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Posts from the ‘Fawkes Travels’ Category

Turned the corner

After a month’s rest in southern Arizona, we turned the coach eastward with a warm winter closer to family and the winter holidays in mind. Still a long run with some great places to experience along the way.

First stop was a visit to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute near Ft Davis, TX. CDRI has a long history focusing on the protection and management of this unique desert environment. It’s a place I’ve known since early in my professional career but never had the opportunity to visit. They maintain a beautiful arboretum with nature trails and an amazing nursery for every species and variety of desert cacti.20181029_104820

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A short drive off I-10 in west Texas – not to be missed.

Next stop was at our favorite Corp of Engineer’s park in Georgetown, TX (Jim Hogg). We spent some time there last year. It’s close to Austin and some good friends of Denise – so another good visit.

The sunsets over the lake are spectacular. And we get visits from the local deer population…..

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It was then a short run south to San Antonio to visit the Alamo and experience the old town river walk.

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We enjoyed a ride on the water around the walk… Christmas decorations were just going up …

 

It was time to make our annual visit to Red Bay, AL and the Tiffin service center. The list was short and assorted minor issues. It is as much an educational stop as service. The techs are always helpful and ready to answer questions and show how to do many simple repairs. The Fall is always busy there, but our expected stay of a couple weeks turned out to be just 5days.

With some extra time, we headed south to the Gulf coast and found a nice RV park at Emerald Beach

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Made a visit to Gulf Island Seashore, Ft Pickens and were treated to a visit by an apparently friendly armadillo …

 

…and got some beach time to put our feet in the sand!

We found Captain Dave’s for a delightful evening and delicious dinner..

Some years ago I came through St Augustine – actually several times, but never saw the old historic city since those visits were by sailboat on the Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). This time I saw the Bridge of Lions from the shore instead of waiting for it to lift for passage.

Also visited the fort that is such a prominent view from the water.

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It has been beautifully restored…

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And our Thankgiving dinner, while not the traditional menu, was outstanding seafood … including a fine wine list and remarkable deserts of bread pudding and my favorite – Key Lime pie…..

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Near the end of this part of our travels we found another Harvest Host stop for a couple days at Summer Crush Winery…. A pleasant place to park, good wines, and live music entertainment ….

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Harvest Hosts offer free overnight parking for RVers. In return it is expected that at least a few wines are likely to be sampled 🙂  A second treat for Denise, after the Armadillo, was this resident alligator.20181124_144411

I’ts December now and time to be near family, including all the grandkids  !

Postscript: These posts are brief and intended to provide friends, family and others with a look at places we’ve been. Hopefully, it gives a sense of where we are and that we haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, and perhaps a view of what full time RVing can be……

Hit the pause button

October is our down time. It was a good trip since leaving Maryland the end of August with the opportunity to see some highlights of country that are all new to Denise.
Since the ‘Marathon’ post, which brought us to Cherry Creek in Colorado, we have made visits to Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Red Rock NCA, Zion NP, Antelope Canyon and Sedona’s red rock country and vortexes – with some side trips along the way. Pix follow below…
We arrived in Benson, AZ the end of September with a planned stay for the month of October. Seems now a good delay to avoid hurricane season 😊 This is quiet time to pause and rest before circling back east. We’ll see some more of Arizona, Texas, a stop at Tiffen in Red Bay, AL, then on to tour a bit of Florida’s east coast and finally winter over again in Port Ritchie on the Gulf side. Fortunately, that area was just brushed by the hurricane.
October turns out to be not quite as restful as planned. Denise flew back to Virginia for 10 days to help out with the new born grandson recovering from pyloric stenosis surgery – all’s well, but mom and dad are tired. I’m holding down the fort (coach) and catching up with some nearby friends. Weather is beautiful. The park (Butterfield RV Park) is modern, clean and meticulously maintained.

PIX……….

Arches NP offers some of the most interesting rock formations resulting from many years of wind and water erosion.

While in Moab, we had a wonderful day in Canyonlands NP with other FT RV friends …. expect to see them again in FL..

Zion NP is remarkable and glad to have seen parts of it. Sadly, like many of the Country’s natural treasures, it suffers some from being loved to death. The crowds of people bring impacts to the ground and diminish the experience. Perhaps a reservations system is not so far off.

Of all the remarkable sites we’ve visited, Antelope Canyon near Page, UT is near the top of the list. We toured the upper and lower canyons, the latter with a smaller guided group. The following pix are but a few of the dozens taken. Hard to do justice to the amazing features and lighting that makes it a magical place….

 

Sedona is a must stop if near this country ……… and a visit to one or more of the vortexes. These unique energy sites are worth the trip……..

 

Finally on a bit more personal nature…
October is the month of my two birthdays – yea, special 😊 The first was longer ago than I like to admit. The second, eight years ago today as I write this, I survived a cardiac arrest – no, don’t recall if I saw anything on the other side, but I did win the racquetball match that precipitated it! So, life is good and we look forward to more travel and fun along the way.

I did give myself a birthday present – a trail ride through some beautiful southern Arizona countryside. Thanks to the nice folks at Arizona Horseman Adventures (and Sam – the quarter horse), I got to see the country up close.

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Marathon

What a way to begin our second year of full time RVing. The end of the first year found us inheriting a house and committing nearly 5 months to its renovation while our “primary home” languished in RV storage for much of that time. It was not an easy decision to keep the house with all the challenges. We had, after all, just sold our home with the expectation of living and traveling full time in our new Tiffin motor coach. Practicality prevailed since, at some point, we would need a place to settle and this was close to much of our family.
Before & after…

Before  LR finished

Near the end of the house project, we spent a week at a beach house with the whole family… all 18 of us.

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It was wonderful to have the time with us all together – a true and unique blessing. And, the 18 was soon to become 19 with the birth of our 9th grandchild. We loved the chance to spend a week with Abby, Jim and new born ‘Benjamin James’ before venturing out on our second, long excursion.
Our travel plan called for a quick trip across the Country from MD to CO. The schedule required a race to Denver, for a visit with good friends, before heading to Southern Utah, and time in some National Parks, on the way to Arizona before cold weather set into the high country. We had fun experiencing overnights at Walmarts, rest areas and finally a convenient RV park to time our reservation at Cherry Creek State Park near Denver. In Kansas we discovered a swarm or two of bugs that pretty much obliterated the windshield – still cleaning up. These guys also found us – guess they liked the warm windshield glass.

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We averaged 42mph, including stops during the day travels, and covered about 425-520miles each day of the near 1800 mile trip.
While I might do it again – with sufficient motivation – let me say clearly, multiple long days driving a 38ft motor home and toad is a challenge for anyone, even younger than me. The 4 day stop in Denver is what the doctor ordered, and we had the chance to have dinner and spend time with some very special friends.
Perhaps I’d do the trip again, with dog and shotgun along, just in time for bird season on the prairie – the motivation referred to above 😊.
In any event, we made it, have a few days to recoup, and are looking forward to the coming travels and experiences! This will be our second visit to Cherry Creek SP – a wonderful place!

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On the way..

Renovations done … at last! House closed up and security in place. Trying out the new Nest technology.

We’re off, finally, with the first stop to visit the newest grandson ☺.
After a week in Williamsburg, we make a quick cross country dash to Denver for a visit with good friends (staying at Cherry Creek SP). 

 This year we plan to see some of the SW parks and sights, with a pause near Tucson during October. More friends to visit in TX and a short tour along the gulf coast.
It wouldn’t be a year on the road without a stop at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, AL- only a couple minor issues to fix. Holidays will find us in Florida…east coast, and more visits before settling again at Sundance in Port Ritchie.
Heading west September 2nd. Looking forward to meeting new friends along the way!

Doldrums

Well, for a full time RVer, the arrival of a sticks and brick home is a mixed blessing. What to do with it, and why?

054On the up side we inherited a 1960s home in a very nice location near much of our family. That’s the good news. On the down side, it required major renovation and mold remediation — sounds worse than it was. Well, everything is gone out to the walls…

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It means taking on all the responsibilities of a home owner – in addition to a motor home owner. AND, it has meant a hiatus in our travels while we oversee the renovations. Hard to sit here patiently while reading about other friends who are on the road enjoying new places and new experiences.

Meanwhile, we are close to family and Gettysburg NP, and there’s a family beach vacation in July and a new grandson due on or about August 1st — so, let me be clear about the mixed feelings. It’s not all bad that we’re stuck here for a bit!

AND, we expect to be off headed west again before the end of August. We have plans – and reservations made for Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Alabama (Red Bay), and Florida. Lots of great places to see and friends to visit along the way. MOST IMPORTANT, we can change those plans in a heart beat – the real joy of full time RVing!

Sending best wishes and safe travels to all our friends on the road. Hope to see you in our travels soon !

 

Full Circle

March 29th 2017 , after selling our house, we headed off on our motor home adventure. On April 7th 2017 we moved the coach to The Yogi Bear RV park in Williamsport, MD. Twelve months later, almost to the day, we’re back where we began. It has been quite a ride, and an eventful year!

In that 12 months we’ve covered about 10,000 miles with stops in VA, TN, AL (Tiffin factory), KS, NE, CO, WY, SD, NM, TX and FL. We saw old friends and made new ones along the way. We saw spectacular parts of this Country, and a wide range of conditions. So, what were the highs and lows? How do I feel about the travels?  What are we looking forward to as we plan to head out again — and now that we have a sticks and bricks home again? You can browse back through the previous posts to see some of the highlights. This post is about our reactions, lessons and discoveries after living 24/7 in a moving home and confined to small space and constant contact.  Motor home living is not necessarily for the faint of heart!

When we began this adventure, I had been retired for 5 years and done extensive sailing, much solo, cruising the east coast. Denise only just retired as we were moving from house to motor home. Neither of us had ever owned or driven a motor home. We took delivery near Buffalo, NY and drove home to MD – 425 miles under some marginal conditions – a quick way to learn about handling a 38ft MH and tow. The next months would provide lots of on-the-road lessons which thankfully we survived and learned from.

So, what were the highs and lows…? Not easy to pick from a very long list. I loved the chances we had to meet up with old friends from my conservation career days – folks I had worked with and become lasting friends with. That clearly needs to be in my top five. Sharing some of the amazing western landscape and wildlife with Denise ranks right up there. The bison and donkeys in Custer, SD State Park were wonderful to experience, as were the Big Horned sheep in Creed, CO. I would add landing a 20″ wild Rainbow Trout in the headwaters of the Rio Grande was pretty special too!

 

Don’t ever miss the chance to experience the annual Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerqui, NM – despite the really cold, dark start!

 

 

 

 

Mesa Verde ruins, the train ride through the southern Colorado mountains, wading in the Gulf of Mexico, and finding great friends at our winter quarters at Sundance RV park in Florida all make the list of special memories.

Among the VERY few lows, was the incredibly sad loss of a good friend who visited and toured some of Colorado’s wonderful scenery with us. We remember those days and they will stay etched in my memory for a lifetime….

On a lesser scale, I said goodbye to Cricket who was not able to adapt to the traveling lifestyle. We become amazingly attached to these furry friends, and they are family. She went to wonderful home with good folks and other dogs to enjoy as well, but is still missed most every day….

Twelve months of travel was largely without issues – a good thing!  We made two stops at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, AL – the first on the way west, the second as we returned to Florida for the winter months. Only minor issue to address on our 2017 Phaeton 36GH as well as a couple modifications to improve handling and ride. The miles built confidence in handling the beast, setting up and breaking down at campgrounds. I can now eat breakfast before heading out after an RV park stay! And kudos to Tiffin for their product and remarkable service. An AC unit failed in Cody, WY – it took only 4 days to receive and install the new unit they shipped to the local tech!

In January Denise lost her 98 year old dad. He lived independently till the very end and passed away quietly in his sleep. It was not a surprise, but difficult none the less. So, at the end of our first year we are now parked for a few months while renovating a house. Yes, after the year’s freedom of only the coach and the travel, we are house owners again with all the considerations that brings. It is a stark reminder of how quickly ones life can change, emphasizing the wisdom of the words I try to live by – ‘Nothing is more important that this day.’

Yes, we will be off again! the first year was a great teacher, and perhaps the most important lessons were how to live together in a small space and the value of time together, the magnificence of our Country, the importance of friends, and how to manage a complex machine. Clearly there is more to learn and see.  We will finish the house renovations, enjoy the blessing of having two homes, and  build more wonderful memories experiencing other remarkable places and people. It was a very good year!

 

A Florida Winter

A brief update………..

After traveling for eight months, we settled at Sundance Lakes RV resort December 1st. Landed in a nice spot among some very nice neighbors. Planned to be here through February. As with most plans, changes were in the offing…….. first, we drove back to Maryland for Christmas with the kids – always a good time! Then in January, family events had us back in MD for three weeks dealing with estate, house and medical issues. A big part of the time was spent cleaning out a house and preparing it for major renovations. Along the way we extended our FL stay till the end of March … lots to do here, and some really nice weather 🙂

A quick look at the bulletin board provides an idea of the diversity of activities. Men’s billiards has occupied most of my Mon, Wed & Fri evenings – and I’m getting Denise hooked on the game 🙂

Always an excuse for another party with good food and entertainment………..

And great, fun places to eat out … 

 

Also have learned a bit about pyrography – all new to me, but made a couple projects…. fun to do!

With just a month left here, we’re now looking to do some ‘tourist’ things and visit friends who are nearby.  When we head back to Maryland, it will be an extended visit while we oversee house renovations and enjoy some family vacation.  More later…..

 

 

 

 

 

2017 – Looking back at a life-changing year…

We charted a new course in the Fall of 2016 when we bought a motor home and decided to sell our Maryland home of 20+ years. Thus began our journey as full time travelers. Denise was scheduled to join me in retirement in April. We took delivery of the motor home the end of 2016, and put the house on the market in February expecting to have a couple months to sort, store or dispose of the accumulation of years. The house sold in the first week…..

Suddenly this was our new home, a 2017 Tiffin Phaeton 36GH ….

 

 

 

 

… not bad digs!

 

 

 

 

So, it was a scramble to get ready to hit the road. That included passing the test for my Class B non-commercial driver’s license. Applying for a ‘learner’s permit at my age felt a little odd. And, moving from 2,600 sq ft to a bit over 300 was a challenge. What stuff didn’t go to kids, Salvation Army or the local landfill went to a storage unit. Being mobile full time, without a ‘sticks & bricks’ home, makes answering simple questions like ‘where are you from?’ a bit tricky! That said, off we went without looking back – at least not often.

So where did we go? In brief, we traveled from Maryland to Florida by way of Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama (again), Georgia and finally Florida (each pin represents a stop of a few days to a few weeks). We covered about 8,000mi averaging about 37 miles per day. Of course, that doesn’t begin to describe the journey with all the stops along the way visiting good friends, making new friends and seeing some of the most

beautiful scenery that makes up our wonderful country. Some of the experiences are pictured and described elsewhere in this site.

It was not without a few bumps in the road. An AC unit failed in Cody, WY during the summer heat wave – replaced by Tiffin in a matter of a few days. Coach and car (in tow) were plastered with gray, gumbo driving through the west Texas oil patch, and we waited for two weeks at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, AL to get warrantee work done as well as a couple modifications to improve ride and handling. I was now learning some of the finer points of driving a 38ft, 34,000lb bus……

The up sides have far exceeded and difficulties. We have reconnected with friends. We have seen spectacular parts of the Country….and we have, no, are sorting out the accommodations it takes to live 24/7 in small space with another person!

We are safely settled for a while at an RV park just north of Tampa, FL. We have marvelous neighbors/new friends who are showing us around and have included us in their social group.

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So, here are some of the highlights from this first eight months – in no particular order (it’s certain I’ve left some out) ….

Custer, SD: Wow! It was an amazing visit. Custer State Park and the Black Hills are worth however much time you have. The scenery is spectacular. The wildlife is fascinating, and there are always interesting things to do. We were there for Gold Rush Days complete with parade and hot air balloons.

….and lots of wildlife and scenery. Don’t miss the tour though the spires (cars only for the tunnels) ….     

 

 

 

 

 

 

The donkey’s were friendly, and the bison were everywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park: A remarkable place with panoramas that stretch the eyes and all the senses. We had a beautiful day there, but sadly lost a dear friend, who toured with us, only days after he left … a bitter sweet time. This is how we will remember Chuck…….

 

Creede, CO:  A wonderful, restful few days in beautiful southern Colorado — and I caught a 20in rainbow there in the head waters of the Rio Grande!  Also visited a bit of the early mining developments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and we will remember the drives up the mountains to get clear of the canyon walls to make a phone call…

 

Cumbres to Toltec scenic railroad:

A wonderful train ride during the spectacular Fall colors……


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mesa Verde: I’ve always had a warm spot for the SW region of our Country and the early occupants of this beautiful, but challenging landscape. We spent a few weeks here visiting the National Park and other related sites. It is pretty incredible to imagine how such beautiful construction was accomplished entirely by hand….

…and we naturally had to stop at that unique place where four States come together…

Albuquerque, NM: The balloon fiesta! I never could have imagined the beauty of over 500 hot air balloons inflating in the pre-dawn hours and rising together over the desert. Yet, here we were. The images are indelibly etched in my mind.…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also made a memorable visit to the Pueblo museum and enjoyed the native dancing and displays………

We are grateful for each and every day and the amazing experiences that this traveling affords. Seeing the country’s scenery, visiting friends along the way and making new friends, in this sometimes strange RV community, continues to exceed our expectations.  There is always something new, literally around every corner. We look forward to our 2018 travels, and hope to see you all along the way. Have a wonderful and healthy New Year!!

Service time out — or fun in Red Bay!

Being on the road full time in our motor home continues to be a great life style. We enjoy the freedom to go on a whim to interesting places, and the minimal upkeep of a smaller living space. But every abode, whether sticks and bricks or rolling house, requires maintenance. Imagine for a moment loading a fully functional small house on a tractor trailer and driving a couple thousand miles down not so great roads — feels a bit like a minor earthquake. Things get loose, and engines need some care.

Thus, we find ourselves in Red Bay, Alabama, home of the Tiffin factory, for our semi-annual checkup and some minor warantee work. Given the season when many RVers (snowbirds) are heading south for the winter, including lots of Tiffin owners with the same plans as ours, the service campground is full with spill over into other sites around town. So here we sit among about 90 of our fellow travelers waiting our turn to get into a service bay — approaching 2 weeks and counting!

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What to do with time in a small Alabama town (in a dry county)?  Actually, quite a lot.

Well, we missed the Rattlesnake Saloon (out of County) the last time through.

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This time we made the trip with good friends. Because of its unique location in very rural Alabama, you park your car, climb into the back of a pickup and get taxied down a steep dirt road along a small cliff. The saloon is built under a large rock overhang – good food and assorted beverages.

And we enjoyed the live music entertainment!

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While we didn’t visit on this trip, we did last time…the Coon Dog cemetery is a one of a kind.IMG_3057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful canine friends have been interred here for many years. It is the only such memorial to these remarkable dogs.

Daisy was just one to many markers – the flag was behind her metal cutout head stone.

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With time to spare while waiting our tour, friend Hugh offered to take me for a round of golf…..given that I was in college the last time I was on a golf course, I agreed as long as I could ride in the cart and just take pics! No lie, he played a pretty good round finishing not far over par………

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Many of the folk that work at the Tiffin plant and service area also provide services after hours. Since we accumulated a significant amount of soil coming through the west Texas oil patch, it was time for a good coach cleaning. It needed a wash, wax and roof treatment, done for a very reasonable cost, and productively occupied a Sunday afternoon. She came out looking brand new!

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The other ‘must’ to do while here is the factory tour. This was my second time through and with so much to see it was especially valuable. First time is simply overwhelming. This time I knew what to look for to better understand how our home on wheels was put together. Here are some assorted pictures to give just a sense of the scale of this operation.

036   Starting with a truck chassis…..

….to building furniture…

….and stringing wire harnesses together … (each length of wire is printed every 6 inches with all the info telling what it does, where it goes, on what coach)….

…when the sides go up, and the roof goes on, it begins to resemble a motor home..058

They go offsite to a paint shop, and at the end of the line they start looking pretty sharp!

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True to Tiffin’s reputation for first class customer service, at the end of the tour you can take a self-guided tour back through any part of the process. And, many folks come here to watch their coach being built. It is remarkable, the free access that Tiffin provides to their facilities.

They’ve come a long way from the very first Tiffin RV…

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Lastly, I can’t forget to mention the campground ‘mascots’. They provide a very effective alarm clock, going off, persistently, about 4AM each morning…..

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We’ve thought of assorted names for them, but will pass on repeating them here in what I assume is polite company….

With our work nearly finished, it comes time to plan for departure and the trip to the next stop. In our case, that means a longish run to our winter quarters in Florida with maybe an interesting stop or two along the way……..more good times chasing this fun life style!

Stay tuned for more glimpses down the road……..

 

Flying High in Albuquerque

After a delightful stay in Pagosa Springs, we headed south to Albuquerque in time for the annual Balloon Fiesta. The Fiesta is a week-long celebration of hot air balloons that has been a major event for many years. Just about everything in town stops and focuses on balloons for the week. We planned our stay for 10 days to take advantage of lots of other things to see as well.  So, we pulled into Enchanted Trails RV park – friendly staff and a convenient location – on a Friday at the start of the Fiesta.

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On the fun side was the small retro RV park they had created – and you could rent these !

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There are day long activities, but we wanted most to see the mass ascension which meant a VERY early (3:30am) departure to the balloon grounds. Should mention it was also cold! But just as dawn was approaching the first of upwards of 500 hot air balloons began to launch…. welcome to this iconic New Mexico event. The following pix are just a sample….. loved all the remarkable special shapes.

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With our other free time we visited the local sights, including the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. What an interesting place with native dances, displays of history and culture as well as vendors of native crafts.

On another day we visited the Biological Park. Didn’t manage to see it all, but wandered the gardens – complete with an amazing model train display and a dragon – and one of the finest aquarium displays I’ve seen.

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Turns out good friends John and Tammy, from Wyoming, who are now also full time travelers (also in a Tiffen motor coach), were in town as well. This provided an opportunity to sample some of the local fare. One night we dined at the Garduno’s at Old Town in the Albuquerque Hotel for a wonderful meal.  The most fun was at the Melting Pot – a fondue restaurant. The food and service were outstanding! This was our first experience at a fondue place, and it took some helpful instruction from our server to work our way through the 4-course meal topped off with chocolate fondue!

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As I write this, we are nearing the end of our stay. But made a last trip to the Fiesta to watch the “Evening Glow’ and other events……

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