Epic Journey – Part 1

The time has come for us to leave the Suwannee River, and truly start on our epic journey.  That’s what I’m calling this year’s adventure to Alaska.  It has a total of five parts and I’ll give you a preview, and then keep you up to date along the way.  That sounded boring, but I promise it will be exciting!

One More Spring Visit

Before we jump into Part 1, I have some highlights from our outing to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park.  This is not to be confused with the “other” Blue Spring in Orange City, but glad they set them apart in name.  This Spring is in Mayo and really close to our campground.  We grabbed some Subway sandwiches and made a picnic of it before our hike.

Pat is waving from the restrooms.  So, do you think it floods around here or what?!  That next shot is the swimming area and was closed due to the high water.

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Pretty tiny flowers on the trail.  Pat scoffs when I take these “weed” pictures.  These could even be stinging nettle for all I know, but still pretty.

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I’m also loving all the flowering trees.  We’re definitely in a different “zone” as far as plants go.  There are redbud, dogwood and a host of others like this one I can’t identify.  There was a brilliant red one, but I didn’t get a shot on the hike.

The craggy trees were pretty interesting.  They grow every which way around the water.

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Jackson poses, sort of, for the obligatory picture by the water.  Really he hates my photography since it slows down the walking.

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Last shot  from Lafayette Blue Springs.  I first thought something got eaten on the trail when I found so many feathers, and big ones, too.  Turns out the turkey buzzards had a perch above and were doing a little preening.  Collectively those feathers aren’t very attractive, but loved them “off the bird”.

Convict Spring – The Reprise

I told you in the last post that Convict Spring wasn’t very photogenic.  When we got here it wasn’t with the water so high making it just a big brown soggy hole.  Well, the water level has gone down in the river some and is no longer filling up the spring area.  Didn’t want to short change that Spring, so here are the recent shots.

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Jackson took a dip up to his belly and the chilly water sent him on what we call the wacky wilds.  He tucks tail and runs like a crazy dog.  In this case with Pat in tow.

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Another dip in the Suwannee River for good measure from the Rendezvous boat launch.

Other Things We Did That You Probably Don’t Care About

Yes, we have our fair share of mundane stuff going on just like everyone else.  This full-time travel thing still involves laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning.  We did all that and also managed to complete our taxes.  Pat did his mom’s as well.  Pat changed the batteries in our tire monitoring sensors (whoa big fun), and I did yet more weeding out in the kitchen and reorganizing.  It did rain one day and we had to have something to do after all.

We both polished off books and mine was over 700 pages.  I borrowed it from the campground library with only a week left here. What WAS I thinking?

We also went off to the BIG city of Gainesville last Sunday seeking retail civilization and to attend Mass.  We were having serious Publix withdrawal.  For those of you from the Southeast, you know this is the very, very best supermarket chain ever!  And we’ve only found one other store that thrilled us the same so far in our travels.

Anyway, a word about Mass.  St. Augustine Catholic Church is right across the street from the University of Florida.  It made for an interesting parking situation, but was a lovely church.  My mom heart was so happy to see the hoard of college coeds jammimg the crosswalk heading back to campus after the service.  I just wanted to shout that their mommas would be so pleased.  And after?  Yes, I had my favorite Tijuana Flats which was also just a block from church.  We always went there after Mass in DeLand, so a smidge of our old routine emerged.

I see why old people love college towns.  You just feel younger with all the scooter zipping and dashing about.  So much energy, and fast food.

Part 1 – Finally!

You’ve been so patient dear readers and I owe you details.  Many of you have mentioned that you’d like to know where we are as we go rather than just after the fact with my blogging.  That does tend to lag a bit, so here goes – our schedule for Part 1 of the Epic Journey….

  • 2/27 – 3/5: St. Marks, FL (Judy’s sister & hubby, childhood friend Lisa & hubby)
  • 3/6 – 8: Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, FL
  • 3/9 – 11: Pensacola, FL
  • 3/12 – 14: Frank Jackson SP, Opp, AL (Yes Florida, we have finally left the building!)
  • 3/15 – 20: Montgomery, AL (Hyundai Motors Tour)
  • 3/21 – 25: Oak Mountain SP, Birmingham, AL  (Revisiting my grad school haunts)
  • 3/26 – 27: Wall Doxy SP, Holly Springs, MS
  • 3/28 – 29: Lake Charles SP, Powhatan, AR
  • 3/30 – 4/4: Springfield, MO (Pat’s sister and hubby)
  • 4/5 – 6: Knob Noster SP, Knob Noster, MO (Clydesdales!)
  • 4/7 – 12: We are working on this part.  Looks like Wakeenay and Goodland, KS
  • 4/13 – 18: Denver for Easter (Pat’s brother & fam)
  • 4/19 – 24: Cheyenne, WY (Pat’s mom, brother & nephew)
  • 4/25 – 4/26: Rock Springs, WY
  • 4/27 – 4/28:  Salt Lake City, UT
  • 4/29: Malad City, ID
  • 4/30: Idaho City, ID
  • 5/1 – 2: Salmon, ID
  • 5/3: Missoula, MT
  • 5/4 -5: Spokane, WA
  • 5/6-7: Oroville, WA
  • 5/8: CANADA!!  This concludes Part 1

I know that last bit looks rushed, but we are trying to get to Alaska and at this point, we STILL have almost 4,000 miles to go.  Crossing the border into Canada in early May, and really, all of this depends on cooperative weather.  But we’re optimistic.  Also subject to change based on shiny things along the way, but that’s why we have wheels and the ability to recalculate.

2017 Travel Map

Just a quick reminder about the other pages on the blog.  I completed the 2016 travel map and started 2017.  This year I have a favorite picture attached to each stop.  It is interactive so click away and look at the details.

Out On A Limb

Here’s the favorite picture of mine from this stop.  Pat really is out on a limb.

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Actually it looks more daring from the camera angle than it really is.  He asked me how far out I wanted him to go and I replied “How far are you willing to go?”  A metaphor for life don’t you think?  See you on the way!

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

There is a bridge you cross headed to Tallahassee and underneath flows the famous Suwannee River.  Actually quite a few bridges carry you over this river, but I only remember the one on I-10 with my parents.  You have to sing when you cross.  You just do.  And we always did.  Pat doesn’t get it, but I serenade him each and every time.

A few interesting Florida facts for you.  The song is actually “Old Folks At Home” written by Stephen Foster in 1851.  He never saw the Suwannee River as it turns out or visited Florida at all.  He wrote a song and needed a river’s name.  His brother suggested several – Yazoo in Mississippi and the Pee Dee in South Carolina.  Both rejected.  Suwanee was a perfect fit and became the official state song of Florida, stimulating tourism way back in the day.

Convict Springs

This stop seems to be all about the Suwannee.  The river meanders about the county and quite a few springs feed into it in this area.  We’re actually at Suwannee River Rendezvous RV Park that has Convict Springs on property.  Probably one of the very few springs that is dog friendly.  Jackson does like a good cold drink from there.

Convict Springs as the name implies does have ties to the chain gangs back in the early 1900s.  The convicts were put to work on construction projects and camped in places like this one if they couldn’t make it back to the county jail for the night.  Fortunately it is a bit more refined nowadays and is home to the campground and also feeds the Suwannee.

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The water is very high right now and convict spring itself isn’t very picturesque.  Here’s a better shot with Jackson looking at the Suwannee on the day we arrived.  They have wooden swings right on the bluff to relax and ponder the river flow.

Troy Springs

For $5, you can drive in and picnic.  That is really about it.  The water is at flood stage for the swimming area so no swimming or diving.  AND, only the picnic area is dog-friendly.  We cheated and took Jackson on a short hiking trail since it turns out we were the only visitors there.

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Flooded Swimming Area

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Thanks Mom for the trail dog time!

It would have been a more peaceful stop, but it was extremely windy the day before and the park volunteers were blowing leaves off the pavement – everywhere and for a long time.

The trail did have some interesting markers.  We learned of the Pignut hickory tree and even picked up one of the nuts.  Didn’t know there were different kinds of hickory trees.  Then there were the Sparkleberry trees.  Now I know what you’re thinking.   Something only I could make up with my nicknames for everything.  I kid you not.  It turns out to be North America’s largest blueberry and usually grows to 8-10 feet tall.  Finally, we saw more information on my eensies!

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Just like my mail order epiphytes, Resurrection Fern grows on the tree branches.  After a good rain, lifeless brown leaves unfurl into bright green, lush ferns.  I’ll have to work on before and after pictures for you.  Such a dramatic transformation.

Peacock Springs

Spring number three was only a few miles away.  Not a pretty day, but I proclaim that it will not rain on us.  So much for that.  We got a little wet, but figured we were practicing for our trip to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Peacock Springs actually has multiple springs and several sinks or sinkholes.  It is popular with cave divers.

It’s a very unique looking spring with the Cypress swamp and limestone rocks on the bank.  We arrived in time to see an entire diving group surface.

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Along the trail were clumps of little white flowers.  I tramped off to get a closer look.  Delicate, lovely little things getting a drink from the light rain.

This trail was also interesting because it showed you pictures of what the cave divers were seeing just below your feet.  Markers along the way gave you a “you are here” view of above and below ground.

The view beneath our feet, one of the active sinks and a warning to divers to go no further.

The active sinkholes are essentially where the limestone has caved in and leads to the water-filled cave system below.  Cave diving is apparently a dangerous business and people do die when they go places they shouldn’t.  I was happy for the pictures since I’m sure I’ll never go cave diving.

Hal W. Adams River Bridge

On the way home from Peacock Springs, we pulled into a boat launch area to get some shots of a pretty neat bridge over the Suwannee.  Love me some bridges and this one had part of the song lyrics.

Turned out to be a nice stop even though it was still rainy and chilly.  Note the jumping sturgeon sign.  We didn’t see any this day, but they are big and they’ll jump right into your boat!  People have been seriously hurt by the jumping fish.

New Specs

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Been a while since I shared a terrible selfie.  You know I’m very bad at this.  Anyway, how do you like the new glasses?  You can’t tell in this pic, but they are purple like the old ones.  Pat says this shape looks less business-y and more fun.  I know they look crooked, but I really think it is my face!  I’m getting used to them and think I like them.  Super cheap from Zenni Optical, so if I don’t like them, I’ll just order me up another pair.

We Have a Fireplace!

Well not really, but kinda.  You remember Vader our space heater?  Well the same people that recommended him also recommended this little gem…

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Ahhh, nice warm fire.

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Ok, it is really a fireplace DVD.  90 minutes with or without soothing music of an actual fire burning.  During the 90 minutes, you can see the other logs catch fire and hear the crackle and pop of the wood.  Crazy, but we did feel warmer watching it, and of course Vader was warming our feet.  In fact I wrote this post “by the fire” so to speak.

Best Fried Green Tomatoes & Other Things of Note

We accomplished a few other miscellaneous things so far during this stop:

  • Binge-ordered from Amazon, AGAIN, and watching the packages flow in (fireplace DVD among those items).
  • Had the best fried green tomatoes of my life at Tumbleweeds BBQ in Mayo.  Cute little lunch spot with pretty good fried shrimp and hush puppies, too.
  • Valentine’s Day dinner in Steinhatchee with a small view of the water and some pretty good fish.
  • Planned and reserved all our stops up through April 6th which includes visits with my sister in Tallahassee and Pat’s sister in Springfield, MO.

The House

What house?!  That’s right – sold!  The buyer closed on Friday, 2/17 and we are free to wander.  One of my favorite quotes by J.R.R. Tolkien sums up where we are nicely,

“All who wander are not lost”

Yep, we are a-wanderin’ and we’re not lost – yet!  See you on the way.

 

 

Bushnell & The Farewell Tour

We’ve been in Bushnell since 1/27 and gearing up to leave on 2/13.  I’d have to rate this stay as fast and slow.  Some days we were slugs and others found us busy getting things done and being social.  We got to see a lot of people “one more time” and managed to finish off some very important chores.  Long post alert!  You may want to grab a drink and a snack for this one!

Why Bushnell?

Bushnell, Florida is a pretty small town.  Rural with lots of farming, two-lane roads and manners.  You’ll always hear yes ma’am and no ma’am here.  It is also the town where my parents met and went to high school.  They graduated in a class of 13 when it was still called Bushnell High back in the 40’s.  We spent every major holiday here when I was a kid visiting with my grandparents and extended family – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas – you get the idea.

So fast forward and we’re here to get our driver’s licenses and officially become Bushnell residents.  Turns out the RV club that manages our mail service has a campground here and can be used as a legal address to maintain Florida residency.   This is only one of three places in the country for this club.  And who would have thought – Bushnell of all places.  I’m sure my parents would be amused by the whole thing and especially tickled with the full-time RVing.  They loved to travel in their motorhome as well.

Anyway, we now have spiffy new driver’s licenses, updated car & RV registrations and a brand new tag for Lucy.  The legal mumbo jumbo is done and I must say the DMV in this town made it easy.

The second reason for Bushnell was to stay at Sumter Oaks RV Park again and get Lucy, Bitsy and all our worldly goods re-weighed.  This park has a permanent weighing spot, so you can make sure you are safe to roll down the road.  For those of you without RVs, I’ll explain.  Simply put, you need to be within the weight limits in total and for each axle on your vehicles so you 1) don’t have tire blowouts from too much weight & 2) can stop said vehicles when needed.  We weighed last year to get an idea of how much we could cram in and were crossing our fingers, not really sure how well we had done.  Drum roll please……We are 500 pounds under!  That is great news and gives us flexibility with water and holding tanks.

Sumter Oaks

Finally yes, some pictures!  Here are a few views surrounding the RV park.  A nice quiet sitting spot to see the cypress swamp behind the campground.  Cow pastures are on the side with the dog park.  Jackson reluctantly went with me on the photo shoot.  Cutting into his dog park social time you know.

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They cypress knees were particularly fascinating.  This group looked like people standing around.  Reminded me of my wooden nativity scene I just packed away from Christmas

The other side of the park has some very curious and friendly donkeys.  Jackson and the baby regard each other one morning.  They were pretty happy with ear scratching, too.

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You’ve read as I waxed poetic about the interior Florida views I love.  Well, I can’t think of anything more uniquely Florida than palm trees and cattle occupying the same field.

Bathroom Remodel

You may remember that porcelain toilet we spoke about in an earlier post.  Still love that by the way.  Now the well-traveled sink has joined the fold and we are loving that, too.  As you know, we’re on a mission to tone down the brown, brown and more brown that decorates most all RVs.  The bedroom was complete last year and now we have an updated bathroom, too.

Before and after shots

We joke that we could bathe a baby in that sink!  It is huge, but so much nicer than that plastic little tikes thing we had before.  A bit of painting and no less than 3 visits to the local hardware store for plumbing supplies, but finally complete.

Farmer’s Market & Hatching a Plan

Webster is an even tinier town close to Bushnell and has a great big farmer’s market on Mondays.  We went and could’t believe how big it was.  Nothing like living in an RV to curb your shopping.  No antique furniture, collectibles and auto parts for us.  What we did find was great produce.  This gal sliced off bites of whatever we wanted to try.  We hauled away bags full of avacado, bananas, onions, mango, and the biggest chunk of ginger that I’m not sure how I’ll use up.

 

Ok, yes, those things next to the ginger are the hands down ugliest fruits I’ve ever seen.  Here’s your learning moment for this post.  Those are called rumbatan, are used to make jellies & jams, and the trees are ornamental.  They had to cut one of these open for us wild-eyed shoppers.  Inside is a whitish fruit that has a taste and texture like the inside of a grape or plum.  It also has an almond-like seed in the middle.  I can’t say that I particularly liked it, but had to bring a few home with me.  Nasty looking suckers, but very high in a variety of nutrients they say.

After collecting our produce, we headed to lunch with friends we met last year at an Alaska rally.  We were all going on the same Alaskan caravan tour, but have since decided we’re each going it on our own.  After lunch, they hauled out maps and we traced our respective routes and hatched a plan to meet up in our 50th state.  We’ll see them again sometime at the end of July or early August.

The House

One more trip back to DeLand to mow the lawn, but more importantly to pre-sign closing documents for the house sale.  We’ve turned over all the keys and are now looking forward to the buyer closing in about a week.  Enough said!

The Farewell Tour

I was able to meet up with my friend Barbara during this stay for a girl’s day of shopping, Starbucks and lunch.  She dubbed this my farewell tour since I’m making the rounds seeing people before our Florida departure.  I’m not saying good-by, but until we meet again – the reunion tour.  We’ll be back eventually, although not in 2017.  Hopefully some friends can rendezvous with us along the way.  I also got to see Deb, my hairdresser, for one last trim.  I told her I’d send her pictures of all my bad haircuts on the journey.  She graciously provided me with enough hair coloring supplies for over a year!

This stop was also a chance to visit with the local cousins who we would normally see at Easter and Thanksgiving (we’ll be in Denver & Dallas respectively this year).  In the Sharpe clan, Patsy is the oldest grandchild and I’m the youngest with quite a few in between.  Patsy is the unofficial organizer and provider of all the family news.   She managed to herd most of us together for a farewell lunch at Cracker Barrel.

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Just the cousins – Judy, Patsy, Dale and Peggy

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The whole group – Peggy & hubby Mike, Cindy (2nd cousin), me, Dale and Pasty.  Pat even made the picture.  He and the camera are reflected in the window behind us.

Since my parents have been gone, these are the folks we see now on holidays.  Them and so many more of the cousins, friends and relatives down the line.  When I think of family they embody it.  If there is something significant going on in your life and you are family, they are there.  Even to have lunch with us as we drive off into the sunset.  Love them all!

That about wraps it up for this stop.  Next up is Suwannee River Rendezvous on the banks of the famous Suwannee River.  See you on the way!

 

Blue Spring State Park

The next stop on the big adventure is back to Orange City and to Blue Spring State Park.  Again, only 10 minutes or so from the house, so it’s convenient for mowing the lawn, going to the dentist, and the final house emptying out step.

Blue Springs – The Happy Place

My mother-in-law love, love, loves this place.  We took her every time she visited starting in 2002 up to last year.  Now I guess we’ll have to all be on vacation to go there together again.  I have to say, it brings us a lot of peace as well on those trails and to get back to the natural setting we so love.

We were able to stroll the boardwalk with Jackson and there were quite a few manatees in the spring run due to the colder weather.  The spring water is a constant 72 degrees which turns out to be much warmer than the connecting St. John’s River this time of year.  The manatees suffer from cold shock if they are in the cold water – 50s or so – for too long.  They go into the river to feed and then warm back up in the spring run.  There are big ones, littles ones, mamas & babies, and the ones scarred from power boat propellers.  The park rangers do a count every day and have names for them based on markings and scars.

Unfortunately the best day with crystal clear, calm water was the day I didn’t have my camera with me.  I vowed to come back for pictures.  I did, but it was windy and overcast.  You’ll just have to settle for these two pics and take my word for it – lots of manatees to see along with alligator gar and other big fish.

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Coming up for air.  You can see the baby one behind if you look closely.  Sorry – not impressive pictures this time around.

The Rough, The Loud, and The Funny

We do like Florida state parks since they have nice wooded campsites, a little more privacy between sites and a natural setting.  No concrete pads or ports here.  I could do with a little less sand to track into the motorhome, but that’s what you get in Florida and that’s why I love my Shark vac.

The rough….The site we were assigned ended up being a first for us.  First one we could not make work no matter what we tried.  By that I mean we had a site that looked to be a wash-out spot and there was no hope for leveling out the coach.  Not with jacks, blocks, or creative parking angles.  We tried.  We really did.  I walked the site and Pat even got out to survey the scene before backing in.  In the end, we parked Lucy and took Bitsy back to the ranger station to see if there was another spot we could get for our 3-day stay.  Aaaaand we’re in luck!  Not flat, but one we could deal with much better.

The loud….So, we get settled in the second site and take Jackson for a walk around.  Two different trains go by, blasting the train whistle.  My, I didn’t realize the train tracks were right next to the park.  We think about this and ask another camper.  Do the trains come by in the night?  “Oh yes!” was the enthusiastic reply and he chuckled.  Indeed they do at about 11:00pm and 4:30am.  I sleep with earplugs, but still heard that coming by and felt it a bit, too!  Peaceful park?  Mostly.

The Funny….You just never know what will strike you funny.  I see signs all the time that make me laugh.  This one was a favorite for this stay:

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Stating the obvious don’t ya think?  I checked it out and inside appears to be just a water spigot and some ground level access panels for something.  Pretty much an empty enclosure.  But nay, nay. NOT a dumpster.

So we’re leaving and drive around the OTHER side of the enclosure.  It all becomes clear:

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I envision people lobbing big, stinky bags of garbage over the wooden walls to the emptiness inside.  Eureka!  We just need another sign on the other side to stop that practice.  Anyway, I found it a stitch.

The House – Again

This stop is primarily due to my final dental appointment before our Florida exodus.  I get a clean bill of health, a big bag of teeth cleaning supplies and a promise of a phone number for a dentist in Homer, Alaska.  Turns out the dentist who used to own the practice I’ve used since childhood has a son who is a dentist in Alaska.  We’ll be there right about perfect timing for my next cleaning.  Small world.

The other reason for this stop is to check in on the house.  We need to mow again and dispose of the leftover house paint.  We also do 2 loads of laundry and then bid farewell to my washer and dryer.

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And there they go!  Exit stage right to a new home.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, remains in the house.  I used to think my least favorite aspect of full-time RVing was the laundromat scene, but most places have big, bright, clean laundry areas. You can get mounds done all in one shot instead of taking all day, a single load at a time.

We’ll make one more visit to the house to mow, pre-sign the closing papers, and turn over the keys.  Can. not. wait.

On The Road Again

Blue Springs is now in the rear view mirror as we depart for Bushnell, FL.  We’re spending over two weeks at Sumter Oaks RV Park so we can change our legal address to this location.  We won’t have a house, but we’ll still be Floridians.

On the way, we stop at a spot we scouted out on another trip.  This park overlooking Little Lake Harris is perfect for our lunch stop.  Whew!  We’re going a whole 75 miles or so and need a break in the middle.  Ha!  We don’t like to travel very far in a day, but this is short even for us.  Nice view though, and plenty of room for Lucy and the Bits.

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Driving over that bridge you saw in the last shot.  I’ve always marveled at how big “Little” Lake Harris is.  Another favorite interior Florida view since it was on the way to Grandma’s house in Bushnell back in the day.  Over the lake and through the woods I suppose.

Couch Time

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I’ll leave you with this shot.  Don’t forget to take a little couch time now and then,  preferably with someone serving you orange sherbet from a big bowl.  Yeah, Jackson is super spoiled rotten.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

All about Bushnell in the next post.  See you on the way!