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Showing posts from 2013

Dec 31 - Our Christmas Holiday with Family

We had a good holiday with the kids and grandkids. For the most part, it's been an easy go... plenty of down-time with a party or two thrown in for good measure. Of course, "down-time" may not be the right term. When there are two energized boys on winter break from school around, it's gonzo-frantic around here much of the day.

As a family we haven't been together on Christmas in 7 years, so this one was special. Both kids, their spouses, the two grandkids, and us. It was a very enjoyable gathering... even if I had to sleep on an air bed for two nights.

It's the same every year. Much anticipation, planning, gifting, food preparation, libations, some football... and then it's all over. Just like that. I shake my head wondering what the heck happened.

Yes, we still have tonight... New Years Eve. But neither Dar nor I have ever been big NYE partiers, preferring to transit into the new year in our own quiet way. I mean, there really is no better time to co…

Dec 7 - An Epic Cold Wave

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(I'd like to write about something other than the weather, but weather is dominating the news these days... some even going so far as to call it an "epic" event. Besides, I don't have much else to write about.)

The big news around the Pacific Northwest is the unusual cold blast that's descended over the area... not to mention most of the rest of the country. The weather folks say it's unusual for two reasons. First, cold waves of this magnitude don't hit the Northwest every winter... perhaps, to one degree or another, every two or three or four years... maybe longer. Second, this one is notable for it's persistence. It's just hanging around... not moving along like good cold waves should. By the time we're back to a more "normal" pattern the better part of a week will have passed.

And we were there!

In addition to the cold, we woke to a half-inch of snow on Friday. OMG! It must not have been snow... it must have been the sky fallin…

Dec 3 - Cold Snap

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When I last wrote in this forsaken and neglected blog we had just arrived in Portland after a marathon week of 400 mile days, headwinds, cold nights, and junk food. In retrospect, it now seems like a quick and painless transit from the Midwest to our someday-soon new homebase in the Northwest. And we're certainly enjoying being close to the Northwest branch of our family - especially during the holidays.

As usually happens when we park and become preoccupied with family affairs, the old blog suffers. And that's just the way it is. Probably isn't going to change anytime soon.

We've been splitting our overnights between the "flat" (our apartment at Gage and Andrea's house) and the bushouse. Having our own more or less set up apartment at their place is a real convenience. Instead of driving back to the bushouse after a long day of chasing after the kids, we can just slip upstairs and climb into bed.

But after six and a half years simple momentum keeps us c…

Nov 22 - The Gorge and Mt. Hood

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November 22 was a Friday. Coincidentally, it was also a Friday 50 years ago, the day John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas. For me, that date will rank right up there with the 9/11/01 WTC attack as a permanent memory. Even though I was only 12 I can remember much about that day... the weather, the somber mood of most people, the nearly constant TV coverage, and the way most people were glued to their sets all weekend long... trying to understand... trying to make sense of it all.

Our day started out along the Sandy River in Troutdale Oregon where we hooked up with a portion of the old historic Columbia River Highway. Now set aside as a tourist and scenic route, this was the first real road through the Gorge. Built between 1913 and 1922, it was, and is, a significant feat of engineering and must be driven to gain a real appreciation of the accomplishment. There are only a few sections of the old road that are preserved; much of the original was sacrificed to the second Columbi…

November 13 - Boardman Oregon to Portland

Being along the Columbia during cold months often means you'll wake to fog. Thick fog. The kind that'll make you wonder where you are... 'cause there are no visible references. Your memory is all you've got to go on. It can feel like a dream if you let your imagination run free.

They said it'd start clearing about 10am, so we lingered until we convinced ourselves that it may indeed be improving... and we were back on I-84 by a few minutes after 10am. About 20 miles later it clearly was starting to clear. Another 20 miles, just as we dropped down into the Columbia River Gorge, just as we wanted visibility to savor one of the great drives in the USA, the fog was gone. The rest of the way to Portland was clear and sunny... and "gorge"ous. Aided by low sun and long shadows we were entertained with scenic eye-candy until we reached Portland. The road through the Gorge, even though it's an Interstate Highway, is curvier than a swimsuit model and almost as d…

November 12 - Mountain Home Idaho to Boardman Oregon

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With a short 300 miles planned for today as well as a westerly time zone crossing we fooled around this morning and did not get an early start. We did however get the circus on the road some time after 9am. After loading up a tank of fuel it was back on I-84 westbound, through Boise, across the Snake River (again) and into the high desert of eastern Oregon. More and more it was beginning to feel good... familiar... like a welcoming home territory... a place I know like the back of my hand, yet, perhaps, really don't know at all. That's right, this is Oregon. And right over there, across the big River Columbia, that's Washington. This is the land we called home for about 8 years in the 80s and 90s... the place we raised our kids, explored, beaches and mountains and high desert. We visited places like Crater Lake, I climbed to the top of Mounts Hood and Helens, let the kids run free at the coast, taught them to ski on the mountains, poked our noses in here and there. But if…

November 10 - Little America Wyoming to Mountain Home Idaho

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Got down to 25f degrees last night which means the furnace got a workout, as did the batteries that power it. But we managed and got a good nights sleep. The early setting sun this time of year has me thinking about bed (and sleep) at ridiculously early hours... especially when we're in boondocking mode. I can fight the urge for a while but eventually surrender when bed becomes the warmest and most comfortable spot in the house. As a result I'm sleeping, sometimes, by 8 or 8:30. Of course, that means I'll be awake early... turning up the heat... making coffee. But when our goal is to "get there", that's not all bad either. For the most part, we've been able to manage.

The other two times we've been through this way we left I-80 and took US-30, the old Oregon Trail route, up passed Kemmerer, Montpelier, and Soda Springs... and then up to Pocatello before catching the Snake River for the trip downhill to Portland. For something different today we sta…

November 9 - Sidney Nebraska to Little America Wyoming

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Decided to take a break from the string of 400 mile drives today so we stopped after 395 miles. Considering our before 8am start we were done by a little after 3pm. We're parked at Little America Wyoming, one of the smallest and busiest towns for it's size I know. We've been here a few times before and always park in the same area in front of the restaurant and store, but away from the hustle and bustle of the place. There's no RV park or campground... no sir... no madam... every time we stop for the night at Little America we blacktop boondock... just find a spot, park, and hop in bed.

We're a little early for bed, although tired enough from the day. The common thread of the last three days has been the relentless headwinds and this big old flat-sided bushouse doesn't exactly cut through the wind like an F-16. Really, quite the opposite. It's literally like pushing a billboard down the road sideways. Driving is a two hand, two strong arms, and two sharp …

November 8 - Shelby Iowa to Sidney Nebraska

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Another 400+ mile day is in the books... our second in as many days.  It might be a good idea to explain our urgency... the rush to get from the Midwest to the Northwest in just a few days.

That explanation boils down to this:  it's mid-November, Winter is closing in, the entire route is between 41 and 45 degrees north latitude, and there are a couple mountain ranges that will have to be dealt with... and an elevation of about 9000 feet. We're trying to hit a window of relatively calm weather along our 2200 mile route before all hell breaks loose... as it certainly can (and will) any day now. So our motto is "git while the gittin's good". Those who linger will certainly pay the price.

All that said, we got another early start as the sun rose over Shelby this morning. Strong southerly winds were brisk and buffeted the bushouse as we passed through Omaha and around Lincoln... enough wind to make driving tough but not enough for us to give up and throw out the anch…

November 7 - Beaver Dam to Shelby Iowa

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Hey, we're on the road again.  After almost 6 months it feels good to be moving, that's for sure.

Yesterday we moved the bushouse off the RV pad at the farm and onto a temporary one-night "stand" nearby. The truck camper took the bushouse's place on the pad... and went into "cold storage". It'll sit there... unused, winterized, loaded and ready to go... until we return and retrieve it about a month from now. (more on that later).  Considering the 24f degree temps last night, the bushouse easily rumbled to life at first light this morning, raring to go. If I didn't know otherwise I'd say it was as anxious as us to hit the road. The only unforeseen issue was a frozen tv batwing antenna which cold-welded itself to it's base... no turning... no dropping... and us not going until stowed.. The steady rain of the previous few days and the hard-freezing temps combined to make life a little interesting... especially if you're the one who had…

October 31 - Change in Plans

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We've been busier than a three-legged squirrel getting ready for winter. Without getting into all the details, here's a brief list... install new solar system on little camper, trouble-shoot and fix battery problem on little camper, change bushouse oil and filter, wash/wax bushouse so it at least starts the winter gleaming like a new one, various suspension enhancements on the truck so it handles little camper better, moving stuff from bushouse... some of it to little camper and some to our apartment here at the farm... and then moving some of it back again. Then there's the long list of smaller jobs that seems to grow longer as things are completed and checked off... not unlike the parable of the loaves and fishes. It might be a miracle.

I've had a little more trouble sleeping these recent days... something I've rarely had trouble with before. Falling asleep usually isn't the problem. But if I awake during the night (a common occurrence, I'm told, with ol…

October 21 - Does Warmth Equate to Happiness?

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The annual migration of snowbirds, winter Texans, and other ice-o-phobes is well underway, with the most senior of our RVing elders leading the way south. I'm not sure why, but it does seem that the more mature of the lot has an innate need to head south earlier every year. At first they were fine with leaving in November, maybe even after Thanksgiving. But as the years tick off, they're soon leaving in early October. They're a co-dependent pack who look for support in their peer-group... a mutual revulsion society that shuns anything less than 80f degree temps and bright sunshine... and any mention of words like freeze, snow, sleet... well, they go into shock and may need a respirator to survive. Added to all that, there's also the side-effect of a lingering residual competitiveness that drives them to be the first at whatever they do... first to arrive, first to leave, first to bed... you get the idea. You gotta love old folks... they're so predictable.

Easy tr…

October 18 - The Truck Camper Story

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The other half of our not-so-secret lifestyle change is our new truck camper. During the last year or so as we were deliberating the evolution of our traveling life, much of the discussion revolved around a new rig. We had done six years in the 40' class A motorhome which we found very comfortable... so comfortable in fact that it would easy to continue as we have, for maybe another 6 years.

But life marches on... we're not getting any younger... and the long-term prognosis for continued good health and relatively robust physical condition is NOT good. If one in our position harbors any inkling or desire to do something unconventional (even more unconventional than living in a bushouse for 6 years full time)... something that pushes the boundaries of good sense and the extremes of what gentile folk consider reasonable... well, you'd best be getting on with it before you can't. To hell with what others think.

What we desire in this evolved lifestyle is simplicity, free…

October 16 - The Bushouse Story

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It hasn't been a secret that we're in the middle of a lifestyle change. After 6 years of living and exploring with our Newmar motorhome (dubbed the "bushouse" by grandson Ryan) we're both ready for a change. This has been one of my quirks (or maybe "faults" is a better word) throughout life... every few years I feel a need to change things up, to move someplace new, take on a new or additional job, or do something in a different manner. Now it's happening again.

I've written about our thoughts on this matter before and won't bore the reader with a re-hash here... except to offer links to a few of those previous posts [here] and [here] and [here].

We still intend to travel and explore North America (we've really just scratched the surface of things to see and do) but we desire to do it differently... to find a way to more easily get off the beaten path, to be more spontaneous, and to maximize the time we spend in more rustic camping venu…

October 15 - Changes to Blog

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You may have noticed recent changes to the layout of this blog. Here's the quick story.

The RV Sabbatical Journal blog is now presented in a simple single column format. The focus is on the most recent post, which is where I'd like it... with little else to clutter the page. In my effort to define the blog's purpose and to feed my desire to keep it all clean and simple, I've removed that smaller right-hand column which included a bunch of things I thought I could do without or, at least, handle differently. Did anyone really care what were the most viewed posts from the previous month? Our story is best found on a separate page under the "About" tab, so the small sections called "What's This All About?" and "Synopsis" were deemed redundant and done away with. The Google search widget didn't seem to work most of the time so it too was deep-sixed.

The two elements that I felt still had some value were the previous post "Archi…

October 14 - I'm Back

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Rather than one long post (and, I fear, it would be very long) in which I try to cover this blog's recent dry spell, how about I break it down into a series of shorter posts as I attempt to bring the record up-to-date over the next few days. Maybe by then we'll be close enough to getting our Fall travels underway and there'll be more time to write... and more to write about.

Regular readers of this blog know that I've had periods in the past when writing has been a struggle. Without exception, those spells are associated with periods of time when we're sitting in one spot for a while. Probably because I don't have a clear purpose for the blog (is it a travelogue?.. a diary??... who really is the audience???) the words won't flow. I want to keep it interesting and fresh, but unlike some others in bloggerville who have no problem writing the same tiresome daily drivel... day after day after boring day, I just can't do it. I'm not a small talk kind of…

Random Images from the Upper Peninsula

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I'm getting a little behind again so I thought I'd pop up a few images from our time in the UP of Michigan... the first two weeks in September. I think it's plain to see why we like this part of the USA so much.


We've been back in the Beaver Dam Wisconsin area since the 13th and are busy with projects and preparations for Sabbatical II. Should have the camper next week and we're anxious to get it out and spend a few nights aboard.

Sept 3 - Good Days Ahead

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Sept 2 - Sabbatical II Plans Coming Together

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During the last year we've been on a quest to get started with the second chapter of our nomadic lifestyle. After talking to many folks along the way about smaller traveling rigs, and discussing our personal needs, wants, and exploring preferences, we narrowed it down to either a Sprinter-based class B van or a truck camper. I've written before about the strengths of each and the reasons we're downsizing so dramatically (here, here, and here) , so I won't repeat it. Let's just say we want to be comfortable, compact, nimble, and not tow anything.

We visited a Sportsmobile plant in Fresno California and saw Sprinter vans being turned into amazing class B travel rigs. We also visited a number of truck camper manufacturers and spent hours inside both pop-top and hardside models... to imagine living and functioning in so small a space. It was all instructive and we could have dragged out this process longer... but eventually we had to make a decision and pull the trigge…

Sept 1 - UPpity for a Couple Weeks

After the rough summer we've had this year we were primed and ready to go somewhere... anywhere. So yesterday, without too much thought or planning, we fired up the bus-house and headed north, into the land of pasties... the UP of Michigan.

The route was all north - US151 to US141 at Green Bay, to MI95 from near Iron Mountain to Camp. Light winds and a few clouds made driving easy and enjoyable. Taking the bus-house on what could be it's last excursion with us aboard added a touch of emotion for us too. Making this a family outing, our little Ford Focus toad made the trip too... following the bus-house like a little lost puppy.

Out of respect for the owner's privacy we strive to keep the precise location of our "Camp" up here in the UP confidential. But I will tell you it's on a lake and the property is surrounded by trees. That oughta' narrow it down for the curious.

We hope to get close to two weeks of R&R in before returning to Beaver Dam for the F…

Aug 4 - My Dad

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Harold A. (Huns) Hoch My Dad 1923 - 2013

Facebook is Loosing Me

My first attempt at a post on my thoughts about Facebook has been discarded... wadded up and chucked in the virtual waste basket. It really wasn't very "friend"ly... actually came off rather mean-spirited. I'm not sure why. It's difficult to be critical of something that so many of my "friends" and relatives use... and, apparently, think highly of... without coming across as being critical of those using it. I don't want to do that... and I certainly don't want to come across as seeming to tell others what to do.

Let me just say this: I check in on my "friends" on Facebook to see what they're doing, where they are, why they are where they are, and to, maybe, see what they have to say, what they're thinking about, and how they feel. That's the reason I signed up for FB in the first place. I love reading about my Grand-kids, the family and extended family, seeing photos of them all... following the travels of nomadic frie…

Found Alive, Author Vows to Return to Old Ways

To all those folks who tenaciously check this blog every day (something like a hundred a day)... even though there's been NO activity or posts for a month and a half... take heart, the author has been found, alive, and is currently in rehab, where a team of professionals is working every day to help him regain the ability to think clearly, to write, and to get back his passion and excitement for blogging. With a little luck, he should be back to his old ways in the next few days.

There's so much to write about. One of the first topics will be Facebook. What's happened to Facebook recently that, at least as far as I'm concerned, is making me think seriously about leaving?

May 15 thru May 31 - The Beginning of an End

Time for a long entry to the blog in an attempt to bring the record up to date. If you're like many readers and find daily minutia and personal triflings boring, you may want to skip this entry. Now that we're more or less settled for the summer I don't plan on posting here often... certainly not daily. Something like every week or two will probably suffice to keep the record current and my writing muscle from turning completely to flab.

When we last heard from our intrepid explorers they had just arrived in Cedar Falls Iowa. Our purpose for stopping there was two-fold: first, we have four good RVing friends from our Rockport Texas days... Andy & Betty, and David & Carol Ann... who live right here in Cedar Falls. We hadn't seen these folks since a year ago this past Winter (we skipped Rockport this year) and since we were driving by it just made sense to stop and see what kind of trouble we, collectively, could get into. Our other reason for stopping there wa…

May 14 - Delivered from Pender

Considering my mental burden, I was able to get a reasonable night's sleep, but was up for the day by 5am... reading over all the documentation I had on these problematic Atwood levelers. Before 7am, I called Newmar to get the location of the Atwood control module... the controller... for the leveling system. There are electronic gizmos scattered all over the place in this motorhome and, since I wasn't sure of it's location, a little help in narrowing down my search could be helpful before I start crawling around in the "basement" playing hide and seek with a little black box.

Newmar says it could be here... or it could be there... and with those two possibilities, it didn't take long for me to find it and make a positive ID. Now it was time for a call to Atwood... and I was dreading the likelihood that I'd get less-than-stellar assistance... a customer service rep named Rajij in Bombay reading from a script... someone who didn't have the knowledge to…

May 13 - Stranded in Pender

Monday morning. About 8:30am, Edward the Blue Ox tech knocks on the door and says he's taking the tow bar for service. To prepare for him, I'd been working on unlocking the two pins (locking type) that secure it to the receiver (one for the drop adapter and one for the tow bar) but, despite my best efforts, could not get a key into one of them -- it was jammed or corroded or something. He took the whole deal... tow bar and drop adapter together... and went off to do his thing.
In the meantime, we explored little Pender and looked for a store to get a few basic food items for the larder. Most towns of just a thousand people don't have a food store at all, or, if they're lucky, perhaps a C-store/gas station. What we found was Cubbys, a brand spanking new "Community Store". More a small grocery store than C-store on steroids, sure you could get fuel out front, but you could also get fresh meat, a wide range of groceries, and even hot prepared food at the deli.

T…

May 12 - Pampered in Pender

Comfortably parked in the Blue Ox RV Park in Pender, and conveniently attached to full hookups, we had no place to go and no schedule to keep today... a great day for lazing around. It was Mother's Day and Dar had the day off from most normal chores... well, except for a load of laundry, something she doesn't trust me with under any circumstances. Besides whipping up a simple meal for dinner, I did dishes too. Hope the Mother of our children enjoyed her day... near as much as I enjoy having her around every day. And Happy Mothers Day to our Moms up there in Beaver Dam... and to our daughter out in Washington.

We happened to hit Pender on a weekend so we have to wait until Monday morning for the Blue Ox tech to check out the tow bar. Once again, we were the only ones in the place last night. We're obviously not following the RV crowds around these days.

Yesterdays brisk wind abated overnight and we got down to 27f early this morning. And how's this for contrasts... Mo…

May 11 - Blown to Pender

Dar and I were the only ones in the Kearney Cabelas truck and rv lot last night (Friday)... no trucks or refrigerated trailers that can drone on all night long. What we did have was the sound of the railroad as we were camped right across the road from a UP mainline through here... and it's one of the busiest sections of track I've seen. Often there'd be two trains going by at the same time, and at least once, I saw three. Yes, there are three sets of rails and if one had time between trains to feel those ribbons of steel, I'll bet they'd be hot. But the cool night meant mostly closed windows in the bus-house and we slept fine. Don't think either of us were awakened by steel wheels on steel rails all night.

As the rising sun sliced in through the windows of a rocking bus-house Saturday morning it became obvious that the issue today was going to be wind. Area wide predictions were for 20 plus mph winds and gusts to over 30. Since this was a day of mostly two lan…

May 10 - Sidney to Kearney Nebraska

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From Cabelas store to Cabelas store...  one time zone to the next... into that gray area between "The West" and "The Midwest"... we continued our eastward trek today. If we didn't officially cross into the Midwest today, we certainly will tomorrow. I've written about this before but there is a north-south demarcation between West and Midwest out here that runs from the Canadian border and into Texas. In the West you're a rancher; in the Midwest you're a farmer.  In the West you attend rodeos; in the Midwest it's tractor-pulls and county fairs. In the West you wear a cowboy hat; in the Midwest it's a seed-corn sponsored baseball cap. These days everybody drives pickup trucks, even soccer Moms who used to drive mini-vans. But in the West, you'd probably have a horse or two besides. The demarcation line wavers some and is wider in some spots than others. But it clearly runs right through the part of the country we're crossing today and…

May 9 - Good Bye Wyoming... we'll be back.

This will be a quick note to the record that we left Cheyenne this morning and ran a whole hundred miles (and 1600 feet elevation... down) to Sidney Nebraska. We're camped (well, moochdocked really...) at Cabelas in Sidney... their corporate headquarters. They have a full hookup RV campground ($$) here too, but we, being old timers on a fixed income, decided to rough it tonight and go without any connection to the civilized world at all.  So here we sit and here we'll sleep... as the world spins on it's axis until old Sol rises on the eastern horizon tomorrow morning.

Just because we're "moochdocking" doesn't mean we didn't drop any money at all in Cabelas coffers. We had lunch at their lunch counter and then wandered around the store until two items jumped into our arms... a new pair of shoes for Dar and a heck of a deal on a new GPS for Thom. Staying here for free can get expensive.

Tomorrow, we move eastward again... ever closer to the Midwest. And…

May 8 - Wyoming State Capitol

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This morning we made the jaunt a few miles north to downtown Cheyenne and the State Capitol of Wyoming. Cheyenne is not a big town, although relative to most other clusterings of people in Wyoming, it can feel that way. With a population of only 60,000 hearty folks, getting around town is easy and quick. Our camp on the south end of town is less than 3 miles from the heart of town and the Capitol Building. We probably could have walked if we were ambitious.

Parking was easy-to-find right on one of the streets that run alongside the Capitol grounds. Upon entering through the main front doors at the top of the portico steps we were confronted by the lack of a security checkpoint, no x-ray machines, nor any walk-through metal detectors. No sir, the State Police have a desk in the rotunda on the first floor and that’s about it. Clearly the good citizens of Wyoming don’t feel the need to over-do the security thing... and retain the sense of liberty one gets by just going in whenever one f…

May 7 - Why the Rush?

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A few days ago I promised to say more about why we've hurried our pace and are making this mad dash back to the Midwest. At our current rate, after factoring in this short breather in Cheyenne and a couple stops we're planning in Nebraska and Iowa, it looks like we'll be back at our Wisconsin home base around the 16th or 17th... about two weeks after leaving the Northwest. The initial plan to take a month for this travel leg clearly went up in smoke.

So what happened? To put it simply and directly... we're anxious to get on with "Sabbatical II - The Great Downsizing". We've talked and deliberated, pondered and imagined, thought about this and thought about that... analysis paralysis, some would say. Enough already! It's time for action.

We have already taken a few steps toward that next chapter. Our space at our daughter and SIL's place (dubbed "the flat") is now set up and ready for our occasional occupancy. In Wisconsin one of Dar's…