Beeting It

In October of 2012, David and I were working our first Amazon CamperForce job.  There was a fellow Camper who had just finished working the Sugar Beet Harvest (SBH), and his description of the job – short term, good pay, lovely part of the country – has always stayed with us.  In fact, we submitted applications in 2014 and 2015, but then declined due to other obligations.  This year was our year to check off another RV’er Bucket List Adventure – The Unbeetable Experience!

So, what is the SBH? The American Crystal Sugar Company/Sidney Sugars hires 1,300 people each year, through a temp agency called Express Employment, to help with the sugar beet harvest in Montana, and the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.  These migrant workers come in their cars, vans, bus conversions, and RVs. There are also locals who use their vacation time to make extra money.

The actual jobs available for this workforce are described as follows:

Helper and Sample Taker
Collects beet samples and assists Pile Operator in cleaning. Helper will also communicate with drivers to ensure safe and accurate unloading of trucks.
Pile Operator
Maneuvers pile control switches, orchestrates repair work and supervises and assists in the clean up of daily operations.
Skidsteer Operator
Operates skidsteer. Must be able to lift 50 lbs.

Now, to the uninitiated, these job descriptions don’t sound so bad.  Experience will tell us differently.

The shifts are 12 hrs long, generally 8 am – 8 pm, or 8 pm – 8 am.  The harvest work starts on Oct 1, and the worker commitment is for 15 days, or until one is “released”, whichever is first.  In 2015, the harvest in MN/ND  finished in 9 days.

The pay is the big draw.  Starting pay for first year workers is an hourly wage of $12.86 for the first 8 hrs, $19.29 for the next 4 hrs of each workday.  Saturday pay is $19.29/hr for the full day, and Sunday pay is $25.72/hr for the full shift.  If one is dismissed from work early due to weather or other circumstances, they are paid for a minimum of 4 hrs.  Rehires, pile operators and skidster operators make a bit more per hour.  A completion bonus of 5% for first year, and 10% for returners is also paid.  And finally, a full hookup campsite is provided.  The Express Employment ads make these claims:

Fred and Yvonne from AZ
earned over $4600
Kay from NM had an
average wage of $16.42/hr
Butch and Judy from SD
earned over $7100
Paul from SD had an
average wage of $17.88/hr

One can see why people would travel to work the SBH!

Those are the nuts and bolts.  The actual experience is a little bit greater than the parts.

The application process was easy.  While working the Amazon CamperForce booth in Quartzsite, AZ in January 2016, we were once again next to the Express Employment booth.  We turned in our completed applications with the couple there (who, as we understand it, get a $150 referral bonus for each person who completed their work commitment).  Sometime in June, we were called and asked if we were still planning on working.  In August, we were told that we were assigned to a campground in Stephen, MN and would be working in Kennedy, MN, a short drive away.  Our expected arrival date was September 24. This early arrival was because David was expected to be a Pile Operator, and therefore would need to attend training before the actual harvest began.

We drove from Maine to Minnesota, and arrived on the 23rd.  The campground is owned by the city of Stephen, and is actually quite nice. A sign was posted with our name on the site, which happened to be directly next to the wifi router (score!). We have had excellent, unlimited high-speed internet for the entire campaign.

First Impressions
First Impressions
Getting Set Up
Getting Set Up

On Saturday, Sept 24, we drove to the Express HQ in Drayton, ND to complete paperwork and watch an orientation video.  We also had the pleasure of meeting up with two couples that are friends from Amazon tours in Nevada and Texas.

Here is a map to help keep the locations straight.  Yes, we commuted 20 minutes each way to our work site.

We were not needed again until Tuesday, Sept 27, when we received 2 hours of onsite training in Drayton.  This training actually was just a visual, standing around a piler, but there were no trucks and no beets, so we really just got a feel for how cold the wind could be, and how many more layers we were going to have to wear!  We were also issued our spiffy, clean PPE’s (personal protection equipment): a hardhat, a safety vest, and goggles.

David had piler training at Kennedy on Thursday, Sept 29 for 2 hours, and I had onsite training that same day.  For those keeping track, we have now been in MN for 7 days, and “worked” a total of 6 hours.  We were questioning why we had to arrive so early, and how we were going to make our 2 weeks worth of food last, as the local grocery stores did not have much to offer.  But we took advantage of the time to walk around the town, and to batch cook and freeze soups, beans, rice, and muffins in preparation for the 12 hr shifts scheduled to start on Saturday, Oct 1.

There was a mix up on job assignments before we even got to work on our first day. When I awoke on the morning of Oct 1, I noticed a voice mail from the Kennedy site.  Apparently, I had been assigned to the Night schedule, even though no one had contacted me.  I called in and said that I was working days, and we were on our way. When we reported to work at 7 am on Oct 1, I was listed on both the day and night schedule, and David was not listed on the schedule at all.  Everything looked correct when we left training on Thursday, so we have no idea what happened between then and the start of the campaign.

Day 1 ended at 12:45 pm, as the temperature was too warm for the beet harvest. Apparently, the outdoor temperature cannot exceed 68°F , or the beets will be too warm in the pile and rot.  Oct 2, our work day lasted from 8 am to 12:30 pm, again due to heat. This was a bummer for multiple reasons, but primarily because those two days were premium pay days, and thus our opportunity for maximum income was reduced.  But this is farming, and mother nature does not always cooperate. These short work days helped break our bodies in to the process, so it was not all bad.

We were surprised to find that David was not assigned the job of pile operator even though that was the training he received, as there was a returner assigned to that position instead.  In fact, on the first day, David and I were assigned to different pilers. This made life a little more complicated, as the pilers are not close, and one or the other of us would have to walk a good distance to get to the truck for food and water.  This was remedied the second day when we asked the foreman for a switch.  David joined me on piler 3, and that completed our crew of two couples.  David was relief for our pile operator when he needed breaks and for lunch.

Views As We Drove to Work
Views As We Drove to Work

The weather did not cooperate for the SBH for three more days.  We had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off completely.  We took time to meet up with friends for lunch at a brewery in Grand Forks, ND and to restock the pantry and fridge.  We have now been in MN 12 days, and worked a total of 16.25 hours.

Finally, on Thursday, Oct 6, we have the go ahead to report to work at 11 a.m. for an 8 hour shift. We dress in layers, as it is cold and windy.  And the truck won’t start.  The batteries are dead! It took two trucks (thank you, fellow work camper Walt!) to get us moving.  We recharged on the drive into work, but needed a jump at the end of shift to get us on the road back to the closest Walmart, in Grand Forks (1 hr drive). Two new batteries later, and we were driving home, and in bed by 11 pm.  That was a complication that really could have buried us!

From Friday, Oct 7 through Sunday, Oct 16, we worked every day, 12 hr shifts.  What did our jobs entail? Well, here are the tools of our trade:

Got Shovels?
Got Shovels?

And our workstations? Well, they were the sample taking station:

Sample Collection Funnel
Sample Collection Funnel

The Boom:

Boom Chick A Boom
Boom Chick A Boom

The Truck Area:

View of Ground Crew
View of Ground Crew

And the Piler Tower and End Dumps:

Tower and End Dump
Tower and End Dump
David in the Tower
David in the Tower – Very Bundled Up
Piler Control Panel
Piler Control Panel

Now to explain what the actual job entails.  As this was our first year, the couple that was working with us, returners, set the stage for how our piler would operate. Piler 3 had a crew of 4: the piler operator (Karl), the boom operator (Colleen) , and two additional grounds people (David and I). A truck full of harvested sugar beets would come through the end dump and stop.  There are end dumps on either side of the piler, so David was on one side, I was on the other.  I primarily worked the side with the boom and the sample taker.  We would greet the truck, write the number of our piler on the trucker’s receipt, and take a sample ticket from the trucker if he had one.  The operator would signal for the truck to dump his load, and the conveyors would sift the dirt from the beets, sending the beets up the boom to end up in the growing beet pile.  The dirt, or tare, would be returned to the truck and the truck would drive away. We would help direct the trucks forward, backwards, and then clean around where they ignored us.  And repeat.

Before, during, and after the unloading of the beets, we would use shovels to keep our work area and the area where the beets would be piled, clear of dirt and other organic material.  If it rained (and it did), the area would become more slippery than ice. The dirt is amazing, a black mix of clay that is sticky and globs with amazing thickness.  We had dirt and hydraulic fluid raining down on us all day, and were thankful that we were wearing clothing that could be ruined – because it was!

The sample bags would weigh about 20 – 25 lbs each.  I could barely lift one when we first started, but by the end of the run, I had no problem with them.

The shoveling, standing for hours, and sheer physicality of the job surprised us.  We had been told by many previous “Beeters” that it was the elements that would be most challenging. The wind, the cold, the rain all proved tough, that is for sure.  But we layered up, and had really good boots that got us through that part.  We probably could have done with better gloves, but once I layered some good fleece gloves under my work gloves, I was much more comfortable.

The length of shift was tough, too.  12 hrs outside is a long time, but we got to see the sunrise and the sunset most days.  An incredible bonus was the view of the Northern Lights we had one night on the drive home.  It was too spectacular for a picture, so this sunset will just have to do:

Sunset behind pile 1
Sunset behind pile 1

It was a challenge to keep David fueled.  He burns calories faster than I do (clearly), and I worried about how cold he was.  I will let him talk about the effect of the job on his Parkinson’s, if he is so inclined, in a separate post.  For me, I burned about 3,000 calories a day, and lost 10 pounds.  My fitbit showed around 30,000 steps a day.

When the trucks rolled through at a good pace, the time seemed to go by faster.  When we were down to one truck every 15 – 20 minutes, it was tough to stay warm.  But we tried to keep moving and keep cleaning.

We had an outside-of-work challenge thrown at us while at work on the 12th.  We came home to find that there was no water in the campground.  And when we got up on the 13th, it still wasn’t on, so I called the City to discover that they had turned it off and winterized the pipe, with no intention of turning it back on again.  They did, however, leave it on in the shower house. That’s two stalls for women, two for men, for a full campground of 24 hour workers.  Not ideal.  The people at Express arranged for a water truck to deliver water to our rig, but the communication still lacked, and it was Friday before we had a full tank of water to cook and bathe with.  If we had some notice from the City, we would have filled our tank. Lesson learned.  But the situation did cause some to lose work hours while they relocated to another campground.

The majority of the farms in our location were wrapping up by Friday, the 14th.  Remember, we have a 15 day commitment to receive our bonus.  There were two large farms that were waiting until the last possible minute to harvest, so work extended into the weekend of the 15th and 16th.  We decided that the 16th was our last work day, but could have continued for a couple more days, whether it would be to help process beets or to clean the machines post-harvest.  But we were pretty much out of food and energy, so we fulfilled our commitment, plus one day of premium pay, and should finish with around $2,500 each/$5,000 couple in our pocket.  Eventually.  We are told that the orientation time and the bonus are not paid out until December, but we should see the majority of the pay by October 28.

Here is David’s video summary of our time on Piler 3:

Would we do it again? The jury is still out on that one!

We look forward to hearing what you have to say about this post.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

I am so glad that we could have this chat!

Nancy

Our Route to get here:

Day 1228: 4 Days of Walmart Hopping

Since Sunday, April 19, we have been quick-tripping across the US from Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Tomorrow, we will arrive at David’s sister’s home in South Hadley, where we will attempt to park in her driveway (a first for us)!  This will give us a few days to visit with her, her husband Bob, and David’s parents, Betty and Harold.

This speedy way of travel can get old fast! It is not that it is particularly hard, it is just that we are not fond of sitting on our arses day in and day out.  We would much rather take the slow track, stopping and experiencing the areas that we are traveling through.  But, there are loved ones to visit with, and a job to get to in Maine, so we will just have to revisit the areas some other time.

It also is not the first time we have made this trek, so we know what to expect.  One aspect of this method of long, day-after-day trekking, is the luxury of parking for free at a Walmart.  Now, there are many people who take issue with Walmart, and I suppose we could also overnight park at a Cabela’s, or a Home Depot, or a Lowe’s, as these all allow for RV overnight parking. But Walmart works for us, as I am always able to run in and grab some fresh veggies, salsa, fruit, to get us to the next location.  These RV fridges are just not that big, and I appreciate the convenience of having a grocery store in my yard, so to speak.

We have had a mix of weather, as well.  We seemed to be running in front of it for the most part, but were greeted this morning with cold wind and rain in Pennsylvania, and never really got away from it until we were in Connecticut.  The snow was lovely, and we certainly found winter, but dang, it was (and is) cold.  The shorts are put away, and I can feel my tan fading fast!

Here is what our route has been:

Day 1225 – April 19: Route from OK to MO

We left Keystone Lake State Park outside of Tulsa, OK and drove to Missouri on our first day.  Our first night was supposed to be at the Walmart in Eureka, MO, but we discovered upon arrival that they did indeed, NOT allow overnight parking.  The fact that they were a mile from Six Flags St Louis should have been our first clue.  Luckily, we had a backup plan, and “landed” at the Ridge Point Walmart instead.  Probably should have checked Allstays before we arrived, instead of just looking at Google Map’s aerial view.  Live and learn.

High Ridge, MO[/caption]

 

Departure Time: 10:37 am
Drive Time: 7:41.54
Miles Driven: 405.2
Gallons Used: 35.4
Avg MPG: 11.4
Arrival Time: 7:12 pm (Central)

Day 1226 – April 20: Route from MO to OH
Spring was definitely starting to make an appearance, as seen in these flowering trees all along our route:

So Bright!
So Bright!

 

I know I spent the day with my laptop and phone, trying to figure out why my phone memory is showing that it is nearly full, while have most apps and photos and videos going to my sd card.  Additionally, I ran some of the KOA training videos so that we could get a taste of what is to come.  And, we topped it off with the episode of “Undercover Boss” that featured Jim Rogers (https://youtu.be/ONGRxuyPk38) – Now we can’t wait to get to work in May!

Departure Time: 10:15 am
Drive Time: 7:20.10
Miles Driven: 405.8
Gallons Used: 32.5
Avg MPG: 12.5
Arrival Time: 7:15 pm (Eastern)

Day 1227 – April 21: Route from OH to PA

Storm Hasn’t Caught Us Yet

 

The highlight of this day’s driving was Amazon Prime Music, specifically the Simon & Garfunkel channel.  We had a blast, as David tripped back to his days of corduroy bell bottoms and Crosby Stills Nash & Young “Deja Vu” 1970 glory. Yeah – I was 6. Don’t remember it.  Still, the music was good, and it was so much fun listening to David sing along.

Departure Time: 10:24 am
Drive Time: 6:13.26
Miles Driven: 340.6
Gallons Used: 28.1
Avg MPG: 12.1
Arrival Time: 5:44 pm

I was really itching to cook, and I was rather productive – dinner, milk and cookies!

Dinner was savory groats.  Here is my adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe:

Savory Oat Groats and Kale
1 small onion (1/2 cup), finely chopped
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut into matchsticks, and rinsed well
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup oat groats
1 cup homemade vegetable stock
1 cup water
6 ounces Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
Freshly ground pepper
Crushed red-pepper flakes

Saute onion, leek, and garlic in water-lined stockpot. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrot and groats; cook 1 minute. Add stock and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 25 minutes.
Stir kale into groats. Cover; cook until liquid is completely absorbed and groats are tender but still chewy, and kale is steamed, about 15 minutes more. Season with pepper and red-pepper flakes. Garnish with nutritional yeast.

I made soy milk for the second time with my Soyapower machine, and had the okara that I wanted to use (the okara is on the left):

Soy Milk and Okara

A quick Google search for recipes, and I found one that I could modify to meet our needs:

Okara-Oatmeal Cookies
In a bowl, thoroughly combine
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips

In a second bowl, whisk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup okara
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/2 tsp. vanilla
until thoroughly emulsified.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until they are thoroughly incorporated. Drop by the Tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet (Silpat or parchment-lined).

Bake for 14-15 minutes at 350°F.

Road Trip Muchies!
Road Trip Muchies!

Day 1228 – April 22: Route from PA to CT

Woke up to this (yes, it was as cold as it looks):

Rain Rain Go Away

 

And warmed up with breakfast on the road:

Kale Yams Squash Beans Salsa Yum
Kale Yams Squash Beans Salsa Yum

 

We had snow for the first hour of our drive.  Our biggest concern was the solar water heating system, since we have not drained it, as we were not expecting freezing temperatures.  I know, what were we thinking? We kept the pump on, so that the water was circulating as we traveled.  It looks like it faired just fine.

The positive of the day: The Beast (truck) and The Tardis (RV) both got a nice little wash, since it rained the entire time we were on the road.  We got a break just long enough to go for a walk.

Departure Time: 11:00 am
Drive Time: 5:44.26
Miles Driven: 304.8
Gallons Used: 26.1
Avg MPG: 11.7
Arrival Time: 5:00 pm

After our walk around the rest area, we each set about doing our own thing. This means that David did some stretches (as well as he can with the slides in), and then started working on some paracord bracelets. I went to the kitchen to make a batch of veggie burgers using the rest of the okara that I had in the fridge.

This is my adaption of Veggie Burgers With Okara:

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup carrot, minced
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, minced
1/2 cup broccoli slaw, minced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups of okara
1/2 cup of flaxseed meal
1 cup of stale non-dairy bread crumbs (I used gluten-free bread crumbs found in the baking section of Walmart)

Mix minced vegetables in a large frying pan, and saute them over medium heat in a thin layer of water until tender. Add in spices and okara, mixing thoroughly. Slowly add in flaxseed meal and cook the mixture for another couple minutes until relatively firm. Remove mixture from heat and allow it to cool for a minute or two.

Preheat oven to 350 and form mixture into patties. Coat the outsides with bread crumbs, and place on a Silpat or parchment-lined sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully flip burgers and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm. This recipe makes about 6 burgers.

Where are the pictures, you ask? Ummm, we ate them faster than I anticipated, and missed the photo op! But, there will be a next time!

Sorry for such a long winded post, but had to get up to date! There are many posts sitting there waiting for me to finish, so be sure to sign up for the email updates, as the posts will be in date order, but behind this (and future) post!

I’m glad that we could have this chat,
Nancy

The last 4 days:

Drive Time: 27 hrs
Miles Driven: 1,456
Gallons Used: 122

 

Day 1196 – Back on the Road

First of all, David survived his overnight backpacking trip. In fact, he was really quite the happy camper when he got home.  I will let him fill you in on the details, and he has some great photos. Hopefully, he will write his own blog post soon.

Today, we started our annual Eastern trek.  We first watched the Newcastle United vs Arsenal English Premier League match on TV because Hannah was in attendance.  Didn’t really expect to see her on TV, but wanted to see what she was seeing on the pitch.  She did send pictures from the sponsor suite, and really enjoyed the VIP treatment.  It reminded David and I of our first date in the CalFarm suite at Arco Arena all those years ago.  And while Hannah had a chef make her a special vegan entree, David had to settle for a hot dog bun as his vegetarian option at the Kings game in 1989. Certainly is a good example of how eating habits have changed over the years.

We had a lovely visit with our friends Anna and Louis, and got our quick goodbyes in before they headed out for a walk around the lake; David grabbed a picture of them just before we left.  They head back to Canada next week.

Anna and Louis
Anna and Louis

I gave Anna the last of any soap that I was still holding onto, so I am really motivated to get a new batch made.  Perhaps when we stop in Texas…

I have to brag about this couple a little more.  Anna made both David and I the most lovely hand warmers.  Check them out:

Hand Warmers by Anna
Hand Warmers by Anna

These are going to keep us toasty in Maine, that is for sure! And you notice those jars on the counter? Well, they contain goodies like apple sauce and a berry syrup that I can’t wait to put on pancakes.  Yes, I get spoiled by friends on the road, just like I did at home on Markham Way.  Life is good, I tell you!

After we visited the dump station and filled with about 60 gallons of water, we headed to Highway 8, and after a short drive (by RV-travel standards), we parked at RoVer’s Roost, a SKP Co-op park outside of Casa Grande, AZ.  This no-frills park offers dry camping spots for a deal: $5 for the first night, and FREE for the second.  We are going to drive into the Phoenix outskirts to visit some friends for the day tomorrow, and we wanted to be parked someplace secure, so this park is going to be great for that.

Upon setup, we chatted with a lady named Georgia, whom we happened to meet in the dry camping area of another Escapee park called Jojoba Hills.  I guess we are just destined to run into people we have met along the way, since we are now in our 4th year of RVing.  It does just blow me away by how small the world is, though!

Tomorrow will be a busy day, so I will just sign off with this – dinner was quick and easy, and I really need to get to a Trader Joe’s, Winco, REI…oh, hello civilization! I feel a shopping fix coming on.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy

Our Route Today:

Day 1194 – Individual Projects

The day started with a surprise rain storm.  It is one of those things that happens rarely in the desert, but we have been witness to it at least four times this season.

Our day was spent inside getting our place in order, preparing to leave, and with a few projects.  David has been planning to hike up one of the nearby peaks, and did indeed head off around 4 pm today.  He had his backpack loaded with water, food, a tent and sleeping bag.  Yes, it is a solo overnight hike, and as I type this at 12:50 am, he is up on some mountain, and I suspect he is getting more sleep than I am.

I really encouraged him to go.  One, because I think it is important that he see that he can still do these things on his own.  We do so much together, and this trip is proof to me, too, that his health is good, and that it is OK to not be hovering around him all of the time.  It is strange to be alone for so long, though.  I am sure that I will eventually get tired enough that I fall asleep, and then morning will come, and he will return with tons of pictures and stories.  It gives me a chance to update this post, too, which is something that I have been struggling with.  Time, energy, focus, structure – these are all my unstructured-life challenges.

For my project today, aside from burning a bunch of personal papers that I have sorted through and logged into Quicken, and after I made some muffins for David to take on his trip, I had a new soap project to complete. Here are the carrot/apple/raisin/walnut muffins I made:

Muffins!
Muffins!

David would tell you that they needed more spice, and that they could have cooked a little longer.  I will tell you that this did not stop him from eating them.

Now, for the soap project.  About twice a year, Brambleberry (a soapcrafting supply company) has a “Soap Swap”, where one signs up to swap 10 bars of soap with other soapcrafters.  There are only so many soapers to get into each swap, and I was lucky enough to get into this one.  I have been wanting to try something called “rebatching”, so today was the day to do it. Rebatching is taking a batch of previously-cured cold process soap, and remaking it into something new.

I started off with taking the unscented soap that I had on hand, and shredding it:

Shredding Soap
Shredding Soap

I purchased this shredder at the local Thrift Store for 50 cents!

Next, I put the shreds into a pot:

Makeshift Double Boiler
Makeshift Double Boiler

And melted it down slowly over a 2 hour period.

I then added a fragrance, and put it into a loaf mold.  Next, I topped it with some dried rose buds:

Soap Toppers
Soap Toppers

 

I am hoping this texture on the soap calms down a bit, and that it doesn’t turn out to be a globby, flaky mess!  If it doesn’t turn out well, I will have to make a different batch of soap for the swap, and that is not in my travel plans for this weekend!

The daylight part of the day was wrapped up with a lovely sunset, and a text from David that he had made it to the top of the mountain.  I looked for him, but couldn’t see him.  Honestly, I don’t even know for sure which peak he was going to.

Sunset View
Sunset View

I am sure David will have lots of photos to share tomorrow.

As for me, I binged on many episodes of “Hot In Cleveland”, ate a vegan Boca burger for dinner, and am letting the cat sleep on the bed.  Seems like an all-around good wrap up of a day.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy

Planning Our Path East

Our time of living life leisurely parked in the desert of Arizona, living off the grid, is rapidly drawing nigh. We must pack up our things, store Hannah’s car, and start heading towards the East Coast of this lovely land.

We are in the planning stages, and this is what we have so far:

Our timeline:

Sunday, March 21: Meet up with friends outside of Phoenix, AZ for a bike ride and some bingo!

Tuesday, March 24: Overnight Hike in Saguaro National Park (http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm)

Travel towards Texas – plans open, but we have a deadline…

Thursday, April 2: Annual exam Dr appointment in Buda, TX (scheduled)

Friday, April 3: Annual Neurology appointment in Houston, TX (not yet confirmed)

Hopefully spend the next few days visiting with family in the Austin area.

Then, head on up to Tulsa to see Kit and Tamara.

From there, we will head towards South Hadley, MA to see David’s parents and sister, then head to our job in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Our expected arrival there is the last week of April.

At least, that is what we have planned right now.  We do reserve the right to shake, rattle and roll, boogie woogie, or slip slide away the days, depending on the radio station and what catches our fancy as we head down the highways and byways.

I have many update posts up my sleeve as well, so I will just say that I am working on it, and leave it at that.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy