. When the bronc came out of the shoot, he bucked a couple strong times and then stumbled; almost going down on Dalton. Dalton did a great job of holding on until he lost his stirrup and then just couldn’t keep in the saddle. Kathryn and Patrick went with us and enjoyed meeting more cousins and having the experience of actually cheering for someone they knew. We enjoyed having lunch with Sally and the boys and which we could have stayed for the evening go around. Again, a good time was had by all.
Dalton holding on tight.

150th Anniversary of the Pony Express

Little did we know when we started our adventure of traveling that we would be blessed with boundless opportunities to live and experience. Here is just one of those opportunities. This happens to be the 150th Anniversary of the Pony Express which came right thru Fort Casper during the year and a half it existed. We have been part of two celebrations commemorating this event. The first was an actual re-ride which started in St Joseph, Missouri and will continue to Sacramento, California. Several young horsewomen and men were chosen to ride certain legs of the trail carrying actual mail to the various towns and delivering it (thank you, US Postal Service). At the old fort which is only about three blocks from our camper, one of the riders, a young girl, came riding in and switched with a young man whom took off at full speed for the next few miles. The young girl’s mount was quite lathered up with sweat along with the rider looking worn out. I guess she had ridden for about 11 miles at a pretty good pace considering having to ride through modern day obstacles like towns, bridges, traffic, I am sure you get the picture. While waiting for the rider, there were several other riders that were milling around the fort for us to watch, talk to, and even pet the horses. This was Addy’s first opportunity to get close to a horse which didn’t spook her in the least. She wanted to be right next to them so none of us put her down as she may have even been right under them. I think this girl needs a horse….ummmmm.

Addy and her daddy petting a horse.

Rider coming in to make change.

Exchanging the mail bags.

Riding away on a fresh horse for the next 11 miles.

The second event was the Pony Express Re-ride Model A Tour. The Model A Ford Car Association sponsored a rally where one group of vehicles left from St Joseph, MO and another from San Francisco, CA meeting in Casper for the big jamboree. Once again, part of the schedule of activities was all of them being at Fort Casper for the car show and a huge barbeque. There were over 100 cars that were in and around Casper for a couple days. A couple of the cars stayed here at the campground with us, so we were able to get acquainted with the car owners. Some people, trailered their cars and only used them in towns where special things were happening but most actually drove their cars the entire distance. We met a couple from Columbia, SC which drove their car to St Joseph and then traveled with the group to here. We thought they would just head back home, but no, they were going to go on to Yellowstone Nat’l Park, Glacier Nat’l Park, then over to Washington state to drive down Hwy 101 and then back home from San Francisco in a few weeks. Remember, this is in a car which doesn’t go much faster than 45 mph with no air conditioning, radio, DVD, and very little room for the luggage. Good thing they have a windshield so the driver and passenger can have some quality windshield time.

Patrick looking at one of the cars.

I must share a moment of windshield time we had with Patrick. We were riding along in the truck talking about various things. At one point, we were talking about being comfortable around elderly people and how their actions can seem so foreign to us. Patrick piped up and said, “he didn’t like being around old people at all, they were just creepy”. Then he stopped for a breath and added, “except for you. You are okay to be around”. My head spun around and must have given him one of Nana’s looks, as both he and Kathryn just burst out in laughter. It was just one of those moments to keep in the memory books forever. Well, until I get to old to remember it and turn creepy!!

Redneck vs Class

Wow, the last couple of weeks have been full of fun and excitement. We have had a great time doing a variety of things with the grandchildren (Sylvia and Jason also). Our first action to really be ready to do several things was to move from our redneck campground to one with a bit more class. The first campground we settled in at Casper was presented real well on the internet and camping magazines (guilty of false advertising) but just not for us. The first difficulty was the space was not wide enough nor long enough for our mammoth home which left no room to be outside without feeling we were intruding on other’s space. Then, the train track was about 60 yards away on one side and the interstate was about the same distance on the other side. Trains came thru all night blowing their whistle for the crossings. I might have been able to adapt to this but when it was time for them to switch cars and hook and unhook night and day, the bumping and screeching would rock the camper which I could not take as it would knock me off balance. The only solution for someone on wheels is to relocate and that is just what we did. We are now in the Fort Caspar Campground which is really nice. It is part of the historical Fort Caspar which has lots of activities all thru the summer. Along with having plenty of room, the staff is very friendly and helpful (even delivered a new picnic table to us via a small John Deere tractor as they didn’t want the grandkids to get splinters from the old ones), there are several walking trails along the Platte River for our early morning exercise, and wildlife to constantly view. This morning we had a mama Mule deer and her baby in the area. Addy loves the new campground as it has several cottontails for her to see how close she can get to. She loves to go “bunny finding”. Our only small item of concern is the rising water level of the river due to area flooding…more on this to follow.

See the train!!

Our spot is from the outside edge of the concrete pad to the other side of the camper. Oops, we are parked in the neighbor’s yard!!

All set up at Fort Caspar Campground!! No, I did not misspell Caspar.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Big Week

June 13, 2010

Written and posted while sitting in the Bighorn during the third solid day of rain. Ugh!!

This week has been great. We arrived in Casper, WY late Sunday afternoon and were able to see Sis, Jason, and grandkids that evening. We are warming right up to our responsibilities as grandparents. We get to spend the afternoons with Kat and Patrick and then go pick up Addy from daycare when Sis and Jason are working and spend the evening with her. During our downtime, we are Smithizing the Bighorn so it will soon be totally home. I just can’t figure out where to hang the toilet paper holder. Not much space between the wall and seat for me and a toilet paper holder. Ummmm….. Okay, so that is TMI.

On Friday, we went to Laramie to visit my grandmother. She was one excited 89-yr-old to see Randy and I. It was a great visit and we plan on making more while we are here. I returned home with several articles of clothing to either mend or alter for Grandma. Good thing I packed my sewing machine in the Bighorn. One part of the 3-hr trip is thru a beautiful canyon that offers viewing of lots of wildlife. We were blessed to see a musk ox, llama, elk, buffalo, cows, horses, and mountain sheep on either ranches or the wildlife refuge. The thrill though was to see a coyote, antelope, elk, deer, rabbits, prairie dogs, pelicans, and several types of large and small birds in the wild. I was so excited to spot the wild elk. Of course, this awoke Randy’s hunting bug.

Four of the six wild elk we saw in Sybille Canyon.

One nervous Nana successfully decorated Kathryn's birthday cake.

Papa holding our little, Addy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Testimony Building Experiences

June 6, 2010 written and posted while driving across flatland Nebraska.

We are progressively making our way towards Wyoming. We stopped on Thursday night in Maryville, MO which is the county seat for Nodaway County where some of my father’s relatives settled for a period of time. We wanted to try and find records telling us more about their life while in this area. We spent all day Friday doing research. Even though I had something in mind I wanted to find out, we were led to so much more. We were able to find the actual plots of land which were settled by the Murdock family so many years ago and went to see it. I think I found the deed records the most interesting to read and think about but of course it dealt with numbers and coordinates which is my forte. After overloading our brain from several hours of reading books, newspapers, looking at photos, cemetery records, etc, we decided it was time to visit a cemetery in the county where six ancestors are buried. What a cool experience!! We had to scrape moss and other residue off the headstone but were able to decipher most of the inscriptions. Was an absolute great day!!

On Saturday, we started our journey across Nebraska. Our day was pretty uneventful until we pulled into the campground. We camped in North Platte along the Mormon Trail. While pulling into our site we noticed the folks setting up next to us had a handcart and were making a tarp tent using the handcart and picnic table. Both our minds flooded with memories of our own trek we participated in and wanted to know this family’s story. So, after we got pulled in, we went to inquire. They are the Haydon’s from Melbourne, Australia and he (dad) just received his Master’s degree from BYU and before they head back down under, they decided they wanted to trek to experience part of church history which is not directly related to their ancestry. It is a family of six (Ma being the only lady) and three neighbor boys have joined the family. They started at Winter Quarter’s in Omaha and plan on being in Salt Lake sometime late August. They are walking and pulling the cart but do have an RV which looks after them and they camp with to enable them to prepare meals, store memorabilia, and give the little ones a break as the youngest one is only 2. Along with walking the trail, they are taking in the sites of museums, historical markers along the way, and camping on the open prairie sometimes. If you are interested in learning more, they have a facebook page, Mormon Trail Handcart Trek 2010, which has a link to their blog. We talked to the boys for quite some time and even asked them what they do while walking and the common answer was “sing hymns”. They admitted it was hard work but are totally enjoying it and definitely not ready to give up even though they have been on the trek for three weeks. What an amazing undertaking! They will be coming through Casper and have invited us to walk into Casper with them if we wish. I would love it and plan on making sure we can.

The Haydons with the Smith rig right behind.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Good-bye Arkansas; Hello Wherever We Stop

Written June 3, 2010 while driving thru Missouri back country and rush hour in Kansas City. Posted while cooling down at the campground.

June 2, 2010
With all good intentions of leaving on June 1st, we delayed our departure one more day. It was a great day to rest up and relax our brains enough to ensure we had things pretty well put together before pulling out. Plus, I needed one more day to prepare to say good-bye to Karl and Angela. Just to set the scene, Karl and Angela sold their house in preparation for transferring to a new university and was also in the process of moving from the house to an apartment at the exact same time we were moving into the Bighorn. So several empathies were being shared between the two couples along with lots of words of wisdom to ease the burden of moving. It was interesting to have similar situations but at the same time we felt guilty that we couldn’t be more help to them and with all that was going on there just wasn’t much time to really spend together.

Anyway, we were ready to begin the journey Wednesday morning. After buttoning down the hatches for the first time on a fully loaded new home, we pulled out of FAMCAMP at 9:36 am heading for Conway to say good-bye to Karl. We traveled thru the base taking last looks at the world we had known for the last six years; or should I say 30, along with quiet thoughts about the world we were heading into. Now, if you remember reading just a couple sentences ago, I said we buttoned down for the first time. We were going down Hwy 107, only gone about five miles, and Randy asked me if I had locked the refrigerator door. Oops, no I hadn’t. So, we find a wide spot to pull over, he jumps out to go back and slide the latch. Okay, ready to start up again. Next, it was my turn. I asked him if he had strapped in the TV. Ooops, no he hadn’t. So, again we find a wide spot to pull over, he jumps out but this time he has to climb over the counter to get to the TV to strap it down. But, I am getting better at using time wisely cause just as he was locking the door, I asked him if he had noticed that the printer needed moved down to the floor. Oooops, no we hadn’t. So, back over the counter he goes to move the printer to the floor. Quick go thru the mental list one more time to see if there was anything else we forgot. No, so I think we can really start out now. Back on the road once again. We weren’t down the road another five miles and Randy casually says to me, “We have no trailer brakes right now.” Be still my beating heart, we will get this 15,000 lb white thing stopped somehow on this curvy, hilly road. Yet again, we locate a wide spot in the road and pull over with a bit of a sudden stop this time. Our new plug had jiggled loose so we both learned how to confirm that it was fully connected and would stay put. Yippee, we made it fifteen miles and already stopped three times for adventure. We were able to make it all the way to Conway without pulling over again. We wanted to go take a look at Karl and Angela’s apartment and see the progress in getting it all set up. It is a great place for them and they will definitely stay in shape with living 40 steps up to the third floor. It is fun to watch our children do “adult” things and turn into us. Karl had to show off his installation of shelves in the storage shed. It just put smiles on my face. Saying good-bye was really, really hard and yes, I cried – all the way to Clinton, AR and then weepy the rest of the day and probably will be the rest of the week. The drive thru northern Arkansas was absolutely beautiful and what an initiation for pulling the 5th wheel going thru the Ozarks – up and down hills (big hills). It was soothing just watching out the window looking at the scenery and reflecting. Now, some of the scenery was more interesting than others. As I was casually watching the oncoming traffic, I noticed a small pickup up ahead pulled off on the side of the road. As we got closer, I could see the driver was male and shirtless starting to get out of his vehicle. Not too big of deal but I personally think it would be uncomfortable to travel with no shirt and get more of a sun/wind burn. Practicing on being less judgmental as learned at church Sunday, I dismissed any comments but did continue to watch him as we were going past. Well, low and behold; he wasn’t just shirtless; he was stitchless – like totally stitchless. My reaction – while quickly shaking my head back and forth, I repeated “etch-a-sketch, erase”!!!! Sure glad we had a couple more hours of traveling and more appropriate scenery to watch. Our first night was spent in Conway, Missouri with good friends, Jack and Judy. They own 80 acres of beautiful Missouri farm country so we had plenty of space to park and even with the conveniences of water and electric hook-ups. Couldn’t ask for anything better and they made perfect campground hosts. We had a great evening of visiting, sharing a delicious dinner, and then continued visiting the next morning. Randy met Jack and Judy while deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1985 and even though we have seen each other thru the years there were lots of stories to share and relive from the last 25 years.

Fine Dining

Karl sucking the head of a crawfish.

We were blessed with several opportunities to have special dinners with groups of our friends prior to departure. We enjoyed a filling dinner at Gauchos Brazilian Restaurant with the Johnsons (including Misty), Griffins, Schultes, and the Parks. Do not ever pass up the oppportunity to try Brazilian cooking. Yummmm.... Then the Parks treated us to an Arkansas crawfish boil. Karl and Angela were able to join us along with some of the Schultes. After six years in Arkansas, I have finally mastered the beheading and eating of crawfish. We were also able to enjoy a fine evening meal with Mike and Teresa whom made the hair gadget cubby. On Memorial Day, Randy and I had a bbq for all our "adopted" children which will be missed greatly -- Jeremy and Jessica, Jake and Emily, Mike (Melissa and kids were in Wyoming), and Karl and Angela. It was a great evening and I will miss our big family dinners. Tuesday evening was dinner with our dear neighbor, Josey. She was the best and will be missed so much.

Bighorn's First Amenity

Written on May 27, 2010 at FAMCAMP. Posted while watching other campers wake up at Mozingo Lake Park.

A top notch surprise came my way today. A really dear friend of Randy’s and mine, Mike Reid, made me the first amenity for the Bighorn. There is a space about 3” wide between the shower and bathroom sink which just needed a purpose. Ummm, let me think…oh yeah, all my hair fixin’ gadgets needed a home other than just tossed under the sink. So, he made me a really clever divided stand that provides a cubbie for each gadget and even with cubbies to spare. You never know I may need to go shopping just to fill the space. Just don’t tell Randy as he will weigh the new item and then I have to figure out something to discard which weighs the same or preferably more. j/k Weight is just a bad six-letter word for a little while until we see how we truck (pun on words) down the road. We have such wonderful friends.

Catching Up

This is not how I like to keep house. All this stuff must find a place soon!!

The beginning of packing day.

This was written May 26, 2010 while sitting in the camper at FAMCAMP but being posted while sitting in Maryville, MO watching boats being launched on Mozingo Lake. Just lovely!!

Best catch ya’ll up on wwwwhhhaaaattt’ssss uuuupppp. Since getting the Bighorn to Arkansas it seems Randy and I haven’t taken time to take a breath. Instantly we came across a problem, the Bighorn is too big to keep at the house. It is about five feet too long for the driveway and we definitely can’t open the slide outs while sitting on the street. We were quite a site standing on the driveway early Saturday morning with a tape measure trying to blueprint where we could make it fit. Just wasn’t going to work which was a big bummer as it would have made it so much easier to load and get set up. But never fear as there is always a Plan B. The closest RV Park offering the conveniences we need was FAMCAMP on base, so the Bighorn found a comfortable home at site 13. We have spent the last two weeks loading the back seat of the truck with the items we held out to go with us and taking them to the Bighorn. With each load we had to take a second look at each item and make sure it had a place and and a purpose to make sure we really wanted to take it with us. All this had to be done before the packers came to pack up the house allowing the unwanted items to be put in storage. So, some items were then returned to the house. We would crash at whichever place we were at at the end of the day. Trying to remember where things were; either at the house, in the camper or even in the truck and then in which Rubbermaid tub, at the house or in the camper, and then even if we still had it. Ugh, my card catalog brain is fried and needs a big break.

The packers came on Monday, the 24th, to pack the boxes and then returned on Tuesday to load the truck to take it to storage. This was the easiest packing experience for us since we only had 5000 lbs of stuff compared to the usual 14,000 lbs with most of our family moves. Thanks kids for taking so much and lightening our load.  The packers were done by 5 pm instead of the usual 9 or 10 pm. Our next step was to clean the house and get the remainder to the Bighorn. A few hours in the house and two more trips to the Bighorn and everything we have in our possession is in one place again. It feels so good – I was beginning to feel like I had a split personality with some of our things there and some of them here. Now we begin the final weed out of items that just aren’t suppose to join us on our ventures. Of course, I better start with clearing off the bed as we have no other choice of where to sleep now. I guess I will just scoot everything off to the floor. I just hope to have the entire camper travel ready within a couple days as I am ready to get on the road.