First Time “Mooch” Docking

First, I’m going to apologize to Bridget for using the term “mooch docking”.  She feels (and rightly so) that the term “mooch” is the antithesis of hospitality, and I totally agree.  I did decide though to put it in that context in the hope that people who are doing research will find this post and use it as a guideline for exactly how to open your home to someone who is a full time RVer.

We met Bridget and Pat briefly back in 2014 at the RV-Dreams rally, and then again at the 2015 Reunion Rally.  Because Bridget’s mom was ill, they were staying close to home in Louisiana, but were very much looking forward to spending more time on the road.  When we determined our route back east would take us near them, I reached out to see if we could stop by.  Two reasons; first and foremost I wanted to see them again, and spend more time with them, but I also had never been to Louisiana before and really wanted to learn about it from people who grew up there.   Unfortunately, about 10 days before we were due to arrive, Bridget’s mom passed away and I was very uncertain about what to do.  After some soul searching, I decided I wouldn’t make her choice for her and reached out.  Not only did she still want us to come, but she was grateful for the visit.  Anyone who has been through it knows the grief process when losing a parent is a long and difficult process and she was happy for the distraction.  So we made arrangements to stop for a couple of days with them and headed down route 90 into the bayou.

From the moment we arrived they were absolutely amazing.  They have a longish driveway on a somewhat busy street, so they both stopped traffic so we could have the time to back in.  The angle was a little tough, but we pushed up against their garage and then Pat hooked Lee up to 50amp electric and water.  Just so you know, 50 amp is not required.  Most full time RVers can stay on a property for a couple of days with no services at all, but having access to electric and water was a nice bonus. Both Lee and I felt a little uncomfortable that we were taking up so much of their driveway, but they really couldn’t have cared less, and were so excited to see us that we felt more comfortable about the imposition.

Tucked into the driveway

Tucked into the driveway

It’s important to note here that as long as you have a driveway or piece of land long enough to fit the camper (and local regulations don’t restrict it) people can stay with you.  We don’t mind if you don’t mind, and are always grateful for a free place to stay.  Once we settled in we got a tour of their home and wow is it amazing.  Pat is a retired State trooper and Bridget was the principal of the local school, and after several years of marriage they built a beautiful home on a piece of Pat’s parents land. My favorite part of the house was the kitchen which was huge and full of handmade cabinets and furniture that had been created with reclaimed wood from both Pat and Bridget’s parents old homes.  Out of respect for them I didn’t take tons of pictures of the home, but I couldn’t resist the kitchen.  Bridget retired after 32 years in the school system, and then started a small home kitchen cookie business, Cookie Clutter.  Her cookies are not only beautiful, but absolutely delicious, so what started as a hobby has turned into a 20-25 hour a week job, and she has the kitchen to support it.

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Serious pantry envy

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Bridget’s cookies

I loved loved her commerical stove

I loved loved her commercial stove

We spent the first evening touring the house and grounds, catching up, and talking.  They had a lot of questions about how life has been on the road and we had a lot of questions about living in Louisiana.  Plus Bridget cooked an amazing dinner of Shrimp and Crab corn chowder and Shrimp and Crab cakes.  She walked me through how she cooked as she did it and what can I say other than crazy impressive.  You hear about southern hospitality and southern cooking, but to experience it in someone’s home was a very special opportunity for us.   I have read in cookbooks about certain techniques, but the opportunity to see them in action from someone who has been cooking like that her whole life was on a whole different level.  She also wasn’t at all possessive about the kitchen, which was nice.  There was no expectation, but if I wanted to jump in and help she was all for it.  They also are incredibly generous people.  Many people say “my house is your house” but Pat and Bridge take it to a whole new level.  Oh you were looking for local rice, here take this bag.  You think this wine stopper would work in your camper, please take this extra one we have we aren’t using.  I could go on and on.  Let me just say in all seriousness I have never received this level of hospitality in my life.  No disrespect intended for anyone who was ever kind enough to let us stay with them, but this was a whole other level. It was funny though when I took them at their word and after dinner got up and started to do the dishes.  We have a rule that whoever cooks doesn’t clean up and when Bridget fussed at me a bit, I said you wanted me to feel at home, and to her credit she sat and talked to Lee and let me do them!

Excited about my new wine stopper

Excited about my new wine stopper

The next morning though Lee and I woke up and felt slightly uncomfortable.  The very last thing we would want to do would be to take advantage of anyone and it sort of felt like that.  So when we went over in the morning we sort of stumbled through explaining how we were feeling and asked for them to please not go to any trouble.  To their credit they listened patiently and then kindly dismissed everything we had just said 🙂 Well alright then, let’s just go with it.  They weren’t sure what we wanted to do during the day, but I just asked for them to show us the area as locals.  I think they thought we would  be bored initially, but as we went through the day and they saw how excited we got they understood.  The opportunity to see and experience a place as the locals do is a rare opportunity when traveling.  Unless you have gotten to know someone in the area, you often end up doing the more touristy things, which is fine, but not nearly as rich of an experience in my opinion as “going native.”  So we visited local stores, saw where Bridget and Pat worked, and went down and toured the bayou…and what an amazing day.

Since I love to shop locally we went to a local meat marker

Since I love to shop locally we went to a local meat marker

Loved the history of the place

Loved the history of the place and the “miracles in meat” tagline

I bought andouille sausage (pronounced "ahn-do-ee"

I bought andouille sausage (pronounced “ahn-do-ee”

This is a picture of the summer sausage that Pat makes himself, wow was it good

This is a picture of the summer sausage that Pat makes himself, wow was it good

Then we went to a small seafood store

Then we went to a small seafood store

Where we bought a bag of live crawfish for that nights dinner

Where we bought a bag of live crawfish for that nights dinner

Shopping for dinner the same day is something I enjoy and because the seafood is so plentiful, everyone here buys it as fresh as they can and then cooks it right away.  Next we drove down to the bayou, where Pat fishes frequently, and ate lunch at Schmoopy’s and toured the area a bit.  Almost all of the homes are built on stilts due to hurricanes and flooding and it is a mixture of modest homes and much nicer ones right next to each other.

Next was lunch at a restaurant down on the bayou

Next was lunch at a restaurant down on the bayou

The shrimp boats and water were right outside

The shrimp boats and water were right outside

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My kind of place.

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This made me smile

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And I loved this spoon hanging on the wall

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Bridget and Pat with their Po’Boy.  Sorry Bridge I caught you mid bite!

At lunch we grabbed the check and poor Pat (who is a true southern gentleman) was extremely uncomfortable.  Bridget, sweetheart that she is, put her hand on his arm and said let her do this.   Very, very sweet.  Next we checked a box of my long time bucket list.  I adore gulf shrimp, think it is the best in the world, and I have always wanted to buy it fresh right from the docks.  So we went to Martin’s Fresh Shrimp, where Lillie helped make that happen.  When Lillie found out I had never done this before, she spent a ton of time explaining the process and gave me a little extra, explaining the Louisiana concept of lagniappe.  We ended up getting 4-1/2 pounds of shrimp (caught the night before) for $20.  Amazing and I loved the whole experience.  Pat brought a cooler with ice and after making our purchase we headed back to their house.

Houses along the bayou

Houses along the bayou

MArtins Chrim and Crab ...yummy

Martins Shrimp and Crab …yummy

Modest stand but super fresh product

Modest stand but super fresh product

One of their fishing boats

One of their fishing boats

Not on the menu that night, but these looked amazing

Not on the menu that night, but these looked amazing

Pat held up a beauitful blue crab for me

Pat held up a beautiful blue crab for me

Lillie weighing out my shrimp

Lillie weighing out my shrimp.  She taught me Lagniappe which is the Louisiana word for that little bit extra

Along the way though we started talking about geocaching and Lee felt the best way to explain it was to do it, so we all found a geocache on their local college campus.

Lee showing Pat and Bridget the geocache app

Lee showing Pat and Bridget the geocache app

Getting close

Getting close

Found it!!

Found it!!

Once we got back to the house, Pat and I sat outside on chairs and cleaned shrimp.  I had never cleaned shrimp with heads on before, so asked for some plastic gloves, but after we did a few it was pretty easy.  Then Pat used his commercial vacuum sealer to make us some beautiful little packages of shrimp.  He also froze them in one of his big freezers so the next morning we could just load them in ours.  Then Bridget took us into their orange and lemon grove and we picked some fresh oranges and lemons and we went over to her mom’s house to look at books.  Bridget knows how much we love to read and since she is planning on donating her mom’s books anyway, wanted us to take what we wanted.  As a side note most full timers use Kindles but we still like paper books and after reading them we drop them off in whatever local town we are in at the library or campground. Plus, Bridget was giving me a bunch of old, local cookbooks..so yeah, I was excited.   On the way back to her parents house we were looking at the pond and I got to see my very first wild alligator.  It was about 4 feet long, and just hanging out.  I went back to get my camera and told Pat there was an alligator.  He said, “Ok I’ll take care of it when my son gets here.”  Naively I asked what taking care of it was and he looked at me kind of strangely and said, “We will catch it and eat it”  Well, sure, why not?  I have no issue with people hunting and fishing if they eat what they take and it’s not like they are rare down here or anything.

The commerical vacu sealer. Wish we had room for one of these

The commerical vacu sealer. Wish we had room for one of these

Hooray shrimp

Hooray shrimp

Soon to be snack alligator (Lee's pic)

Soon to be dinner alligator (Lee’s pic)

Alligator (Lee's pic)

Alligator (Lee’s pic)

Lee's pic of a slug at the pond. They are really kind of beautiful the way he shot this, but Bridget says they are a pest

Lee’s pic of a group of snail eggs at the pond. They are really kind of beautiful the way he shot this, but Bridget says they are a menace

Lee's pic

Lee’s pic

Pat cleaning the crawfish

Pat cleaning the crawfish

These ones are on the small side

These ones are on the small side

All the fixins for the boil

All the fixins for the boil

Cooking crawfish is serious business

Cooking crawfish is serious business\

My plate of crawfish was a very small portion

My plate of crawfish was a very small portion

Getting ready for my lesson

Getting ready for my lesson

Lee is getting into it

Lee is getting into it

The carnage after the meal

The carnage after the meal which all goes on their compost heap

 

So here are my thoughts on my very first crawfish boil.  The veggies were spicy, although you can control that with what you put into the boil, the meat on the crawfish was sweet (sort of a cross between lobster and crab) and tasted great but it’s some work getting to it.  Of course Bridget and Pat were much faster at it than I was, so that would probably improve over time.  Most of all it was totally fun.  You only eat the tail part and the head gets thrown away (or used later for gravy) so the grossness factor was much less than I expected.  Plus it is a true Louisiana experience and a must try at least once for everyone.  Oh and they used Zatarain’s Boil mix for seasoning and Bridget’s Go To Cajun seasoning for almost everything else is Slap Yo Momma  She of course gave me generous portions of both to take with me. And she taught me about Kary’s Dry Roux which is a fat free alternative to traditional roux and much easier. 

After dinner we sat around and talked until very late, when Pat and Bridget’s daughter arrived.  She is a beautiful and sassy 23 year old and I thought she was terrific.  When we went to bed finally we realized it was 10:45pm!!  What??  I never stay up that late, but the company was so good the time just flew by. Do you ever talk with people and cover 50 topics in an hour, but the conversation flows easily?  That is what it was like for us.  It was conversational magic and later Bridget said it was exactly what she needed to help “shake her out of her fog.” The next morning, they packed our freezer with fish, shrimp, gumbo mixture, and sausage while I made us a big mid-western country breakfast.  It wasn’t fancy, but they seemed to like it and I loved cooking on that amazing stove.   We are so very grateful that our first experience staying on someone else’s property was a positive one and they set the bar pretty high for future experiences.  It was such a great weekend that I suggested they package it and sell it as “The Louisiana Experience”, but Pat says they will be too busy traveling the road themselves 🙂  Glad we came for the visit in while they are still there.  Next up New Orleans and Dave and Sharon of Two Lanes Of Freedom fame.   I really can’t believe this is my life!

Recipes 

Bridget’s Maque Choux Corn

  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 2 TBL Flour
  • 1 can Rotel Tomatoes Mild
  • Sweet or bell peppers (optional)
  • 1 large onion, cut into small pieces)
  • 1 stalk celery (thinly sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 cans Green Giant Niblet corn or 16 oz bag Green Giant Niblets frozen corn  (fresh works the best if in season)
  • 1 packet Splenda (use with canned or frozen corn to sweeten, not necessary with fresh)
  1. Melt butter in pan
  2. Saute garlic, onions, peppers, and celery in butter until slightly soft
  3. Add flour, stirring constantly until thickened
  4. Add Rotel tomatoes and stir constantly until warmed
  5. Add corn
  6. Add 1 packet of Splenda to sweeten the corn and stir
  7. Let simmer on low, stirring frequently until “smothered” in the sauce.

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First Time in Reno

This is a long one, you might want to grab a cup of coffee!

Although I had tons of work this week, it’s my year end close, we still found some time to help out the young people from the American Conservation Experience who are working this week on cleaning up the trail.  I did have some reservations about 7 kids in their early 20’s staying that close to us, but after 9 days I can say I was pleasantly surprised.   They are up early, out working all day, and very quiet when they are around camp.  As a group they are all very friendly but also respectful of our space.  Lee got to spend the most time with them this week as he spent some time shooting footage of  them as they cleaned up the trail.  He’s producing a short video about the project for Stan to use and the kids were more than happy to be a part of it.  Also one night the battery on their truck died and Lee and I drove on the fire road down to where they were working and gave them a jump.  The Bizz Johnson Trail is really something.  It is 36 miles of rail trail converted into a bike path and some of the scenery is just beautiful.  Plus there are some really neat tunnels cut into the hills surrounding us, and we will definitely be going farther up the trail with our camera to take some pictures.

The way the kids schedule works is 9 days on and 5 days off, so Wednesday night was the end of the first 9 day stint.  Then they go back to the Lake Tahoe headquarters and rest and have fun, then come back for here for another 9 day stretch.  Since not everyone is necessarily coming back to this location, Lee decided he wanted to fix them dinner.  Since work was nuts, I was ok with that but said cooking and cleaning was up to him, which he readily agreed to.  He made hot dogs and brats and I made some strawberry pound cake for everyone with home made whipped cream.  As a side note I have never made whipped cream before but it is easy and yummy.  A pint of whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and blend until stiff.  So good…I don’t know if I will ever buy the premade stuff again.  After dinner, Phil the team leader taught us to play a game called stump.  Phil is from Wisconsin and since our new son-in-law is also from there this game makes sense as a Wisconsin game.  You take a tree stump and lightly tap in a long nail for each person.  Then you take a hammer, flip it in your hand, and in one motion try to pound someone else’s nail.  As soon as the nail is completely flat against the stump that person is out.  It is much harder than it sounds and of course putting people out leads to all kinds of hilarity.  I played a round and it was fun but the mother in me rebelled against flipping hammers up in the air that way.  I can definitely see the attraction though for this group since they are often in very remote places for many days.  There are usually stumps and nails are cheap so I get it.  It was fun I have to say and I really enjoyed getting to know them all better.

Strawberry poundcake I made with real whipped cream

Strawberry poundcake I made with real whipped cream

Lee

From Left: Lee, Justin, George, Julius, Grace, Marc,  Phillip, and Gina

Stump

Stump

Since three of them are from other countries (Korea, Germany, and England)  they were very interested in full time RVing and I was equally interested in why they would join a program like this.  Essentially for them it is an opportunity to visit America, work on their English, and get some practical experience in a nature related field.  Overall I was very impressed by every one of them, and even more so when the next morning, after they left, we found a bottle of wine and a card on our picnic table.  If anyone thinks the Millennials are a lost cause as a generation, you might feel differently after you read what the card said:

Lee and Tracy,

“To say that you two were the best camp hosts that we have had would be a massive understatement.  You took the time to get to know each of us on a personal level and brought us motivational treats. You also did countless favors for us over the past nine days, saving our bacon in several instances, and for that we are forever grateful.  It has been an honor and a privilege to have shared this tiny campground that we all pretty much consider our second home.  Both of you are amazing people and you have created a long lasting positive memory in all of us that we will not soon forget.  We would also like to formally welcome you to your new lifestyle and may you never stop exploring and trying new things.”

 The A.C.E Crew

This chokes me up again just typing it.  We didn’t even do that much.  We were just friendly, made them a couple of desserts and a meal, and got to know them.  Anyway, if you ever have a chance to work with these youth organizations,  I really recommend getting to know the kids.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised as I was.

We also got a care package from Lee’s parents which really made it an awesome day.  I love that they collect little things they think we would like and they actually got our address here and paid the $6 to ship them.  This package had collapsible bowls, cocktail napkins for our parties with friends, and some great camping T-Shirts.  Each item was thoughtful, relevant to what we are doing, and in almost every case does two things!!  So nice of them and it meant the world to us!Y018After the kids left things were pretty quiet and we actually got some rain.  One of the interesting things about this part of the country is how many completely cloudless days there are.  On the occasion when it does rain however it rains hard and we pretty much stayed inside.  We both started to get a little antsy about our hair though.  We hadn’t had haircuts since July before the wedding and really were getting shaggy.  Unfortunately Susanville doesn’t offer a hair cutting place that I would even consider so off we went to Reno on Friday afternoon to go to a Super Cuts. I know I’ve said it before but Super Cuts is awesome.  They are extremely clean and consistent across the country plus for $16 you get a nice haircut.  They also carry my hair product and offer an eyebrow wax for $10.  Really can’t beat it.  They have recently added a “call ahead” feature and you can make an appointment the same day which they do a VERY good job of honoring.  So we were in and out of there before 5pm and realized we should probably take advantage of our time in Reno.

Lee and I like to gamble, strictly for fun, on occasion, so I was very interested in checking out the casinos in Reno and seeing if we could actually have any fun gambling on such a limited budget.  Lee used to go to Vegas for the week long National Association of Broadcasters conference every year and budgeted $100 per day for Black Jack.  He usually broke even, that’s just the way blackjack works, but he went into it planning to lose the $500 for entertainment. Obviously that wasn’t going to work in this lifestyle where our monthly entertainment budget is $159 so we needed to talk it through.  We went to Circus Circus because the web said they had $2 blackjack tables and we had dinner at a little diner there.  The meals were excellent but man, am I ever tired of spending $3 for soda or iced tea. Consequently dinner was $37, but later I had an idea that I am going to start taking those little drink powder packets in my purse so we can have lemonade for dinner.  The $10.99 for the meals was more than fair but the markup on an iced tea makes me crazy.  As we ate we talked through what gambling would look like for us in this new world.  This was progress by the way as instead of spending now and talking later we are really starting to have these conversations proactively.  We determined that for the test I would take $20 (my standard amount for nickel slots) and Lee would take $100 for blackjack and we would see what happened.  Lee had the harder decision to make by far and I won’t talk about about all the details, but if you are going to gamble you need a certain amount of money to start with.  It ended up turning out great as he found a set  of interconnected tables with an electronic dealer for $2 a game and ended up spending only $22 for about two hours of play. I spent $8 out of my $20.  We also spent a few dollars upstairs on the huge arcade area Circus Circus has.   We probably could have recouped that money if we were willing to stay longer, but we needed to close the gate back at the ranch, so we headed back.  We did drive through the downtown area heading home though and I definitely want to go back and try out some of the other  casinos.  Overall the experience was great and better than anything we have seen short of Vegas including Atlantic City.  We were offered free drinks several times, the slots were varied, and the kind I like, and it really had a small Vegas vibe unlike Indian Casinos we have been in.  Plus, I have to say, I really like Reno as a town.  I was expecting the worst, but they have really cleaned it up in the 20 years since Lee has been there and it’s a very nice little town.

Casino downstairs and arcade upstairs

Casino downstairs and arcade upstairs

Lee playing Whack a Mole

Lee playing Whack a Mole…won a snake.  He likes the games where you whack stuff 🙂

I completely rock the fishing game...won twice

I completely rocked the fishing game…won twice.

Lee tried Chicken in the pot for the first time and won we a bear :)

Lee tried Chicken in the Pot for the first time and won me a bear 🙂

What girl doesn't like an armful of stuffed animals at an arcade

What girl doesn’t like an armful of stuffed animals at an arcade

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Saturday it rained some more, so I just took some chill time, and Lee worked on Howard and Linda’s videos.  In case you are wondering, I am doing OK with the decision to leave my job, but I am having some rough moments.  I had a really great review and conversation with my current boss which made me feel good about things, and I’ve talked to Cori several times.  She has been absolutely wonderful because she went through a similar experience several months ago and not only does she get it, but she has been very understanding of how moody I have been over the whole thing.  I am going along feeling great and then wham I get sad or a little depressed and Cori has been right there telling me it’s normal and will pass.  She also sent me the picture below and it really struck home with me… so I thought I would pass it along.

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Sunday was a little cloudy but no rain which was great because we had plans with Jo and Ben.  Jo and Ben started their new jobs the last couple of weeks and we were dealing with my job issues, so no opportunity until now to see each other.  I found a Celtic festival in Reno on Groupon though and we made plans to meet there on Saturday.  This was the first time I had used Groupon (recommended by both Katy and Cori, two of the most bargain conscious chicks I know) and it worked great.  They have a mobile app you can use and we got on online ticket which we just held up and shpwed upon entrance.  We did have to pay a $5 parking fee though which brought the cost up to $10 per person.  Unfortunately this was not my best pick.  The event was super small and none of us felt the fee was worth the $10.  Jo and Ben were so nice about it though and when we were done after 1-1/2 hours Ben came up with a Plan B.    My favorite thing we saw was a demonstration on how to put on a kilt.  Both Jo and I were fascinated as we had read about it, but never actually seen it done.  I have included a step by step set of pictures below on that for those of you who have an interest.  I found it fascinating and now feel like I could maybe buy and wear a kilt.  By the way, women and men wore kilts at the same length until the 1500’s when the catholic church pushed for the women to wear them long for modesty.

Beautiful Draft horses at the Celtic Fair

Beautiful Draft horses at the Celtic Fair

Stage with some ok musicians playing, we listened to some Irish folk tunes for awhile

Stage with some ok musicians playing, we listened to some Irish folk tunes for awhile

Falconer had several birds

Falconer had several birds

Amazing how far they can turn their head

Amazing how far they can turn their head

Really neat getting so close to them

Really neat getting so close to them

Unfortunately the falconer was less interested in talking than charging $10 per picture holding the birds, so we passed

Unfortunately the falconer was less interested in talking than charging $10 per picture holding the birds… we passed

These weavers were really nice. and we talked to them for some time. Turns out Ben worked in a wool mill in New Hampshire when he was in his 20's

These weavers were really nice. and we talked to them for some time. Turns out Ben worked in a wool mill in New Hampshire when he was in his 20’s

Make the pleats on the ground by folding over cloth

Make the pleats on the ground by folding over cloth

Pleats should be one third of cloth and equally in the middle

Pleats should be one third of cloth and equally in the middle

Lay down on cloth and roll over you like a burrito

Lay down on cloth and roll over you like a burrito

Adjust length to below the knee in winter and above the knee in the summer and place a belt around your waist

Adjust length to below the knee in winter and above the knee in the summer and place a belt around your waist

Pin the outside edge to stop the wind from blowing it open ... never knew what those pins were for

Pin the outside edge to stop the wind from blowing it open … never knew what those pins were for

Roll excess cloth at waist over belt

Roll excess cloth at waist over belt

Pull extra on one side up (easier with two people)

Pull extra on one side up (easier with two people)

Pull second side up

Pull second side up

Tie with some cord as seen here

Tie with some cord as seen here

She placed a second belt on and you can see how cool the pleats are in the back

She placed a second belt on and you can see how cool the pleats are in the back

So there was some cool things but no way worth $10 and thankfully Ben had this idea to head to Virginia City, which is a an historic mining town about 30 minutes outside of Reno.  A huge silver strike was found there, most people know it as the Comstock Lode, and tons of saloons were built.  What is cool about this town is many of the original buildings are still in place and I loved the wooden boardwalk which follows the natural lines of the ground and made me feel like I was really in the old west.  Plus in one of those awesome moments of serendipity we realized we were there during the world championship outhouse races.  Oh yes, I am not making that up, and it was completely a happy accident.  Can’t really describe what we saw in words, so let me just show you the pics.

Really cool old buildings

Really cool old buildings

Check out the metal drain spouts

Check out the metal drain spouts

Now I know what gold looks like in the wild

Now I know what gold looks like in the wild

Just in case :)

This one was cool

Lee wasn't kidding when he said people wore guns out west

Lee wasn’t kidding when he said people wore guns out west

Tons of little shops crammed full of antigues

Tons of little shops crammed full of antiques

Sign shop had tons of signs

Sign shop had tons of signs

For our friend Emils

For our friend Emily

The chandeliers in the old saloons were amazing

The chandeliers in the old saloons were amazing

Really good country western band playing in one

Really good country western band playing in one

And the outhouse races

And the outhouse races

You can't make this stuff up

You can’t make this stuff up

They were having fun

They were having fun

This guy did the starting guns hots..seriously old west

This guy did the starting line gunshots..seriously old west

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Ben and Jo

Ben and Jo

When I sat in here, it started making pooping noises. Cracked me and Ben up

When I sat in here, it started making pooping noises. Cracked me and Ben up

Old fire engine museum was very neat and free

Old fire engine museum was very neat and free

A guy who has been in tons of fire museums said he had never seen these before and they were

A guy who has been in tons of fire museums said he had never seen these before and they were “priceless”

 

After spending several hours in Virginia City, we headed down to Jo and Ben’s place.  They are staying at Sparks Marina RV Park  right in Reno.  Normally not a huge fan of these types of parks but they have done a nice job with this one.  Every space has it’s own spot of AstroTurf.  There are three nice dog parks, a clubhouse, pool and Jacuzzi.  Plus across the street is a lake and marina with beach volleyball courts and nice picnic areas.  Sometimes when you are working, convenience makes more sense than anything else, and it does feel isolated despite only being 10 minutes away from Ben’s work at the hospital.  They also have immaculate restrooms,  cable and really great free Wifi and with a monthly off season price of $575 a month is a nice deal.

Campground

Campground

Nicest of the three dog parks

Nicest of the three dog parks

 

Really great clubhouse

Really great clubhouse

Got lots of puppy love from Peyton !!

Got lots of puppy love from Peyton !!

Campground Reviews

Sparks Marina RV Park   1200 E. Lincoln Way Sparks, NV 89434  4 out of 5 pine cones

The spaces are close together but each has it’s own spot of AstroTurf.  There are three nice dog parks, a clubhouse, pool and Jacuzzi.  Plus across the street is a lake and marina with beach volleyball courts and nice picnic areas. Despite being right in town  it does feel isolated and you have a nice view of the surronding hills.   They also have immaculate restrooms,  cable and really great free Wifi and with a monthly off season price of $575 a month is a nice deal.

Recipes

Spicy Drumsticks with Blue Cheese

  • 4 drumsticks
  • 3 TBL vegetable Oil
  • 3 TBL white vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper sauce (add more is you like spicy)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  1. Mix oil, vinegar, pepper sauce, and salt in ziploc plastic bag
  2. Add drumsticks and toss until well coated
  3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour occasionally turning bag
  4. Cook Chicken on grill for 30 minutes saving sauce in bag
  5. Baste chicken with remaining sauce in bag and then cook an additional 10-15 minutes
  6. Serve with Blue Cheese dressing for dipping on the side
Spicy Drumsticks

Spicy Drumsticks

Fresh Strawberry Coffee Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBL melted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups strawberries , sliced

Topping

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Grease an 8 x8 x2 pan
  3. Combine all cake ingredients except for strawberries, mix until well blended
  4. Spread batter evenly in pan and sprinkle berries evenly over batter
  5. Combine flour and sugar for topping then add softened butter.  Blend by hand until mix is crumbly
  6. Add nuts to topping and blend
  7. Sprinkler the topping over strawberries
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes
  9. Serve Warm

Homemade Whipped Cream

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1.  Beat ingredients until stiff in large bowl
  2. Refrigerate until used

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First Time on a Sunset Cruise

This is probably the longest post I have ever done but it is very representative of an action packed week.  It won’t hurt my feelings at all if you skim the words and just look at the pictures…lol.    I took Monday and Tuesday off to spend more time with friends and it’s been a very full couple of weeks.  Bill and Kelly are staying a week here in our RV park and they came on Monday.  It was really nice that Kelly planned this out months ago to make sure she got to spend time with us.  If you don’t know (I didn’t)  RV parks in Florida fill up VERY early for the peak months (Jan-Mar).  So it takes advance planning especially if you are trying to coordinate with other folks.  Thankfully Kelly knew this and she pushed me to lock in here at Rainbow Village back in November and I ended up getting one of the last two spots.  Kelly called at the same time and booked her week, and I am so excited the time has finally come.  We have been driving all over the place to see people, and although it’s totally worth it, I am excited some folks are coming to us.

I read in Howard and Linda’s RV-Dreams journal that its common etiquette for the person already at the campground to cook a little meal for the people coming in on the first night so they don’t have to mess with cooking the same day as travel and setup.  I really like that idea, and although I knew Kelly was seeing her parents Monday night wanted to do something.  So I went up to Lazy Days in Tampa and picked up Cori and Texas Jo and then brought them back to see our RV park.  We hung out for a while and I threw together some chicken and rice for Bill and Kelly to have for lunch the day they came in.  Thank heavens I had something to fix.  We’ve been running around so much I hadn’t gone to the grocery store, so it wasn’t as elaborate, but they really seemed to like the sentiment and having something hot to eat for lunch that they didn’t have to make. Once they got settled Bill and Kelly came down to my rig and the five of us hung out for a while.  Then Greg and Craig came down, and Lee got home from school, and Kelly and Bill went to have dinner with her parents who live close by.  The six of us then went to Indian Rocks Beach.  We really wanted to share the sunset with them and have them listen to the veteran that plays taps every night at sunset.  They talked to him a little and it turns out he is a Vietnam vet and every night he plays taps to honor the boys who didn’t come home.  It was a lovely sunset and a lovely moment, and to add to the specialness we saw our first dolphin.  I didn’t get a picture unfortunately, but it was frolicking about 30 feet from the shore right when the sun went down…magical. I spoke to one of the older gentlemen who was there and he said seeing a dolphin was a good sign.  As the weather gets warmer they come to this beach in pods, so I am hopeful about future dolphin sightings and maybe a picture or two. Afterwards we took them to Crabby Bill’s for a Florida seafood experience and this time I got the local grouper which I highly recommend  ($42 for dinner and $8 for tip…damn that appetizer!!)

The gang hanging out at the beach

The gang hanging out at the beach

Lee photo bombs Cori and Greg and expresses his man crush for Greg :)

Lee photo bombs Cori and Greg and expresses his man crush

Cori is saying stop taking pictures of me...not sure why she's super photogenic

Cori is saying stop taking pictures of me…not sure why, she’s super photogenic

I absolutely adore Craig and love that he took his shoes off

I absolutely adore Craig and love that he took his shoes off

 

Cool turtle sand sculpture

Cool turtle sand sculpture

Sand Alligator

Sand Alligator

 

Cori and Greg

Cori and Greg

No two sunsets are alike

No two sunsets are alike

 

Jo went right up to the trumpet player and talked to him then she spotted the dolphin and pointed it out

Jo went right up to the trumpet player and talked to him then she spotted the dolphin and pointed it out…very cool

Vietnam Vet who plays taps every night to honor those who did not return

Vietnam Vet who plays taps every night to honor those who did not return

 

Lee communing with the sunset

Lee communing with the sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, Kelly and I met for Zumba in the morning.  There are 4-6 activities everyday here in the Rainbow Village, but because of work I have not been able to attend anything that really interests me.  Since Kelly did Zumba for two years she wanted to go and when she invited me I thought it would be a good time to get started working out a bit.  I brought my work out clothes with me, but have not even put them on…and since I really want to push myself to at minimum have 20 minutes of cardio three days a week this seemed like a good place to start.  It was really a lot of fun…totally kicked my butt…was fun though.  Kelly was awesome at it…me not so much 🙂  One of the best things about her is how encouraging she is though and she talked me through some of the rougher parts.  This was NOT Zumba for the elderly.  I broke out in a sweat and was huffing and puffing 20 minutes into the 45 minute session.  The ladies in the class were really nice and encouraging also, and I definitely want to go back.  Unfortunately it’s only once a week, but I really enjoyed it.  As I may have mentioned I’ve been having some problems with my back and I was really feeling it when we were done.  Kelly and I went back to the rig and she showed me this excellent stretching exercise you can use to relax the back.  Amazing!!!  I laid right down on her RV floor and stretched until the tightness went away.  You know you are good friends with people when you can lay on the floor of their RV 🙂  Bill was very nice about the whole thing, and looked away as requested because I felt a bit silly.  Silly or not, wow, the exercise worked and my back felt great when I was done.  For those who are interested I laid on the floor on my back and then slowly brought my knees up to my chest. As soon as it started to hurt I stopped in the position until the tension eased then slowly used my arms to bring the knees in a little closer.  Wait for the ache and repeat.  It took at least 10 minutes before I could get my knees completely to my chest, but when that was done, the pain was gone.

Tuesday evening Cori and Greg came over for dinner so we could have a business meeting on Lee completing some videos for the RV Solar Solutions website.  Although Lee is training as a mobile tech he doesn’t want to stop using his years of video experience and he would like to make videos on the road for campgrounds, nonprofits, or small companies like Cori and Greg’s.  Since we are all such close friends, Lee can make a video for them which can help get the word out about RV Solar and down the road Lee will have something he can show potential clients as an example of what he can do.  It started a little shaky for me because in the past when we had company we have usually sat outside, but it was a cold and rainy night and we were all in our rig together.  I got hit with a strong wave of claustrophobia pretty early on and Cori and Greg were very supportive until it passed…which thankfully it did.  They all had the business meeting in the front of the RV (we have a front living room model) and I hung out down in the kitchen cooking dinner and playing with Hobie who got to come visit our rig for the first time.  Our computer desk is in the front, and Lee has hooked it up to our television, so they had a nice big screen to work with.  They showed him some examples of videos they liked.  He showed them some examples of work he had done, and they discussed vision along with a “homework” item of preparing an outline of the major concepts they would like to communicate in their videos.  It was a very productive meeting and afterwards we all had dinner and as always great conversation.

On Wednesday it was back to work and I was playing serious catch up. I usually check emails on vacation days and address anything critical, but the other items do pile up.  The nicest part of the day was Kelly came down for my lunch break and just sat with me and chatted. I like working in the rig and enjoy going to the offices when it makes sense, but I do miss having lunch with friends on occasion.  She had strawberries and yogurt (healthy and yummy) I had Shrimp Lo Mein (not so healthy…lol).  We chatted for the hour and when it was up I was right back to work.  Really really nice.  Wednesday night we took a day off and just watched some TV and ate some chili.  I love having some chili or spaghetti sauce in the freezer for busy days and it was a great, quick hot meal.

Thursday,  Kelly and I had coffee in the morning and then she went to the Clearwater Aquarium with her mom to see Winter..the dolphin with the mechanical tail they made the movie about.  Her mom has an extra free ticket for me and I would have loved to have gone…but you know; work.  Still it was  nice that her mom asked me and Kelly and Bill came over for dinner that night.  When we were in Pennsylvania Kelly made Seafood enchiladas for the group and I absolutely loved them.  They tasted just like the seafood enchiladas from Chi Chi’s my favorite Mexican restaurant that Lee’s mom worked at for many years and I have been wanting to try the recipe for months.  For some reason I was a bit intimidated by this one though so I asked Kelly if I could buy the ingredients and she would walk me through it…which of course she was happy to do.  It’s a good thing she did because there were lots of steps, but this recipe is outstanding so she walked me through it and I feel like I could make it myself next time.  I have included the recipe below but be forewarned this one is not for the faint of heart.  It has roux in it…for heaven’s sake …which I got to make for the first time and wasn’t so bad 🙂  So the recipe for Shrimp and Crab enchiladas is here.

Seafood Enchilada

Seafood Enchilada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, we had a nice time just chatting.  We have a lot of our family photos as a screen saver on our computer, which is in turn hooked up to the TV so we talked as pictures of our life flitted by.  It’s a great conversation starter, btw, and a way to share your life in a non intrusive  sort of way.  You’re chatting about something and a picture comes up and someone asks …”who is that?”…or says “wow you look so young”, that sort of thing.  At first I just had pictures of my past life on the screen saver, which was making me kind of sad to be honest, but as we add new memories and experiences I started adding new pictures in.  The screen saver is on a randomized setting so one minute you see us with the girls in our 20’s and the next you see pictures from last weekend with the gang.  It’s cool, because metaphorically I am saying my life is not just about what I experienced in the past but also about what’s happening now…and it makes the pictures less boring because we are constantly adding to them.  Many people I know brought an electronic picture frame with them because you don’t have the space for picture albums.  This is that concept on steroids!

Friday, Jo and Ben came up..and I promise I am getting to the sunset cruise here soon…lol. Jo and Ben have an Arctic Fox, but they also have a second truck which has a truck topper on it.  We call their main rig the mother ship, and the smaller truck camper the “shuttle craft”. They can use the shuttle craft to take small trips, which is a very cool concept.  They couldn’t find a site in Rainbow Village unfortunately, but were able to find an opening in Vacation Village about two minutes away.  It’s not the best park, but for a couple of nights it will do.  They are set up to boon dock in the shuttle craft, but from what I have seen there is precious little wally docking or boondocking in Florida so we were really glad they found a case close by and I was so happy they went to the effort to come hang with us.  Following etiquette, Kelly made dinner for them on their travel day and also invited her parents who live 15 minutes away to come over.  Everyone was a little worried about me with 8 people in their rig but it turned out to be just fine.  First of all Joe and Barb (Kelly’s parents) were great and since everyone mostly sat I did OK.   Joe worked as a deep earth core sample driller for many years and told some very cool stories about things he had found over the years (like a 90 million year old clam!).  Kelly said she had the best show and tell as a kid because her dad was always finding neat stuff.  He’s also worked all over the country on projects in New York, The Golden Gate bridge, etc.  Basically he would pre dig down very deep to tell the engineers what type of soil and rock they were dealing with prior to the building starting.  He worked on the original World Trade Center for example, and we had some interesting conversation on why it survived the 93 bombing but not the 2001 airplane strikes.  He’s a great story-teller and when he gets really excited the Jersey accent comes out, which I love!!  Since I work in construction, he reminded me a lot of most of the guys I work with so I felt comfortable right away.  Barb’s really nice too and we spent some time talking about the difference between living in a condo complex versus in an RV.  There’s a lot of what I call “high school” nonsense in condo communities, and we were talking about how nice it is that if our neighbors are obnoxious we can pick up and move.  Barb largely likes her neighbors but she did look a little jealous 🙂  Kelly made clam chowder from scratch and we spent a great three hours laughing and talking.  Plus Barb has a ton of birds at her condo complex, because one of the tenants feeds the storks hot dogs…yes hot dogs are bad for them but they love them apparently, so I am excited about stopping by and taking some pictures before we head to Tarpon Springs for our cruise.

Before the cruise on Saturday we stopped by Kelly’s parents condo to watch the feeding of the storks.  There’s a gentleman there who has been feeding the wood storks hot dogs and they are almost as tame as dogs coming right to his hand to take the hot dogs.  Yes I know it’s terrible for them, but damn it was cool and I had never seen a wood stork before let alone many and that close up.  Plus whose going to argue with him…I’m not!!

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Kelly and her dad Joe

Kelly and her dad Joe

Never seen a stork kneel this way before

Never seen a bird kneel this way before

Big crowd of birds waiting their turn

Big crowd of birds waiting their turn

I have serious lens envy for Ben's camera

I have serious lens envy for Ben’s camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the storks (you can see more bird pictures on my bird page), we drove to Tarpon Springs to the marina.  We arrived at 2pm and the captain told us he was worried that there might be a small craft warning on the water and if that happened we would have to return immediately with no refund.  His previous cruise had experienced very high waves.  He also couldn’t really leave early because captains have to submit a float plan, similar to pilots and their flight plan and they aren’t supposed to deviate from them.  We talked to each other and decided unless it looked absolutely terrible we would give it a try.  We paid for this earlier in the month and knew we wouldn’t have another opportunity to all be together so to me it was worth it even if the cruise was cut short.  It turned out to be an absolutely amazing day.  The wind actually dropped significantly and when we went out the sea was very calm…we were sailing at about 4-5 knots.  I don’t know much about sailing, but I know what I like and there was enough breeze for some movement but not enough to make things rocky.  The ship is called the Atlantis V and was captained by Joseph and his mate Austin.  The boat is run by a non-profit and all proceeds go to Foundations Youth sailing program for disadvantaged kids.  The first mate Austin was 20 and he was learning how to be a sailor.  The kid lived on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin his entire life (high school graduating class had 5 people in it) and last year he moved to Florida all by himself to pursue his dream of making a living on the ocean.  Gutsy, gutsy move…and the mate and captain were very pleasant during the entire sail.  It is very informal…we were allowed to bring our own food and drinks on board and the boat will go out with a minimum of 6 people.  If you are in the area check out groupon which had a $32 per person deal which couldn’t be beat.  We were out over 3 hours so it was less than $10 per hour per person…a steal.  My favorite part of the boat ride was the three times we saw dolphins.  Initially they were far away, but on the way back they sailed along side the boat under it, and along both sides playing in the wake for at least 15 minutes.  Never seen anything like that and the experience was absolutely magical.

Our sailboat the Atlantis V

Our sailboat the Atlantis V

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Bill

 

 

Bill and Capt. Joe

Bill and Capt. Joe

Austin...isn't he a cutie

Austin…isn’t he a cutie

I adore this picture of my husband...he loves boats and had such a good time

I adore this picture of my husband…he loves boats and had such a good time

The boat had the coolest bean bag chairs you could lounge on ...really really comfortable

The boat had the coolest bean bag chairs you could lounge on …really really comfortable

One of my favorite all time pics of Joe

One of my favorite all time pics of Joe

I think Bill looks like Magnum PI in this picture :)

I think Bill looks like Magnum PI in this picture 🙂

Jo, Ben, Bill, Kelly, me, and Lee

Jo, Ben, Bill, Kelly, me, and Lee

Bill and Kelly

Bill  our Bartender and Kelly our Cruise Director

Our first dolphin sighting

Our first dolphin sighting

Lee's picture

Lee’s picture

My dolphin shot!!!

My dolphin shot…not bad for a newbie

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The girls

Love this picture of Ben he was totally in his element

Love this picture of Ben.. he was totally in his element

Sunset from the sailboat

Sunset from the sailboat

Anclote Key Lighthouse. The 2nd oldest continuing working

Anclote Key Lighthouse. The 2nd oldest continuing working lighthouse in the US

What captain Joseph called the "money shot"

Captain Joe stopped so we could get the perfect shot

After the sunset colors were amazing

After the sunset colors were even more amazing

lighthouse in the country

The wave was from a boat that passed us…love the effect

We had such a good time, it truly was a perfect day so we gave Captain Joe a $20 tip per couple (he was worth every bit of that tip) and headed out to the Greek restaurant, Dimitri’s on the Water  that the Captain  recommended.   Kelly has been wanting lamb from a Greek restaurant for a really long time, so we knew we definitely were going to have dinner.  Problem though we  had really stressed the dining out budget in February so we needed the price to be reasonable.  This btw is the first place we have eaten in with tablecloths for a really long time and normally that is not kind on your budget.  We managed though and had dinner for $25!!  I had a salad with 4 shrimp…why 4 you say, well because the menu said market price so I asked.  The waiter must never get asked that and he had to talk to the kitchen and they were $2 a piece…so I got 4.  Lee got a Greek burger and we both drank water.   Kelly really enjoyed her lamb, the company was great, and the service was absolutely outstanding.  We actually tipped the waiter $7 on our $25 because he was so good.  My thought was he shouldn’t have to suffer because we were on a budget.  I bring all this up I guess to show you can eat in a nice restaurant on a budget, you just need to be really careful about what you order.  Did I have to grit my teeth a little to ask the question about how much the shrimp cost?…sure.  For a long time, I just plunked down the money, often regretting the cost versus value at the end of the meal.  Understand we are not averse to $80 dinners, but we are trying to adhere to a budget and the more frequently we dine out in a month, the lower the checks need to be…it’s just math, not a statement about my value as human being or a my social status…at least that’s what I keep telling myself, but it truly is a very different mindset.  Lee and I actually fist bumped when we got the check…that’s the first time that’s ever happened 🙂  Oh and I really appreciate my friends being so supportive as we work through it!!

Kelly, Ben, Jo, Lee, me, and Bill

Kelly, Ben, Jo, Lee, me, and Bill

 

So that was our week…we did more on Sunday, but I am going to use that for next week 🙂  I honestly can’t remember the last non vacation week in my life that was packed with so much activity.  When we started this I told my boss I was tired of living my life on the weekends (which he totally got since he is a very cool guy) and in our sticks and bricks I feel like that is all we ever did.  This week absolutely proved I can “live” during the weeks and still work which is nice.  I’m tired, but it’s a nice tired and look at all the cool stuff we got to do.  Can’t beat it.

Recipes

Mrs Gregg’s Baked Beans 

This recipe was passed to me by my grandmother Betty, but she got it from Mike Greg’s mom who according to grandma made it as a meal when they were all poor.  It is absolutely best 1-2 days old and I like it cold but it warms up just fine for those who like their beans hot. 

  • Four 16oz cans of regular pork and beans (I like Campbell but dealers choice)
  • 1-1/2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 TBL Mustard
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 8-10 slices of bacon
  • Onion Salt
  1. Place beans in a large pot
  2. Add brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup and mix
  3. In a large pan cook bacon cut into quarters.  DO NOT cook until crisp.
  4. Pour bacon and grease into bean pot and stir well
  5. Sprinkle lightly with onion salt
  6. Heat beans slowly to boiling; reduce to a simmer and simmer for 1-2 hours stirring occasionally; taste and add more onion salt if needed
  7. Let sit overnight on the stove
  8. Refrigerate the next morning
  9. Heat and serve or serve cold at your next group function.

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here