Yesterday we took Coco back to Jason. She is a very sweet little dog. We had a nice dinner with Jason and Dan last evening and got to see their pictures from their recent trip to Iceland, Sweden, and Norway. Beautiful! These locations are now on my bucket list.
We are spending our last day west of the Cascades. Tomorrow we start heading east again. We have 3,690 miles to get back home in St. Augustine, Florida. We will take a month to do it.
Regis found some blackberry bushes near our current campground, so we have been well supplied with fresh blackberries the last few days. Yum!
I wanted to mention how we’ve been cooking while in the motor home. It can be hard to keep the motor home cooled down in hot weather, so we have adopted a cooking routine that helps ensure we don’t heat up the motor home and allows us to eat the most fabulous meals.
A little over a month ago, we started cooking exclusively with our Hestan Cue cookware. We even bought a second burner and pan so we can both cook if we want to cook multiple things (for example a protein and a side dish). Hestan Cue is smart cookware that includes an induction burner and pan or pot. By using Hestan’s video guided recipes, Hestan Cue automatically controls the temperature and time of the food. That means everything is always cooked to perfection. Since I tend to overcook, especially eggs and fish, I love this system. We have better tasting meals by preparing meals in the motor home than if we go out to eat.
Regis has cooked outside on the picnic table using the Cue when it is too hot to cook. We’ve also become more comfortable using the manual mode when we want to cook something on our own but the Hestan Cue still maintains the temperature of the pan.
We have not used our oven at all on this trip and we stopped using the stove over a month ago. We still use the microwave to heat up food or cook corn on the cob.
The other night I made Roasted Peach Salad w/Warm Hazlenut Vinaigrette. One of our favorite recipes is the Honey Chipotle Chicken Wings. Words cannot describe how delicious they are!
We need cell phone service to use the cookware which is usually not a problem. Regis has a cell phone booster he puts up if the service is weak. We primarily need that because we use the cell phones for internet service. We have only been without cell phone service a few times. If that happens, we can’t use the Hestan Cue recipes but we can still cook using manual mode. I am so committed to this cookware now, I donated all of our pots and pans a few days ago. It has freed up some space in the cabinets!
Yesterday, we had to take Dart to the vet. The nearest vet is 34 miles away. Dart’s been having digestive issues and yesterday was going on day 3. We’ve been down this path many times, so I knew he needed some professional help. Dart was diagnosed with colitis and the vet prescribed Metronidazole which always helps. Dart has been having bouts of colitis for the last 2 1/2 years.
It went up to 104 degrees yesterday, so we didn’t spend much time outside. We decided in the early evening to set up the screened canopy which we purchased on last year’s trip to Canada. We purchased it for the Canadian trip to give us relief from the mosquitoes. By the time we bought it, we didn’t have to use it. We wanted to set it up here to give relief from the bees. While I was focused on helping Regis put up the canopy, a dag gone bee stung me. Ouch! It hurt, but at least not as bad as a yellow jacket sting.
The canopy was VERY HARD to set up. I had a canopy that I used for dog agility trials that I had no problem putting up and down by myself. This screened canopy was extremely difficult for two people to put up.
Once we sat inside, we realized that what little breeze was outside was blocked by the screen. As hot as it was outside, it was intolerable to sit under the canopy. We gave up and went inside the motor home and fed the dogs and ourselves. Around the time we finished dinner, the wind picked up so much we had to take down the canopy or it would have blown down the hill into the Columbia River. So, all that effort and it was only up for two hours and we couldn’t use it.
The wind picked up considerably as the evening wore on and by the time we went to bed, it was howling out there. That is the most wind we have experienced in the motor home. In fact, it is probably the windiest situation I have been in outside of Hurricane Irma and perhaps a few tropical storms. While I was laying there trying to get to sleep, the feeling I had was like when you are in an airplane taking off on the runway and the wheels haven’t lifted off the ground yet. The plane is shaking and rumbling until the plane gets into the air. The motor home was shaking and rumbling and I was hoping that it wasn’t going to take off. Without wings, it wouldn’t have worked well.
A significant portion of the land around us for many miles has been burned not long ago. I wonder if you tinted the land red, if this is what it would look like to be on Mars.
We were asked about the photography gear that we use, so this post is devoted to a discussion about our gear and some remarks regarding how we approach many of our photographs.
First, this is our primary gear:
2 Canon 80D bodies (these can do video)
Lens: Canon EF 100-400 IS II USM (telephoto)
Lens: Canon EFS 18-200
Lens: Canon EFS 10-18mm (wide angle)
Extender: EF 1.4 III (used with telephoto)
Gitzo Tripod with a ball mount (This is an amazing high-quality carbon fiber tripod)
MeFoto Tripod with a ball mount (This is a carbon fiber tripod but does not approach the quality of the Gitzo but it’s a great second/backup tripod)
Remote shutter release
Neutral Density Filters (but just got them and haven’t used them much)
Canon Powershot SD1000 (can do video)
Winbook Wide-Angle Action Cam SV5EN (We got this as a Christmas gift exchange and it has been a great video camera to mount on the kayak. It can be used underwater and we got some nice underwater shots last year. Check out our YouTube page at landrtravels for some videos (here is a link to one of them click here.)
Canon VIXIA HF R500 video camera (We don’t use this as much but it is a great little video camera)
2 cell phones (Samsung S6 and HTC 10)
We have various filters, backup lenses, and what not that I won’t detail. We don’t use them much.
Okay, I rattled off a list of equipment. Now, I’ll talk a bit about how we use it and sometimes a little history about how we got here.
First, I had a great Canon 50D and wanted a second body so I didn’t have to keep swapping lenses between a telephoto and a landscape lens. The closest I could get at the time was a Canon 80D. I fell in love with the 80D and never used the 50D after that. So, I had to go out and get a second 80D. At least that way, both cameras operate the same way which reduces the amount of thinking I have to do when I am changing settings. I keep the telephoto lens on one camera for wildlife shots and either the wide angle or 18-200mm lens on the other camera for landscape shots.
Regis has become my driver so I can jump out and take the photos while driving. I have the two camera bodies with me and I’m ready to swap landscape lenses when necessary (which happens more than I would like. And, Regis says we are NOT getting a third body.). I also have the binoculars with me in the front seat so it is very crowded! We keep the tripods in the back.
The Canon 80D takes great video but it doesn’t work well when you hand hold the camera. I need the tripod to steady the camera enough for good video. I took some video of the baby bison yesterday and the hand held video is horrible. I pulled out the tripod and set up on the side of the road hoping Regis would let me know if a bison was headed my way and took much better video (we will post on our YouTube channel landrtravels later. Here is a link to one of our earlier videos. Click here).
I have started to take more HDR pictures because I love the outcome. We usually take them for sunset shots but I used HDR yesterday to take some day shots at a tunnel on our route. That post should be out on 5/18. It made a big difference. But, you really need to use a tripod for HDR so you won’t be taking pictures of animals that way.
Regis usually mounts the Winbook video camera on the kayak when we go out. He’ll stick the video camera underwater if the water is clear and there is something interesting happening. He once lost it in water high in tannins so you couldn’t see. He bumped into the grasses and the camera fell in the water. It was shallow water and Regis could reach the bottom with his hand. I WOULD NOT help him. I WILL NOT stick my hand in water that I can’t see what’s going on. Regis groped his way around and eventually retrieved the camera.
When I’m hiking, I usually carry one camera with a telephoto lens because I am mainly interested in wildlife shots. It can be heavy and I am seeking a good solution for carrying more lenses to offer other options without it being too much of a burden. I’m hoping to visit the camera store in Seattle to see what they have.
I am more than happy to explain how we took particular photos and what settings I used on the camera. Don’t hesitate to ask if you want to know. I can post with each picture if it is of interest.
I take all my pictures using the RAW format. So, they all have to go through post processing. I use Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop to do that. I don’t usually do much post processing, but it is important nevertheless. It gives me the opportunity to correct the photo to match what I saw. Cameras can’t always catch the full dynamic range of the scene. You need to correct this in software like Lightroom (there are other options). That’s also why we need to take HDR photos. HDR photos allow you to take multiple photos of the same shot using difference exposures. This allows you to capture the highlights and the shadows and merge into one picture. Then, you put those photos together to get the view of what you really saw. Someday, cameras may be so good you won’t need to do this. For now, HDR is a great way to capture the highlights and shadows.
Note: I’m typing this blog while in the middle of a thunderstorm in Rapid City, South Dakota. The lighting is amazing. Dart is not happy about it but Regis and I find it fascinating. I suppose as long as we survive, it is cool. Oh, and there is lots of hail.
As we make progress going north, I continue to be amazed by how green everything is. As we made our way to north Missouri, we noticed that all the leaves on the trees have not fully leafed out. Nevertheless, it is still green. The weather is awesome. We have been fortunate so far with the weather as we move across the country.
I calculated the mileage and tomorrow night when we camp in South Dakota, we will be half way to our destination near Seattle. We are stopping in Portland, Oregon along the way.
We have once again found a great campground in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The name of the campground is Victorian Acres. We love it. There are lots of birds. This evening, I sat at the picnic table taking pictures of the birds who flew by. This is what I love to do.
Dart seems to be settling in and eating as he should. I feel more comfortable when he is obviously less stressed. I think he’s getting into the groove. Although we could cover many more miles in the day, all of us like keeping it reasonable and stopping early so we can walk around and enjoy the area. It may take us longer to get there, but we get an opportunity to “smell the roses.”
We have a wonderful campsite right on the water where we can watch the sunset. We spent most of this morning sitting on our private deck and watching the wildlife activity. We saw lots of Ibis flying by from left to right and right to left. I tried to take pictures and I felt like I was on a skeet range except I was using a camera instead of a shotgun and I didn’t get to yell “pull”. I haven’t figured out how to capture them yet but I will keep trying. It’s good practice.
We love it here. It’s not crowded like most places south of Tampa but still has all the wildlife and water. We put our kayaks in across the road from our campsite. We just lugged them across the street. We might have put in a little to early for the tide because we wound up scraping the bottoms of our kayaks on the oyster beds. It was easier coming back.
I saw a new bird for me. I believe it was a Black-necked stilt. It’s a beautiful bird! Of course, they all are.
We saw some large fish in the water. They were slow and their tails and fins stuck up out of the water a lot. They reminded me of carp but we don’t know what they were. We were able to kayak out past the key to the gulf. It wasn’t as interesting in the gulf, so we turned around and headed back to see more wildlife. But, I did hear the calls of terns while out there but couldn’t see them.
I was sitting in the motor home this evening talking to Jason when I saw lots of big splashing in the water in the distance. It was not coming from birds diving in to fish. After hanging up, I got out my binoculars and saw that it was a bunch of dolphins that appeared to be doing some cooperative fishing. How cool! Perhaps not for the fish. We’re hoping to time our kayak trip for tomorrow to get a better look. (We never get too close to wildlife. We always give them plenty of room. I don’t worry about whether I get the shot. There is no reason to harass the wildlife to get a picture.)
I hit the jackpot on this campsite. We couldn’t be happier with it.
We finished packing up the house in hopes it will sell while we are traveling across country and then we won’t need to come back. We loaded up the motor home and set up in a local campground 1/2 mile from the beach. We are bringing more in the motor home than we have done in the past because we don’t know if we’l be living in it moving into winter. If our house sells, our goods will be placed in storage and be inaccessible until we find another home to rent or buy. It will likely be a few weeks before we can figure out how to organize the motor home so we can find stuff.
The last several weeks have been stressful because of all the packing and saying good-bye to so many wonderful friends. We had some moments when we wondered if we would regret leaving. We have the most amazing friends here in St. Augustine.
Dart has been uncomfortable with all the activity and didn’t eat much this past week. It always scares me when a dog stops eating because my experience has shown me that it can be a sign of something very bad going on with the dog. Because of all the activity, I’ve been hoping Dart’s appetite will pick up once we get settled. Fortunately, Dart ate well today so I think he was stressed out and is starting to relax. While we were finalizing the packing we had the door to the garage open and Dart went out to the driveway and laid down next to the car. I wonder if he wanted to make sure we didn’t leave without him.
Getting into the campground reminded me why we are doing this. It has been lovely. The weather has been beautiful and there are lots of birds and turtles in the campground. We are camped by a pond and we are enjoying the neighbors. A bunch of Mallards are hanging around. There are also Anhingas, Egrets, Herons, and lots of birds soaring closer to the ocean. I can’t identify all of them but the Swallow-tailed kite is easy to identify. I love when the Swallow-tailed kites return to the area in Spring and I get a thrill every time I see one. I have seen many of them soaring and have never seen one flap it’s wings. They spend all day hunting on the wing.
The first morning we camped, we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise and picked up some eclairs at the local French bakery. We’ve hit that bakery a few more times and I’m certain we will get some pastries before we leave tomorrow. If I stayed in this campground too long, I would need to purchase larger clothes.
We also went to Matanzas Inlet one last time. I love this area and I knew the Least Terns were starting to nest. We were not disappointed and got to see a lot of Least Tern activity. It looks promising that it may be a good season for them. Let’s hope so.
We’ve already had our first camping glitch. I was attempting to take a shower this morning and the water would not heat up. I would like to understand why the universe must let any glitches with our hot water heater show up only when I (not Regis) attempt to take a shower. These glitches could show up when you are washing your face before you go to bed at night or when you are washing the dishes. No. They happen when I am standing butt naked in the shower wondering why the water won’t warm up. I started yelling out to Regis hoping he was nearby and could quickly diagnose and fix the problem. It turned out that the circuit breaker was tripped, so it was easy to resolve.
Later today, we arrived back at the motor home after being away all morning and I went to get some water for Dart’s bowl and no water would come out of the faucet. Mr. Fix-it was getting ice cream at the local camp store. Once he returned, he determined that there was no water coming out of the spigot from the campground. He checked with the campground host who told him that when they were mowing the grass, they broke something but the repair was underway. At least our first two glitches were no big deal. But, the car is intermittently displaying a nasty message, so we may have an issue with the car to resolve soon.
Tomorrow we head to the Gulf Coast. I’ve never been so sad to leave a place because of all the wonderful people we have befriended. Nevertheless, we are really excited about getting started on this year’s adventure.
I think I might have a problem sitting still too long, so we recently put our house up for sale. We plan to travel in the motor home and ultimately settle somewhere in Washington State. Our son lives there and we’d like to be within driving distance of him so we can visit more often. We’re not waiting until the house sells to get going. We can’t sit still long enough to do that! So, we’re leaving on our trip and hoping it sells by the end of the summer. If it does, we’ll put our household goods in storage and travel around until we find a place to put some roots in Washington State. If it doesn’t sell by the end of the summer, we’ll come back and spend the winter in St. Augustine. Either outcome is workable, so it’s all good.
As a result of this plan, we don’t really know where we’ll be at the end of the summer. Our Adventure 2018 plan currently terminates the end of August. At that point, we either head back to St. Augustine or start thinking about where we want to spend the winter. Because we don’t know how things will work out, we have to pack as though we won’t see our household goods for awhile. I also have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends I have made since we moved here and visit some of my favorite St. Augustine spots one more time.
While I am running around with my friends and visiting favorite spots, Regis completes his motor home projects. More planning is required regarding what to take since we don’t know whether we’ll be living in Florida next winter or somewhere else. Also, knowing that we could be living in the motor home for over six months has given Regis an excuse to embark upon more projects than you can count regarding the motor home. He is obsessed with improving this or that and spends more time at the motor home than he does at the house. Oh, wait, he spends a lot of time at the local hardware store also. Thank goodness they opened a new hardware store between our house and the lot where the motor home is stored. It has greatly reduced our fuel consumption!
As I met up with some good friends recently to explore the GTM Research Reserve, they told me about a portion of an old ship that washed up on the beach near the Reserve. One of the interesting things about living by the ocean is seeing what washes up on the beach. Lots of times it’s garbage, but can be interesting nevertheless. Months after hurricane Matthew visited the area, it was possible to see the objects from people’s lives continue to wash up on the beach. It was very sad and made the ocean a dangerous place to swim. Sometime we find cool skeletons of now dead creatures. Having a portion of an old ship wash up was very exciting, so we had to checkc it out. I took a couple pictures. Here is a link to one of the many articles about the ship. Click here.
I also visited the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. This is a favorite place to visit while the birds are nesting in the spring. The birds are wild but learned that the Alligator Farm is a relatively safe place to raise their young. The many alligators keep other predators away. Of course, any chick that falls out of the nest won’t have to worry about hitting the ground. It will become a tasty snack first. Those alligators are fast. The birds are used to people watching them in this area, so you can get some very close views of them.
When I visited the other day, the alligators were restless. While you are watching the birds, you stand on a boardwalk over the water where there are LOTS of alligators. When the alligators start bellowing and thrashing around, you hope desperately that the boardwalk is well built! Click here for a video on our youtube channel of some of the nesting activity and the restless alligators. The alligator farm is a great place to visit any time of the year. You can zip line across the alligators. If you are visiting the area in the spring, it is a must see. For more information click here for a link for the Alligator Farm.