Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Starting the week off right

"Just who-who-who are YOU looking at?"

Waldo is looking a bit peevish today.  Maybe the paparazzi is getting to him.

Monday was a busy day for us.  Left Brain needed to get in to see Dr Ted for another bone crunching and then it was off to Doctor J for his physical.  Yup.  We've reached that age where going to doctors becomes a social event.

But the real highlight was meeting up with Bob and his wife for lunch at....wait for it....Pickermans!  Could this day get any better?

Bob was going to show me his tripod head and give me info on where to purchase something like this.  He had his father's big honking lens on the camera just to show off.  I'm so envious of all these huge lenses.  I guess size really is important.  In some things...like camera lenses.

In my attempt to be a rebel I had the tomato basil soup instead of my usual potato variety of the day.  The owner just did a deer in the headlights look and for a minute I didn't think he was going to sell it to me.  I know...it was strange for me as well.

Now I have the info and can get this puppy ordered tomorrow so I can play with the varmints in the park.  I've set up several bird feeding stations, so they are starting to swarm my way.  I had so many dark birds this afternoon it felt like a Hitchcock remake of 'The Birds'.  It was almost a little creepy.

Earlier that day we stopped in to see our financial guru for a quick summary update and to change a couple of things.  When he greeted us by asking "how were the Vagabonds today?", it gave me the inspiration for a new name.  You have to visual the James Bond music playing in the background as the Queen introduces herself to someone as "My name is Bond.  Vaga Bond." 

I may have to put the soundtrack on my phone to create the right mood to pull this off, but it would be worth it.  If I only knew how to do something like that.  Isn't it disgusting when your smart phone has achieved a higher level of learning than you have?  Oh well, maybe one of the grandkids can show me how to use it when we go to visit again.

Long Live the Queen of Bonds...Vaga Bonds

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mandarian Orange Monday #2

I find myself getting excited when Monday rolls around now!  I never seemed to have that sensation when I was working...I wonder why that is?

This woodpecker was snuffling up some pollen (or maybe bugs?) from this bloom.  He was just too cute not to photo. 

I may have overdone the texture on this one, but hey...you live and learn.

Long Live the Queen of Orange

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wildlife in the park

the view out the window by our table
Our current stay is at Goose Island park, which is run by La Crosse county and very popular.  It's situated on the backwaters of the Mississippi River and has an abundance of water fowl and other animals.

this is in the more wooded section of the park

When I look out the window by my table I can see the river and the bluffs beyond that.  We are surrounded by the sights and sounds  of red wing blackbirds, geese, egrets, herons, woodpeckers and the most exciting...owls.

Waldo the baby owl
There is a great horned owl with two (maybe three) babies in a nest here in the park.  The one is literally "out on a limb" and his name is Waldo.

He had fallen out of the nest and was on the ground for two days, during which the mother would swoop and attack anyone that went near him. 
Mama and the other little owl

Finally he was rescued by the proper authorities and after receiving xrays to make sure he was okay, he was placed back near the nest.  He wasn't put into the nest for fear that the prescence of a human that close would cause the others to bolt as well.
Waldo started yawning - must be bored watching all of us

A man who had seen the process described how the mother stayed on her perch, about 8 feet above the branch, and watched while the ladder was braced against the tree and Waldo was carried to his newest perch.

Apparently she feeds at night and has been seen providing food to Waldo first and then to the other (or others...jury is out on this) one in the nest.

There has been a faithful gathering of photographers watching this family but if it appears it is causing stress to them, they all back off and leave or at least go sit in their cars to watch.  The local camera club is very much into wildlife and nature photography and respects the limits of those who provide these opportunities.

We're thinking the little one might be gone by next weekend, so I'll be watching daily and keeping you posted.

Long Live the Queen of Owls

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back in Wisconsin again

When we flipped the switch on See-More to leave Missouri he protested by lighting up the check engine light.  Left Brain couldn't see any reason for it, so we drove all the way back to Wisconsin with the light one.  It's still on.  We'll get that checked out while we're here.

As we left the area that had been hit by tornados we crossed into the areas that had been flooded, but with no problems...at least with Mother Nature.

The GPS lady apparently had been hitting the sauce or just had a grudge against Left Brain for something.  Periodically she'd announce a turn, complete with cute little ding ding noise she does, but it would be for a dirt road through a pasture.  Sometimes there was no road to turn on at all.  But since he tends to ignore her most the time anyway, it was just fine.

We left Missouri and shortly after entering Iowa found a casino to park at for the night.  This was our first dry camping in a casino parking lot and so far was my favorite.  There's an area for larger rigs like ours and we snuggled in with another RV and several semi trucks for the night.

The next day it was time for me to do some driving again as I had let him handle the heavy winds and rain the day before.
During my turn behind the wheel we ran into heavy construction with a 10' maximum width, which to me was terrifying.  The worst part involved crossing a bridge where the guardrail had already been hit a few times and was bowed inwards toward the road. 

This is where Left Brain started yelling "LEFT...LEFT...LEFT" to keep the sides of the RV from scraping the metal railing.  About 10 miles down the road I resumed breathing and managed not to cry.  And they say that driving an RV can be so relaxing... bull twinkles!

Shortly after this little adventure there was a crash further back in the RV when the table decided to come loose and fall to the floor.  Usually the bangs and crashes are the silverware drawer flying out, my closet doors swinging open or the shower door sliding back and forth - this was new.

The drivers seat also was not adjustable anymore, maybe a fuse blew?  That would have to be repaired as well.

The other concern we'd had was the horrible grinding noise the bedroom slide made when it went in and out.  My fear was that this would suddenly be nonoperational and require immediate attention.

But we made it to our campground early in the afternoon and settled in.  This is where we found that the water was not operational yet and we would have to fill our water tank at the county office before setting up.  It's been cold up this way and it's caused some problems.  We should have water by this weekend so it's no big deal.

I managed to get the table cleared out and he put some new screws into it and it went right back into place without a hitch.  After crawling around the base of the drivers seat I managed to hook the wires back together and now the chair is operational again.  When the slides went out he found my missing sleep mask so now it doesn't make any hideous noises any more and I have my sleep mask back.  I could have used that in Las Vegas! 

So, other than the battle of wits between the GPS lady and Left Brain we're doing pretty good.

Long Live the Queen of Home Repair


Monday, April 22, 2013

Mandarin Orange Monday

I've decided I simply must play along with Andrea from the Sol and her theme of Mandarin Orange Monday.

I love the color orange.  It is such a happy color and always makes me feel good.  It always looks nicest next to it's secondary color of blue.

Since I have had lots of opportunity to photograph orange things recently I took one of these photos and applied a sponge filter to it to snap it up a bit.

Here is my first offering for M.O.M.
Thanks for letting me play along.

We will be leaving Missouri and heading towards Wisconsin tomorrow and may not have an opportunity to post anything to the blog for a couple of days while in transit.  I'm just warning ya...

Long Live the Queen of Orange

We saw IT

In our search for new entertainment while in Branson we picked up tickets to see a production called IT at the Hughes Brothers Theatre.

This group started out as five brothers who were given music lessons to keep them out of trouble and soon joined their parents on stage.  Eventually the parents dropped out and left them to continue on their own.

Apparently they felt the need to increase the size of the act and accomplished this by marrying talented wives (two of which are sisters) and then they started having families...of Mormon proportions.

There are now over 50 people in this act and they are the Worlds Largest Performing Family.  Let's take a look at this.

The oldest son, Marty, has 13 children   His wife was the only family member not performing that day as she is expecting the 14th child any day now.  The ages of the kids are 19, 17, 16, 14, 13, 11, 10, 9, 7, 6. 4, 3, 1 and soon to be announced.

Jason's family includes their kids aged 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, 4, 2 and another coming soon.  Their oldest son, Aaron, is a marvel in his own right and my personal favorite.  He sings, dances, and plays several instruments.

Adam has the smallest family with his wife and son, Liam, who is 9 months old.  But they're young and just starting.

Ryan's family includes kids aging 13, 11, 8, 6, 4, and 10 month old twins.

Andy's family has four children aged 10, 7, 4 and 2.

The father was in the audience and the mother (from Sweden) was in one of the concession stands.  The other concession stand was run by the mother of the two sisters who married into this group.  I told her I don't know how they do it, Left Brain and I have a hard time getting two grand kids ready to leave and they have so many.  She smiled and said "the REAL show is behind the scenes!"  I can only imagine.  She also added that none of the kids is forced to do the show, but they all want to get into the action.

I was thinking that the caliber of school plays has to be off the chart in Branson, but most of the children that do perform professionally are home schooled, so that's probably not the case.

This is an older you tube, but it will give you a tiny sample of their talent.

It's a bit overwhelming when they all come on stage at the same time, everyone helping to carry a baby or direct a toddler, but they make it all look organized.

At one of their shows a person with Disney approached them and said they had to do a documentary on this family phenomenon.  We purchsed the video to learn more about this amazing family and see how it all came to be and how they make it work. It was interesting to hear the background story of their struggles and the faith that kept them going.

Long Live the Queen of Small Families

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Photos from Old Tucson when we were in Arizona

While we were in the Tucson area we took in many of the local attractions.  But by far I'd have to say that Old Tucson Studios was my favorite.

As a child I was immersed in all things western and so many of my best memories were some of these older movies and generally anything "cowboy" at all.  That must be why I seem to love the west so much.

Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch the stunt demonstration.  Rats!  There's nothing better than watching someone get shot on a roof and falling to the ground. Oh well, perhaps in a future visit.

We wandered around the movie sets and took in as many of the performances as possible.  They did a live performance from a scene of 'the Quick and the Dead' and I just fell in love with the young woman who played the female gunfighter.  She appreared in several of the other skits we saw during the day.  Talented, beautiful and with long...long legs.

The narrated tour gave an abundance of information about many of the films were filmed here and I found this just fascinating.  Not all of the movies shot here were westerns, but the majority were.

The adobe buildings were created in 1939 by the hands of the local Indian tribes and many are still standing.  The managed to build these (including making the mud bricks) in six weeks.

There was a railroad ride around the park that we took and this gave us some views that you can't get by walking about.

This was not the train we were on.  Remember the old show 'The Wild Wild West'?

This was the train used in the filming of that television series.

She would give me thise funny looks all during the dance with Left Brain

The Grand Hotel had many of the shows, including this one were the 'madam' was seen dancing with Left Brain.  She would work her way around the crowd, often insulting people and making the best expressions.

They had just finished filming a western whose working title was 'a hot bath and a stiff drink', but who knows what the title might be after production is finished.  I'll be watching for this one so I can view the familiar scenes we took in on our tour.

Anything with the movie studios has always fascinated me.  Probably because I prefer make believe to real life and have always been in love with films and reading fiction.

Long Live the Queen of Westerns

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Photoshop Fun Friday

As typical I'm a day late and a dollar short.  It must have been that sleepless night that threw me off.  Or it's just a retired thing and I lose track of what day it is.  Anyway...I meant to post this yesterday...on Friday.  I'll try to pay closer attention next week.

I have had so much fun playing with an image I found on Facebook.  This young dancer is incredibly talented and the photographer caught the moment perfectly.

Here is the original photo as I found it:

It was hard to try to perfect it, but I decided to crop it and alter the background - this is my second attempt:

Then I tried out different filters - this is dry brush:

This is watercolor:

This is sponge:

This has poster edges:

This one I added some texture overlays:

Then finally (and my favorite) I added text:

The variations are subtle but each one seems to carry its own little bit of magic.

Long Live the Dancing Queen


Friday, April 19, 2013

Sleepless in Branson

As we watch the weather in Wisconsin we have no desire to drive northward.  It's cold and rainy here, but at least there's no snow and the holding tanks won't freeze up.

I couldn't fall asleep last night.  It seems I have become a desert rat and this humidity is hard to breathe.  Some nights are worse than others and last night was a doozy.  I'd try to sleep and then get up and read...then repeat the routine a couple of times.

The thunderstorm hit and although it was nice to hear rain again (our first real storm since last September) it did remind me that this area had been hit by tornados not too long ago.

I was almost asleep finally when the Amtrak came chugging up our hallway.  At least that's what it sounded like.  I had the distinct feeling that it had somehow derailed and was heading our way.  This in and off itself wouldn't be too bad, it's when they blow the horn in my ear.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that all RV parks must be within a quarter of a mile from any existing train track.

It was sometime about 4:00 am when I finally settled into an unquiet slumber and slept until after 10:00am.  It's going to be a long day and one spent inside with the constant rain.  We had to hurry to have breakfast so we could be done in time for lunch.  I sure hate to miss any meals!  Although I'm pretty sure at my yearly physical in May the Doc will tell me that might be a good idea.

This presented itself as a good time to clean the fridge and defrost the freezer...always a fun job when you're in such a good mood.  I like to do this periodically; removing everything from the fridge and freezer, washing the walls and racks down, tossing out things past their prime and just tidying up in general.

Later today I'll probably shuffle some things around from one storage area (inside only) to another to maximize efficiency. Maybe not.  I'm not sure I have enough functioning brain cells to pull that off...or at least to remember where I put stuff.

I'm thinking it might be a good day to tackle that jigsaw puzzle I picked up in a previous park.  That's probably more suited to my lethargic state today.

Kiersten left her photo on my cell phone on our last visit...
this is the most "zombish" image I could find.  Oh kiddo...
you knew this photo would come back to haunt you!

Long Live the Queen of the Zombies

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mel's Hard Luck Diner

We are settled into Turkey Creek RV Village here in Branson MO.  All the trees are blooming and spring is in full force.
There's a small stream that runs behind the campground

See More likes the big trees and colorful blooms

I added a poster edges filter to this one

We weren't able to get any tickets to shows we wanted to see the first day we were in Branson, so we decided to go and check out Mel's Hard Luck Diner.

This is a highly rated restaurant so there was a bit of a wait since a bus had just disgorged its passengers as we arrived.  The waiters perform as they are making their rounds to serve customers.

I tried to capture this with my cell phone, but since I have no clue what I'm doing I had to fall back on good old You Tube to bail me out.

We both had the reubens which were tasty and it was fun to watch the different performers singing as they carried water to the tables and rang up the bills. A truly unique experience.

Long Live the Queen of Hard Luck

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


We've been studying our options for what entertainment we want to see during our short stay here in Branson.  For those of you who think this is just all country music, think again.

There's Silver Dollar City where there's over 100 craftsmen, 30 rides and attractions and 40 live shows, but we've been there already.

During our previous visits we've enjoyed the dinner theatre of The Dixie Stampede, an indoor area with trick riding, stampeding buffalo, comedy, singing, dancing, 32 show horses...all while enjoying a four course feast.

We've seen the violin magic of Shoji Tabuchi many times which features the talent of his family and other guests.  Just visiting the bathroom is an experience in this theatre with all its opulence.  For example, the men's room features a full sized pool table.  No, I wasn't in there, I'll just have to take Left Brain's word for it.

If it's shopping you want, there are the 65 stores at the Tanger Outlets.  Crafts are your thing?  Try the Branson Craft Mall.  The Grand Village is filled with boutiques and specialty stores.  Need more Christmas decorations?  Go to the Kringles Christmas Store.  There's too many other places to even start to mention but as you can see there is a variety to please everyone.

For comedy, one of my favorites is The Baldknobbers Jamboree Show. This is where I learned the name 'Harley Worth-It' and used that to name our little blue scooter.

Another great comedy act is Yakov Schmirnoff, but last time we were there I ended up getting us on stage, so I doubt Left Brain will trust taking me there again.  Also, we just saw him at the Escapee Rally last September.

The Duttons impressed us so much on a previous visit to Branson that we saw them again while in Mesa AZ.  This is the most amazingly talented family act.  We had the opportunity to talk to the mother while in Mesa and she laughingly told us they never expected to be a major act.  She enrolled the kids in music and dance lessons to keep them busy and teach them discipline.  And it certainly worked, I've never seen anyone do violins the way this group can.

We'll probably go see Legends in Concert again this trip as the cast keeps changing.  It's easy to forget that they aren't really the original singers.  The looks, mannerisms and vocals are uncanny.

Some of the new acts are a Neil Diamond tribune as well as a show called Abba's Dancing Queen

There's a variety of magic shows to see, as well as Chinese acrobatics featuring the new Shanghai circus.

Do you like museums?  The Titanic museum is a tribute to the ship.  This year they have a new gallery dedicated to the children of the Titanic.

There are several zipline adventures to indulge in, since I chickened out in Las Vegas.

There's the standard Ripley's Believe it or Not and the Wax Museums, but I've never found those to be terribly fulfilling.  Actually the wax museum kind of creeps me out - too lifelike, I keep waiting for them to move.

There's always the riverboat dinner cruise or the Branson Scenic Railway.  On a slow day we could go to the Imax again, those are always fun.  But their is rain predicted for the next few days, so I think we'll want indoor shows this trip.

I've been to the Butterfly Palace where you walk among butterflies from all over the world and it was a photographer's dream come true.  But as they say...been there, done that.  Maybe this time I should visit the National Tiger Sanctuary, but I just did something similar to that in Las Vegas so I may want to wait until my next visit here.

You could go to shows every day for weeks on end and not be able to take it all in.  All the shows are clean and you can be any age to enjoy them all.  It's a great family vacation area.  The prices for the shows are generally under $40 making it affordable to take in several.  There's more restaurants around here than you can believe, again with good prices.

So much to see, so little time.  That's why we keep returning to this area over and over again.  Not only is the entertainment first rate (and affordable!) but the local area is scenic and beautiful with it's lakes and rolling hillsides.

But I'm noticing a couple of new shows that look totally different from anything we've seen in the past.  So I think we'll head out today and enjoy lunch and find tickets for these acts.  We like to attend the matinees instead of evening performances and this town is set up to accommodate for seniors like us.

So, enough promoting the area!  We've got places to go...things to see!

Long Live the Queen of Branson

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Landed in Missouri

After three long days of driving, eating tuna salad and sleeping in parking lots we pulled into the Turkey Creek RV Village at 6:00 pm on Sunday, April 14th.  I had called ahead to make sure they had an opening for us and the lady came running over, even though her day at the office ended at 5:30, and handed us our site number and info.

It feels so good to be off the road for a week and able to catch up on things, and there's plenty to catch up on!  As we neared the end of our dry-camping adventure the waste tanks were filling up and the fresh water was almost nonexistant.  This required me to bag up all the dirty dishes to await full hookups...yuck.  Not to mention that we are starting to smell a bit ripe ourselves.

The first thing I did was pay for a week's worth of internet to allow me access to things needed as well as be able to write up things for the blog that I haven't had a chance to write about yet.  While in Arizona we visited the Titan Missile museum, the Bioshere and Old Tucson, so I have lots of photos and stories to share.

One of our Escapee's friends, Wendy, let me know that instead of photographing the blue bonnets in Texas I was to be counting the dead armadillos while going through west Texas.  And this is a good sport to do, since there' not much to see in west Texas.

However, I must say that the largest population of armadillo roadkill seemed to start in Oklahoma and continued even more so into Arkansas.  Hmm, is it correct to refer to a dead series of animals as a population?  Probably not, but onward I go.

Left Brain and I always like to call out the species of roadkill on the way, it's our version of motorhome bingo to pass the time.  The most common sighting are the "alligators" that we spot on the road.  These are actually tire treads that fly off big trucks, but they look like alligators to us and that's what we call them.

As we got into Oklahoma I noticed my first dead armadillos.  It was quite thrilling....at first.  Occassionally we would spy something neither of us could identify.  It appeared to be dead baby kangaroos, but that didn't make any sense.  I mean, this is the south and things are different here, but still....  We finally came to the consensus that it must be slower moving jackrabbits.  That's our best guess anyway.

By the time we got to Arkansas I was convinced that they used dead armadillos as road markers.  The only difference was that there were no numbers on them.  It reminded me of Alligator Alley in Florida.  Perhaps this state could claim a stretch of road as Armadillo Alley?

There are so many blooms as we travel east and north - the redbud and crab apple trees are in full bloom as well as the forsythia.  I noticed lots of creeping phlox and daffodils also.  Everything is so GREEN here and with tall trees.  I think I may have been in the desert a titch too long.  It sure looks cool and refreshing.

This campground is very close to Branson, so we will be looking into what shows we want to see while in the area.  It's one of our favorite places to visit for entertainment.  All the shows are clean and inexpensive.

Long Live the Queen of Armadillos

Monday, April 15, 2013

Birds at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

In an attempt to catch up with my blogging, this is my final post from the Desert Museum.  We are currently in Hollister MO and I paid for a weeks worth of internet, so now I can try to catch up on the blog that was lacking during our long days of driving, eating tuna salad and sleeping in parking lots.  It feels good to be settled for the next seven days.

Here is the wrap up from Desert Museum:

There are birds throughout the museum, some wild and some part of the exhibit.  One of my favorites was when I was leaving at the end of the day and came across this woodpecker digging into the ocotilla bloom.

There are two aviaries here, one which is most mourning doves and then there is the hummingbird aviary, which is my favorite.
Gambel's Quail

We were very lucky to have three different nests to view.  It really helps to have the assistance of a docent to find these as they are incredibly tiny.

How the mother fits in there is amazing enough, but to have two or three young ones is even more so.

Thank goodness it's a very rapid process of laying the eggs, hatching and having them out of the nest.  It wouldn't take long at all for them to outgrow the home.

The nests are described as decorative instead of messy and I liked that analogy and will use it to describe our own nest on wheels.  It ain't messy...it's decorative.  Works for me!

Long Live the Queen of the Nest With Wheels

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Travels through Texas

We continue our push through west Texas.  I used to think that going through Nebraska or Illinois was unbearable, but this is worse.  There is nothing in west Texas so the living conditions have been sparse.

We spent our first night on the road at a Camping World store and I prepared the tuna salad to have during our lunch stops. 

Last night was spent at Walmart so we could replenish our groceries.  A trucker pulled up right next to us and ran his generator for a good long time.  Between that, loud mufflers and constant lights neither of us got a good nights sleep.  We might as well been in Las Vegas again for the lights and noise.

Having no electricity there is no clock to guide us and with the constant light we missed daybreak.  So about 10:00am we rose and started our day.

While Left Brain was driving I commented that we were being passed by a flying squirrel.  It wasn't actually a flying squirrel, you know how I love to embellish the facts.  It was one of those motorcycles with the handlebars so high it looks like they are hanging off a set of monkey bars.  This rider had on an oversized gray sweatshirt that was billowing in the wind and to me he resembled a flying squirrel.  Not to be confused with the flying monkeys...that's a whole different story.

While battling our way through the wind we stopped at a picnic area to have the tuna salad yet again.  There are all these blue flowers blooming along the highway, as well as some lovely pink and reddish ones.

I needed to stretch my legs for a bit before continuing so I walked down closer to them to get a better look and snap a photo or two.

Finally at about 4:00 I wanted to get off the road here in Denton TX while there was still some sort of population to be seen.  So currently we are north of Fort Worth and heading for the Oklahoma border.

After the noisy night at Walmart we stopped again at a Camping World and had a chance to do some shopping before they closed.  It's right by the highway so there's road noise but not as bad as the parking lot noise at Walmart.

Our waste tanks are filling up and the fresh water is getting low, so I think we'll be looking for a campground with hookups tomorrow night.

I keep getting weather reports and photos to back it up, and even a video of a sleet and hail storm of the mess they call Wisconsin.  We are in no hurry to return to this.

Today my friend Karen posted photos of her slogging through the mud in Goose Island, our future home.  Yup....we'll take our time and stay south a bit longer yet. 

Long Live the Queen of West Texas