Happy Holidays 2019

As another year approaches an end, our thoughts go to our friends and families near and far.  We have seen many of you over the past year, and hopefully will see others of you in our future travels.

We started our year soaking in the sun at our lot at Desert Gardens RV Park, between Phoenix and Tucson AZ.  (GPS 32.964526, -111.341376)  The closest named place is Cactus Forest AZ — if that gives you an idea of the area!  LOL!

We made new friends at Desert Gardens, learned to play Mah Jongg, Judith started into “gourd art” and I did some genealogy research finding many ancestral lines with 8 – 10 generations in America, who knew I was so old?   (Link: Ancestors of Mark Houser)

Late February 2019 we headed East.  Visiting a high school classmate in Texas, Janelle and her husband Abel.  (Then and now).

Then it was off to celebrate Don’s 70th birthday (Judith’s OLDER brother, LOL).

Traveling further east, we stopped in Destin FL for a visit with Judith’s long-time friend Fran at her condo on the beach.

Then it was on to Winter Haven FL  for some time with Barbara, Clint, and Allison — including the celebration of Barb & Clint’s Anniversary!

We were able to link up with Judith’s long time friends Carol and JoAnn.

While in Winter Haven we made an addition to our family, Sage-too or Tooie!

Then it was on to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge for April, May, and June!

Our trailer was located next to the Red Wolf Health & Education Center.  We enjoyed learning about the re-introduction of the Red Wolf into a small portion of its original range.

One of the best parts of being at Pocosin Lakes NWR was its proximity to the Outer Banks!   We were only about 40 miles from Nags Head!!

Also nearby was Somerset Place, the historic site of a huge plantation which provided  a wonderful tour of the buildings and grounds with a well balanced discussion of the lives of both the landowners and the enslaved persons who lived there.

The Wright Brothers Memorial at  Kill Devil Hill was fantastic!

Jockey’s Ridge is the largest active sand dune on the Atlantic coast.

Bodie Island Lighthouse is one of the numerous lighthouses along the Outer Banks, an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” with over 5,000 known ship wrecks along that waterway.  Each lighthouse painted a different pattern with a different light pattern to identify it.

We were fascinated with the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, located in Rodanthe.

While we know that Native American People occupied all of North America until European settlement began, it was surprising to find an Native American Museum.

We were very close to Roanoke Island, site of the Roanoke Colony which was authorized by Queen Elizabeth I.   Elizabeth Gardens is on the island.

Located well inland, deep on the Albermale Sound, in early colonial days Edenton was a major sea port and was the first capitol of North Carolina.

We visited the beach, Whalehead house, the Corolla Lighthouse, and Pea Island NWR.


We made an excursion to see our old neighbors from Cleveland, Jerry & Ellen, when they came to Williamsburg VA.

And a visit to Smithfield VA, home of Smithfield Ham.

Since we were volunteering at Pocosin Lakes NWR where a focus was on the Red Wolf, we visited the Raleigh – Durham and the Museum of Life and Science where SIX Red Wolf Pups were born this spring.

We met our friend Fran in Wilmington NC.

The end of June we finished our volunteer schedule at Pocosin Lakes NWR and started our summer trip to see friends and family.  Tooie is now a seasoned traveler.

First stop was Fairmont, WV, just south of Morgantown – Home of the West Virginia Mountaineers – where my daughter, Nikki, lives.  This was our first time to visit her new home and to see the renovations she and Rob have done.  Judith & I helped with a couple yard projects — building a planting box in the back yard and renovating a planting circle in front.  Judith got her planting fix!  Then we all went for Ice Cream!


Next stop: Pittsburgh to see Judith’s long time friend and patient tennis partner, Nancy, and her husband Pete, a visit to the National Aviary (who knew the National Aviary is in Pittsburgh?), the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, and Judith’s cousin, Richard, and his friend Terri.

The middle of July took us to Cleveland to see a variety of friends and family:  Networkinguys, Applied Laser Technoolgies, Gale, Babs, Janet & JoAnn, Kristen & Mark, Karen & Mike, Carol, Lorraine and their husbands, Debbie & Scott, and of course, my son, Michael and Nina.

Judith’s sister, Barbara, and her husband and daughter joined us in Cleveland where we met with her brother, Don, and his friend Eve.  We had an outing to the Tall Ships Cleveland; and Zoe joined us for a picnic with Noah, Amy, and their family.

Avery & Hadley


Then, on to Toledo to visit my old college roommate, Dave & Barb.  (Well, he IS older than me – by about 5 months!), their daughter (and my god-daughter), Katie, and her daughters.  Unfortunately, we missed Katie’s husband, Mark.

After a detour to get our refrigerator repaired, it was on to the Chicago area to see Jerry & Ellen at their home.  No pictures of them, but one of their back yard, LOL.

Then on to Wahoo! Nebraska to visit Leah & Kevin and met his sister Karen.  They allowed us to park in their front yard!  Leah loves her cats!!  We took in a local rodeo, too.

Then it was on to Kanab, Utah, to celebrate my birthday with Cindi & Roger.  Good friends, lots of Dominion, and beautiful scenery.  (But interesting neighbors…)

We returned to Bosque del Apache NWR for the first of September.  When we first began traveling and volunteering, Judith & I agreed that we wanted to experience new places and learn new things… so we would not return to places we had previously volunteered.  We have maintained that rule — except for Bosque del Apache!


We were able to link up with Judith’s nephew, Beau, and his girlfriend, Lucy.  My daughter, Nikki, joined us for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta where we volunteered with the crew of the balloon “Major Award”.


While Nikki was with us, we made a trip to Santa Fe and the  Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.


Bosque del Apache is so beautiful in the fall and later as the snow geese and sandhill cranes arrive.  But it is the friends who have become family that make it so special!


Now, it is December and the cycle prepares to start again.  We are back at Desert Gardens where Rachel, Bud & Barbara, Roy & Theresa, and Roger & Cindi are all currently visiting.  We are making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and enjoying life!


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