Welcome

The CoolRVers are actually a couple of retirees, Judy and Luke Rinehimer and our 5 year old German Shepherd Dog, Miss Shady Lady. We are "extended-time" travelers with a home in Cool, California. Thanks for following along with us as we travel North America in our "rolling condo", enjoying the RV lifestyle. Your comments are always welcomed.



Click photos to view the images enlarged. Use your BACK arrow to return to the blog.





Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Z" IS FOR ZEBRAS (#AtoZChallenge)

Today is the last day of the "A to Z Bloggers Challenge" and for our letter of the day I am writing   "Z IS FOR ZEBRAS".


THESE ZEBRAS ARE IN ALBUQUERQUE

When you first read this blog title you probably thought about zebras you have seen in zoos, on safari, or on National Geographic television. The ZEBRAS I am featuring today, however, are on-the-field as Launch Directors during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We have attended the ABQ Fiesta since 2006 as active "crew members" with the Boomers RV Club and have enjoyed our interactions with these characters.

As you can tell from today's photos, the Zebra "uniform" is more that just black and white referee shirts. Zebras are a fun group of Launch Directors (LD) that display their nicknames in unique ways. Today you'll learn all about the Fiesta Zebras!

Following is a description of what the Fiesta website describes as the duties of Zebras.


What do Launch Directors do? 
A Launch Director is the first person of contact for the pilots and crews on the field. In their black and white attire LDs, aka Zebras, are rather prominent ambassadors of Fiesta. The LDs work with the pilots to conduct a Safe Coordinated Launch. Even well before daylight, the LDs walk their rows to greet pilots and crews. They remind the pilots about the 3 Row Rule. During inflations, the LDs look for proper tie offs and anything out of the ordinary. The flight operations kick off when the Balloon of the Day launches as the National Anthem is played from the stage. At the conclusion of the anthem, the LDs are able to start launching the first wave. Each LD has a conversation with the pilot about the launch. The discussion may include overhead traffic, layers of wind, false lift warnings, and other topics necessary for a successful launch. The Launch Card (chit) is collected and then the LD clears the spectators down wind and reestablishes eye contact with the pilot. When the airspace above the balloon is clear the LD blows the whistle and gives thumbs up for launch. The LD stays in position until the balloon is above head level and in controlled flight. The LD waves or salutes while wishing a safe flight for the pilot and crew. LDs take this time to observe the balloon’s flight to be prepared for the next launch. Then it is on to the next balloon to repeat the launch process. After all the balloons are launched we shift our hats to become Landing Assistants. When the permission is granted to allow landings on the launch field, the LDs help the incoming balloons land safely until balloon crews arrive.
During the glows, we provide contact with the pilots, check tie offs, collect chits and help with lost parents.
In 2016 the Fiesta organizers were looking for ZITs - Zebras ITraining.

"Zebras" practicing "thumbs up" for the camera during a ZIT gathering


WORKING WITH PILOTS

Here are photos of Zebras interacting with "our pilots".  Prior to a Fiesta pilot preparing to launch, they meet with Zebras to learn about current procedures and special conditions that may occur on the launch field.





ZEBRAS CHECK BASKETS & COLLECT FLIGHT CHITS



ZEBRAS DIRECT LAUNCH TRAFFIC

Launching has to be very systematic when 600-900 balloons lift off during a "Mass Ascension". As each assigned grid row prepares to launch, the Zebras use their loud whistles to clear the thousands of spectators out of the way of the launching hot air balloons.  They also watch for congestion of other balloons above the current launch site.


Zebra patrolling the competition field rope line

ZEBRAS DEALING WITH CREWS AND CROWDS

Not all spectators understand what happens during a cold and hot air inflation prior to launching. Each pilot has "crew" to help prepare the grid space for laying out the "envelope" (balloon fabric), assembling the basket and clearing the space after launching in preparation for the "chase" to find and retrieve the balloon. Sometimes voices can become loud and directive!

Pilot Daniel Liberti shouts out commands while a Zebra checks the launch grid area.


ZEBRA APPEARANCES

Have you noticed the clothing enhancements that the Zebras embrace?  Somewhere among my thousands of Fiesta photos on my various computers I have a wonderful photo of a group of Zebras with headgear, "tails" and very young children ZITs.  I will add it later in the comments if I come across it.  It is "perfect" !!!

Tails, gloves, hats, and even Zebra shoes

Not always "serious" attire

What to wear to a "Glow".  I don't think this is all "official" issue.


A TOUCHING MOMENT

Our long-time "Crew Chief" and friend Theresa Liberti, better known as "Momma T", was totally surprised one year when her husband and Pilot Mike Liberti unveiled a banner on his Morningstar balloon that honored "T's" late parents.  She was in tears, along with the rest of us, as this Zebra embraced her and guided her over to the basket.  "T" NEVER flies and everyone insisted that she at least climb into the basket for photos.  More tears!!!
An emotional unveiling


Daughter Michelle comforts Momma T

Yes, a rare photo of "T" in the basket as Mike threatens to launch.

Pilot Mike Liberti and T in the basket
Mike provides a "helping" (?) hand getting T out of the basket!!!

THE END



Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Y" IS FOR YUMA (#AtoZChallenge)

The A to Z Bloggers Challenge letter of the day is "Y" and, since Yuma, Arizona is a destination for us almost every winter, "Y IS FOR YUMA".



WHERE TO STAY

Yuma is located in the southwest corner of Arizona along Interstate 8 and adjacent to the Mexican border.  In our typical winter travels we would be heading to Yuma via Hwy. 95 which links I-10 and I-8 through the small town of Quartzsite that we visit in January almost every year.  If we head to Yuma from the Phoenix metropolitan area we can follow I-10 towards Casa Grande and/or backtrack on side roads through Gila Bend.

I'd say most of the "Winter Visitors" (aka "snowbirds") that head for Yuma do so for "the season". Snowbirds are travelers that come from the colder climates of the Midwest, upper Midwest and Canada and stay approximately from November to March.  They occupy the 80+ formal campgrounds, RV resorts, mobile home parks, etc.  Other folks come to the area and "boondock" -- camp without utilities on public lands.  The most complete listing of all of the camping options is in an $9.99 app called "ALLSTAYS Camp and RV" which we highly recommend.

For the most part we only head for Yuma for 1-3 week stays and seldom do we have reservations.  Many of our Escapee RV Club "Boomer" friends have established home bases in the Yuma area and own plots of lands on the eastern side of Yuma in an area known as the "Foothills".  These specially zoned parcels allow multiple RVs to connect to water, electric, and
sewer dump stations.  We have also stayed in full hook-up campgrounds and look for places that offer 50% off discount rates through Passport America or our Escapees RV Club.



VISITING MEXICO

From Yuma it is an easy hop, skip, and a walk across the international checkpoint between the USA and Mexico to a small Mexican community called Los Algodones or Algodones. The town enters off I-8 and is approximately 10 miles west of downtown Yuma, just across the California-Arizona border. A local Indian tribe provides parking for a small fee and you walk one block to cross the border.  To return to the USA you must present your valid US Passport and declare your purchases with the Customs officers.  Wait times to get back to the US during the peak season can sometimes take an hour-plus.




The town's main attraction is low cost dental, pharmaceutical, optical and merchandise sought by snowbirds every winter.  The "official" Algodones website reports there are more than 300 specialized and certified dental clinics plus 50-plus dental labs that make crowns, bridges, and dentures in just 2-3 days. Many of our friends have had implants done and many more go across the border for their annual dental cleanings.  Services are typically 70-75% cheaper than in the US or Canada.

Artisans sit around the local shops and outdoor eateries creating uniquely painted "stuff" like custom mailboxes, spare tire covers, and patio decor items.  Street merchants will try to sell you their leather goods, jewelry, clothing, etc.  US currency is the preferred form of payment and some of the medical and dental practices accept insurances or credit cards, travelers' checks, and personal checks for an additional fee.




Alcohol and tobacco products have certain limitations when returning to the USA.    Everything in Algodones is located within just a 5-block area from the border crossing.

Most everyone we know who cross over the border include a stop for fish and/or shrimp street tacos or complete meals at the restaurants.





OTHER PLACES TO STAY

As mentioned above, there are lots of formal places to park a recreational vehicle but there are also other types of places around Yuma we have stayed.  The most unusual military FamCamp is off Hwy. 95, north of town, the Yuma Proving Grounds. When we stayed in the area the Army precision parachuting team was training there so that visit provided front row seats to spectacular action. The highway turn-off for the Proving Grounds is marked by unusual landmarks  -- military gunnery.



Watch for tank crossings!

As a golfer I enjoyed meeting fellow Boomers at the Cocopah Golf and RV resort on the far west end of Yuma. My friends now stay there for the "season" and play in tournaments almost daily.  My next visit will be longer than two weeks.  The rows of RVs are separated by long, straight fairways. Common areas include a dining room, pool, cantina, etc. 


We have attended multiple rallies at the Yuma Fairgrounds, across the street from the Marine Base.  I had an opportunity to teach and/or facilitate seminars there when Nick and Terry Russell used to host their Gypsy Journal Gatherings in Yuma.  

That's a wrap on "Y" is for Yuma.


TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY OF THE

"A TO Z CHALLENGE"

"Z" IS FOR "ZEBRAS"







Friday, April 28, 2017

"X" IS FOR 'X-RAY' (#AtoZChallenge)

For this "X" letter of the day for the A to Z Bloggers Challenge I am taking a simple approach:  "X" IS FOR 'X-RAY'


FUR-BABY X-RAYS

As the owner of German Shepherd dogs (GSD) over the years we have spent plenty of time in Veterinary Clinics making sure our "fur-babies" are in pain-free, good health for traveling with us in our motorhome.

"Tasha" with Robin at the top of the stairs
with cousins Megan and Laura


We are currently on our fifth GSD.  "Tasha" (see photo) was raised from a pup and survived until our daughter Robin was away at college in 1990.  After that heartbreak we decided to "rescue" each of our next GSDs.

"Tobi" was a White Shepherd who loved to run, jump for Frisbees, and, thankfully, was generally in good health.  She died from heart disease.

"Krissy", on the other hand, was a medical nightmare and we have lots of X-RAYS to share.  

"Star" was in relatively good health to the end.  You'll read her story below.

"Shade" or "Miss Shady Lady" as she is now known has taken over our household for the past 1.5 years.  At age 5 her only issue is keeping her nails trimmed.

Meet GSD #3 "Krissy"



Krissy loved to play ball and her favorite toy was a "Kong". While RVing in the Quartzsite, AZ desert the fetched Kong would be covered in her saliva and collected gravel and rocks that eventually made it to her stomach.

The first x-ray shows quite a collection of stones that were in her system. The Vet suggested a technique that basically "starves" the dog for a couple of weeks before she would try to pass them. She had to drink Pedialyte to replace her water and electrolytes and, eventually, we were told she would regurgitate (vomit) the stones without having to pass them through her digestive track.  

Photo #2 shows them "collected" in the bottom of the stomach and, YES, she did toss them out onto our home deck and we could actually see very specific stones that were visible in the x-ray.




KRISSY AND "BLOAT"

Here is a description of "Bloat
Dog bloat is a common condition that can be dangerous, even deadly. Dogs who have it need treatment right away. Know the signs so you can recognize when your pup needs help! 
What Is Dog Bloat?Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. The stomach puts pressure on other organs. It can cause dangerous problems, including:
  • No blood flow to his heart and stomach lining
  • A tear in the wall of his stomach
  • A harder time breathing
In some cases, the dog’s stomach will rotate or twist, a condition that vets call gastric dilatation volvulus. It traps blood in the stomach and blocks it from returning to the heart and other areas of the body. This can send your dog into shock.Symptoms:  Bloat usually comes on very quickly. At first, your dog may show signs that his stomach hurts. He may:
  • Act restless
  • Drool
  • Look anxious
  • Look at his stomach
  • Pace
  • Try to vomit, but nothing comes up
As the condition gets worse, he may:
  • Collapse
  • Have a rapid heartbeat
  • Be short of breath
  • Feel weak
If you think your pet has bloat, get him to a clinic right away. If dogs don’t get treatment in time, the condition can kill them.

Krissy survived her gastric dilatation volvulus  (aka, bloat, stomach torque, or twist).  A late night trip to a Vet directed us to an Emergency Veterinary Hospital in nearby Roseville, Ca.   She nearly died on the 30-mile trip but a 3:00 a.m. surgery saved her.  Basically, the Vet performed major surgery to "untwist" her stomach that had spun around in her body cavity like you twist a balloon to make toy shapes.  As part of the surgery she had part of her spleen removed, too.  As you'll read next, that would become a future issue. 

BELOW:  Hubby Luke comforting Krissy following her surgery for bloat. She was eventually cleared to travel with us on our planned cross-country trip to Pennsylvania .


Just before leaving PA that summer, Krissy quit eating and was once again showing signs of bloat.  A local Vet took new x-rays and then had us come into her office as she explained that the procedure used by the first surgery Vets had left her remaining spleen loose enough that it was now wrapping itself around Krissy's esophagus passage to her stomach. Time for another major surgery. 

Ah, the dreaded cone of recovery was even more exciting once she was back in the motorhome. She was allowed to travel but we had to find a Vet in Branson, Missouri to remove her stitches. She made it home to Cool, California and later died from heart cancer. 






MEET MISS STAR

Miss Star was our 4th GSD and we had her for 7.5 years until she passed at age 13 while on another family visit to PA.  We like to say she had 100,000 miles on her!  It was only in her last couple of months that her quality of life became an issue.  She did develop "hip dysplasia" but it didn't really cripple her until her very end of life. She finally had inoperative cancer throughout her organs. 

ABOUT HIP DYSPLACIA
Hip dysplasia is a very common disease in dogs. This orthopedic condition occurs as a result of abnormal development of one or both hip joints, leading to instability and degeneration of the joints. Hip dysplasia can affect one or both limbs and may range from mild to severe.  
What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
The hip joint includes a ball at the top of the rear leg bone (head of the femur) and a socket in the pelvis (acetabulum). When a dog has hip dysplasia, the connection of the ball and socket fits poorly. Typically, there is laxity (loose joint) and instability in the joint. Because of the abnormal connection, movement of the leg causes deformity of the joint. Over time, the cartilage in the joint wears down. Scar tissue and abnormal bony growths (osteophytes) develop. The damage in the joint makes it gradually more difficult for the dog to move the leg without pain and restricted range of motion.
Star's Hip Dysplasia X-rays

The first x-ray shows Star's hindquarters and you can see the pelvis and hip bones.  The second photo really visualizes how she adapted with her hip "out of the joint". She just walked with bone on bone.



MEET MISS SHADY LADY


GSD #5, "Shade" sits and sleeps wherever she wants.  She clings to me like Velcro.


NO HUMAN X-RAYS

Don't worry, I have no plans to show you all of our own collection of x-rays, ultra-sounds, and CT-Scans that have been taken for broken ankles, elbows, fingers, valley fever and arthritis diagnosis.  We are sure glad our Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage health plan includes radiology and labs!


"Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life." 

James Cromwell



Thursday, April 27, 2017

"W" IS FOR WASHINGTON STATE (#AtoZChallenge)

We are home-based in Northern California but just up Interstate 5 about 600 miles is a wonderful RV destination -- the State of Washington.  Today's "A to Z Challenge" blog letter of the day is "W" so we'll explore WASHINGTON.



PREVIOUS VISITS TO WASHINGTON

Over the years we have made many visits to -- and through -- Washington and we have lots of reasons to go back.  On May 7th, for example, I will actually be flying to Seattle's SeaTac airport to start an Alaska cruising vacation with family. From Seattle we'll cruise to Vancouver, British Columbia and then North to Alaska.  I plan to share my tourist time in Seattle with the family members new to the area.  

Last summer we were in Washington visiting long-time friends in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon and then went north to Port Townsend where my nephew and his wife were building a house.  We will repeat those stops in late June and then we'll take lots of time to re-visit more of the Evergreen State.





I felt welcomed at Safeway
With its maritime heritage, artist spirit, and a touch of urban chic, Port Townsend is an easily accessible base camp to the Olympic Peninsula and beyond. Whether on land or sea; indoors or outdoors – Port Townsend has activities for every taste. 
The local deer are common on the lawns in downtown Port Townsend
Our "rolling condo" being towed
Unfortunately, our trip home involved a detour to a Freightliner repair service center in Tumwater, WA when the power steering fluid hose broke and forced Luke to steer the 40' motorhome without power steering a short ways to get off the very narrow and winding Highway 101 into Triton Cove State Park. Ah, the memories of a 65-mile towing. 


A geocache was found on this sign while waiting for our tow truck.


TAKING GRANDSON TAYLOR TO WASHINGTON

Loved Taylor's happy face
In 2012 we convinced our then 12-year old grandson to take a solo trip with his ol' grandfolks in the motorhome.  Our goal was to take him to the Microsoft Visitor's Center in Redmond, WA and to the Boeing Manufacturing plant in Everett, WA.   He warmed up to RVing with a whitewater jet boat trip on the Rogue River in Oregon and then a stay at a kid-friendly KOA campground in Kent, WA.  He loved the flight simulator rides at Boeing and then challenged himself with numerous roller coaster rides at an amusement water park.

SEATTLE - LANDMARKS AND UNIQUE VISITS

Pike Place Market Fishmonger tosses fish over the counter
A visit to Seattle means a visit to the iconic Space Needle Tower and a variety of nearby attractions you shouldn't miss.  CLICK HERE to visit a list of the Top 10 things to do while in Seattle. Among our favorites are Pike Place Market with the fish tossing merchants, the Ride the Duck land and water tour amphibians, the EMP Pop Music and Science-Fiction Museum, and the unique Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe.
Tour Seattle by land and by sea with crazy drivers that will keep you entertained.

WESTERN AND SOUTHEASTERN WASHINGTON

Before driving to the far Pacific Northwest from California and Oregon there are multiple routes through Western and Southern Washington to choose.  We have only spent limited time in the popular Coastal communities of Astoria and Long Beach.  Those were extended stops that did not happen last year when the motorhome broke down.  There is time to spend at the World Kite Museum and the Cranberry Museum so maybe this year we'll do more than just drive through. 



We have passed through and stayed at different parks in the Tri-Cities area of Southeastern Washington. The cities include Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco and they meet at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. Much of the area is surrounded by semi-arid agricultural lands.
In 2007 we had the fun experience to meet up with an internet friend visiting from Mazatlan, Mexico on the 4th of July. Her son was the local school principal and a volunteer fireman and we all sat together watching a real down-home 4th of July Parade.




Olympic National Park - Washington

Olympic National Park, located along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, is a very diverse region, with four distinct biospheres: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, west side temperate rain forest and east side temperate rain forest.
The park covers about 922,000 acres and was named Mount Olympus National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 and then designated a national park by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. Native Americans like the Quileute and the Hoh still make their homes in parts of the area.

Such diverse land makes for a variety of outdoor opportunities, including hiking, backpacking, biking, river rafting, and more. Especially unique to this U.S. national park is the opportunity to participate in whale watching off the coast in the Puget Sound of Washington. River rafting along one of the park’s many rivers allow participants to view the beauty of the park while at the same time experiencing the thrill of riding the river currents. Differently rated stretches of river make it so beginners and experts will find a thrill level that meets their skill level.
In 2009 our friend Terry Webb (red jacket) had us tag along with his photography buddies on a wildflower shooting adventure atop Mount Olympus.  We could actually see British Columbia, Canada across the straits from where we stood. 


MOUNTAIN PEAKS

Washington has beautiful mountains.  Even flying over the state you can see Mount Rainier, Mount. Baker, and Mt. Saint Helens all at once.

Mount Rainier

Mount Baker
Mount St. Helen erupted on my birthday, May 18, 1980

CENTRAL WASHINGTON

In 2011, on our return motorhome trip from Alaska we were introduced to Central Washington and the communities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee where we met up with our former neighbors.
The city of Wenatchee shares its name with the Wenatchee RiverLake Wenatchee and the Wenatchee National Forest. Wenatchee is known as the "Apple Capital of the World" due to the valley's many orchards. The city is also sometimes referred to as the "Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest". The "Power Belt of the Great Northwest" is a metaphor for the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Rock Island Dam is located nearest to the middle of this "belt", and so was labeled the "Buckle".
Wenatchee calls itself the 'Apple Capital of the World'

Not far from Wenatchee is Levenworth, a community that opted to rebuild itself into a quaint Barvarian Village that now attracts millions of visitors a year.

Our friends took us to lunch at a restaurant upstairs and across the street from the flower park


EASTERN WASHINGTON

Here's how Wikipedia describes this area:
Eastern Washington is the portion of the US state of Washington east of the Cascade Range. The region contains the city of Spokane (the second largest city in the state), the Tri-Cities, the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the fertile farmlands of the Yakima Valley and the Palouse. Unlike in Western Washington, the climate is dry, including some desert environments.
Heading east from Central Washington we drove through a diversity of landscapes quite the opposite from the green and wet western coastal area we associate with the Pacific Northwest.  High, dry rolling desert hills merge into a colorful "patchwork" of agricultural areas known as the Palouse.

Colorful farm lands contrast to the Eastern Washington desert

Our final camping destination before driving into Idaho a few years ago was Spokane.  We stayed at the Fairchild Air Force Base, just minutes from the Spokane International Airport. That was a handy departure place when Grandma needed to fly back to California to baby-sit the grandsons one year. Grandpa and the GSD stayed on base in the FamCamp.

GATEWAY TO CANADA
For our trip to Alaska in 2011 we opted to miss the congestion of crossing into Canada near Vancouver, British Columbia and chose to enter at the Sumas / Abbotsford Crossing. It was a quick check into Canadian Customs and we were on our way.


Inspection Booths are always a tight fit for recreational vehicles.


SUMMER 2017 - DESTINATION WASHINGTON STATE

We are planning our return trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer and you can bet we'll see alot more of Washington state.  To keep you busy, CLICK HERE FOR FUN WASHINGTON STATE TRIVIA