Wednesday, June 30, 2021

FINALLY! The Great Alaskan Holiday Adventure Blog...Part 1

About time, Sparky! Here we go now....

We have been to Alaska several times, twice on a cruise. This would be our fourth time renting an RV. Eldy plans for months in advance...First he scouts flights--good times for departures and arrivals, and good prices. When he sees something very reasonable, THEN he asks Sparky, think we should go to Alaska one more time before we are too old? Sparky knows at this point, he's got good flight prices and good times to get there. HECK, YEAH! Let's go!
Our home for the next two weeks-a Minnie Winnie
We rented a 25 foot motor home from Great Alaskan Holidays. Their prices are the best, they don't gouge you on adding extras to your price list for the rental. Some companies charge you for dishes and bedding and other things. Great Alaskan Holidays does not. Their prices are the best for what you get, and they have mandatory training videos for newbies and for seasoned travelers. Their rigs have been in excellent condition and the three times we rented from them, we've never had a problem. We felt with the Canadian borders closed, that flying to Anchorage and renting the RV was the most cost effective way to visit Alaska. To drive there yourself is wear and tear on your vehicles, tire replacement probably necessary when you get back, and other worrisome things happening to your rig, like maybe a busted windshield. We opted for additional insurance to cover any windshield/rock incidents. (Bad sections of Alaskan highway are a given that are in repair mode as you travel while in Alaska in an RV.) We got the 25 foot Winnebago, the Winnie Minnie. What was even sweeter this time, was Sparky's very best friend of over 40 years, Jeannie Garrett, expressed an interest in caravanning with us to Alaska, so we enthusiastically booked our flights together and our rentals and off we went May 25th.

Day 1---We flew out of South Bend, IN airport, leaving at the wee pre-dawn hours, having spent the night in the hotel near the airport. As we left the hotel, we could hear opera music playing outside the hotel. Sparky asked the hotel shuttle driver where that was coming from? She said the local 7-11 next door plays opera music 24 hours a day to keep the loiterers away. They hate it! 

We landed in Anchorage in the afternoon....We waited for Jeannie to arrive, she came in on a very delayed flight plan so we left the next morning. Great Alaskan Holidays allows you to stay in the parking lot for the night if flight plans are messed up and it's too late to depart the day you pick up your rig. After reviewing the weather for both northern and southern routes on our rough itinerary, we decided to head north. It was going to be colder  in Denali (about 20 degrees) than the southern parts of our route later in the week! We drove to Denali State Park while the temperatures were good and got to see Denali totally unobscured by clouds. It was a beautiful sight! Here, another tourist takes in the amazing view.....
Denali in the center
We stayed at K'esugi Ken Campground in Trapper Creek, Alaska that night. This is a beautiful campground that is relatively newer than most campgrounds. The sites are big and spacious and easy to get into. Sparky took a lone hike on one of the trails, then decided to turn back after seeing a lot of bear signs, like fresh scat and berry bushes blooming.. She also saw fresh moose poop on the trail! Oh, boy! (Sparky gets excited about some weird stuff, sighs E.) This is moose poop, in case you wanted to know...(Uh, no, they don't, silly woman! laughs Eldo).
There is a beautiful visitor's center at the campground with beautiful artwork.
Sparky's friend, Jeannie

Day 2 --We spent the morning planning an itinerary. We weren't sure how far Jeannie could drive her RV, never having RV'd before, and we didn't know how soon she would tire of driving, so we were going to take our time and plan our route almost day by day, unless we knew that there was someplace we definitely wanted to make reservations for, like Riley Campground in Denali National Park. We had scored reservations for Riley campground park later in the week during our planning stages pre-trip so we headed south to Palmer on the Glenn Highway. Next stop, Mountain View RV Park where we spent the night, and had good pizza delivered right to our site! 45.00 for the night, not bad for a private campground in Alaska. It was very empty this early in the season. It's truly a beautiful view....
Day 3--driving to Glenallen...We stopped LOTS for scenic views so Jeannie could get photos. She was doing GREAT driving and got the hang of driving a motorhome very quickly. Sparky sat up front with her most of the journey to guide her and remind her of the steps when we would stop and park and how to hook up. 

We stopped at yet another spectacular point of one of the river views and we came across three Russians, at least that's what we think they were speaking. Sparky asked to get their photo, as it was cool seeing them in perspective against the mountain/river view. They spoke very good English, and were glad to oblige. They loved Sparky's photo and asked her to air drop it to all three of them, so she did! Sparky got a thumbs up on their way out....We climbed in elevation, and the weather got steadily worse. As we neared Sheep Mountain, at 2750 feet, it started to snow. And then, IT REALLY SNOWED! We were in a blizzard. Jeannie was nervous. Sparky was nervous, Eldo was nervous. But of course, Sparky loving cold weather and winter, we had to stop to get a few snow photos. "LOOK, JEANNIE, IT'S SNOWING!" Eldy called out.
The weather started to change
And how! Sparky LOVES snow....
Sparky wanted to have a snowball fight, but Eldo wanted to keep going. Her friend, Jeannie, voted to keep going, too.
We had some tough driving to get through, with the heavy snow, so back out on the road we went again.....

We stopped for the night at a very interesting place called the Ranch House Lodge RV park. The owners are working hard to restore and upgrade the park. It's one of the original roadhouses on the Alaskan Highway, and boy, did the owner have stories for us that she told over homemade  chili, served with any number of hot sauces you could possibly imagine! we laughed so hard at some of the names, and Sparky had a dickens of a time trying not to mess up the pronunciation of the last sauce on the right. You KNOW what she kept mispronouncing, right? Haha.
The roadhouse walls are original and the chinking between the logs is old army mattress stuffing for filler. That chili was a welcome meal from the cold that now enveloped the area.  Sparky bought the book the owner wrote detailing the history of the roadhouse. It was fascinating! They reused and recycled
everything! Proceeds from the book are poured right back into upgrading the park. Tomorrow we drive to Valdez. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Great Alaskan Holiday trip....Bye for now!

A Tough Day.....

Moody Beach, Wells, Maine.   High: 97.   Low: 72.  Site #23

RVing is not always a ton of fun....There WILL be rough days and here comes one of them for us...

We left Timothy Lakes South Campground on Monday...very early in the morning at 8:00 for a 338 mile drive, very doable. That would get us into Maine at a decent hour, traveling 62 mph average. Right? WRONG!

We got on I-84 heading east and started the climb through the mountains in New York....There was a steep incline that lasted FOREVER....It wasn't like hills where you go up and down, or can see the downhill slope in sight. At that point, all of a sudden, we heard a POP!  What was THAT??? Did we blow a tire? We pull off the road at a pull out for truckers, and check. All tires are ok. We get back on the road again. Only about 45 minutes into the drive, next a DING  sounded. 

"What's that?" Sparky asks. "Not sure just yet," E. replies. He looks down at the gauges. Uh-oh! A red engine light--engine temperature dangerously high. A single chimed ding announced that news. A few seconds later, a constant DING DING DING DING is sounding. Constant chimes means engine DANGEROUSLY overheating. We immediately pull off the road into a rest area. We check the owner's manual. It says to idle the engine in neutral and if the temperature doesn't come down, then shut the engine off and call for service. The engine temp didn't come down. We call the dealership. They say to wait TWO HOURS for the engine to cool completely down and try again. We wait for two hours. At a VERY  nice pull out for truckers, cars and RVs who are also overheating and need to pull over and wait. Eldo had his rocker, Sparky had her chair, we had shade. Temps were 95 degrees.

We start the truck back up. Engine temp is in normal range. One hour later, DING! The first warning that the engine is about to overheat again. We are still climbing the mountains in Massachusetts, almost to Connecticut. DING DING DING DING--we pull over again for a second time. This time we wait an hour. Engine cools down, we start off again. Internet/dealership advice say turn on the floor heaters to HIGH to pull heat away from the engine block. We open the windows, we put the heater on high and we fry our legs for another hour and sweated buckets. What do we do? Do we get a motel and try to get the truck into a dealership or do we keep going? Decisions, decisions. Towing the rig AND the truck is how it would have to be done.  SUPER expensive and a lot of tow companies don't have the big equipment or correct knowledge to correctly tow RVs. We'd probably have to be towed like a semi. Then who knows how long we could be waiting for an appointment at a dealership to have the system looked at. And where are we going to park the rig, our home?

Picture this....the windows are down, the floor heater is blasting. Eldy is hard of hearing. Our legs are burning. We are getting dehydrated. We are driving thru the city of Hartford, CT on interstate with semis rushing by on both sides. I'm trying to give Eldo directions. I have to yell at the top of my lungs for him to hear me with all the road noise and his hearing loss. "OK--TURN COMING UP! STAY IN THE LEFT LANE". "WHAT????? YOU WANT ME TO TURN RIGHT?" "NO!!! TURN LEFT!!!!"  "NOW??"  "YES, NOW!!!!!"  "WHAT'S THE ENGINE TEMP?"  "WHAT????" "WHAT'S THE ENGINE TEMP????"

We encounter several traffic slowdowns almost to a complete stop. The engine heat climbs to dangerous levels. Eldo toggles back and forth between levels screen and speed information. He tries not to watch constantly while we are just about stopped. 238 degrees, 242 degrees, (the chime goes off around 242 degrees.) We are envisioning a complete breakdown right on the interstate with nowhere to pull off. The temperature holds at 243 degrees without the constant chimes going off. We decide to limp on...the mountains are evening out. The uphills and downhills are shorter.  It's 97 degrees out. We are fried. We end up pulling into two more rest stops to let the truck and the tires cool down, plus a fuel stop. We get to Maine about 7:30 PM just in time to find a site at our campground and get settled. It was getting dark. What's weird is, the truck acted normal once we got to the campground, it didn't overheat while idling. It was still 95 degrees out as well. (But we are still going to get it checked out this week at the dealership).

The site was a back in. There were only 3 available for a rig of our length, and we had to pick which was the best one. A VERY nice park ranger asks the two of us, after we checked in, (after assessing two very beet red faced, sweaty campers, obviously exhausted), "Which one of you should do the picking of the site?" Eldo points at Sparky, Sparky points at Eldo. Haha. He took Sparky on his golf cart and she went and picked out the site which looked WIDE and easy to get into. HA! It wasn't. We had to have help with the tight site, which under normal circumstances, we would have been able to back in and out of to get ourselves into the right position, but because we were so tired and worn out, we had trouble with stumps and trees. Several people came out of the woodwork (ouch, sorry about that pun!) to see what was going to happen when they saw our big rig headed down one of the narrow lanes. But Eldo did it! He got us backed in. We will worry about pulling out three weeks from now. 

We each drank 3 bottles of water EACH once we got settled in and hooked up. What a day! But we love the campground, love the area, and we are really glad we have a nice place to be for over July 4th weekend. We will be here till July 18th, Sparky's birthday, then we move to another campground closer to Acadia National Park for two weeks, then back to Wells, Maine for another three. Moody Beach is full of seasonal and annuals, there are not a lot of choices right now with July 4th weekend looming.

There are some nice pull out sites that are out in the open and right now, we are glad we are not in one of them with temps as high as they are. Moody Beach has added some new sites recently in the past year for bigger rigs with 50 amp needs. There are some pull throughs in the shady, forested section of the park, but the pull throughs are short. We would not be able to navigate around the lane corners and get our entire rig and the truck thru the pull through part. There are tree stumps and fencing to worry about at many of the sites in the forested part of the park. 

Being almost 42 feet, we really have to be careful with branches, trees and stumps at Moody Beach campground.. The campground is within walking distance (a few miles if you are hardy) to the ocean. Nice! More about the park and the town in the next post. We will say traffic is crazy...people have told us sometimes you wait in line to get out of the park for almost an hour! Yikes! And New England streets are notoriously narrow. Our big dually truck makes it a challenge to park at local places. We will be using our bikes more, that's for sure! Until next time....

Sparky and Eldo.....(Jeannie Sparks and Eldon "Eldy" Tompkins)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Sparky Bikes, Then Hikes the AT! Well a part of it.....

Pocono Mountains    Delaware Water Gap, PA.    High: 82.  Low: 69 

Site: 149.   Timothy Lake South

Sparky is really excited to be in was fantastic for leaf colors when we passed through in the fall, and it is gorgeously green now that it is summer. Because it is in the Pocono Mountains, our campground weather is not as hot as some other places right now. So Sparky is off and running, er, biking and hiking the local trails....

First, the McDade Recreational Bike extends through most of the Delaware Water Gap recreational area, and is for hikers, bikers and cross country skiers in the winter. The trail varies from easy to strenuous, depending upon where you enter the trail. From the Bushkill Access  trailhead near our campground, it's pretty level heading north. The trailheads are about a half a mile to a mile apart. The trail from Bushkill to Schneider Farm is mostly level. The Delaware River runs along the trail to the right, and farm fields for the most part are to the left. The trail is crushed gravel, and the stones are on the bigger rather than smaller side. Read that as you need a hybrid bike with good tires, and be prepared for a little bone jarring ride in places. Sparky enjoyed the trail because it was mostly shady (!) and got about 18 miles in. 

The best part of our stay so far? Sparky has been on the Appalachian Trail twice and gotten to take terrific hikes and see fabulous views. The distances were not great-- about 3-4 miles each time, but the trails were moderate to difficult. The first hike was in the Stokes State Forest area.....Eldo, bless his heart, drove all over the boonies trying to find the trail head for Sparky. We crossed Dingman's Ferry Bridge which was EXTREMELY narrow and paid a 2.00 toll each way to get close to a trailhead so Sparky could get on the trail and hike her heart out. It wasn't easy finding the parking lot but we did! 

Sparky hiked and hiked and met FIVE single women in the trail who were thru hikers. They are hiking all the way to Maine! Here are two amazing women, one gal in her sixties--"Hare", and the other gal in her 20's (?) whose trail name was "Doah", because she lives in the Shenandoah Valley. We exchanged hiking stories, Sparky asked all about their shoes, what they ate (dehydrated meals) and whether they felt safe on the trail. They overwhelmingly said yes, what a fantastic experience it is being out on the trail, and how all the hikers look out for each other. (Uh-oh, I can see where this is going, worries E.) Sparky would LOVE to section hike the trail, and that's possibly doable. She probably won't ever think about doing the whole thing--well, yes, she thinks about it, but it's not at the top of her bucket list....even though there are PLENTY of women in their sixties on up that are hiking the trail...Hey, Eldo, maybe we could do an RV support rig trip...Sparky hikes the trail during the day, and then comes off to sleep at night in the RV!  Lots of reasons why that wouldn't work, (no generator, can't boondock, the rig is too big for most trailheads and very tight parking), so Eldo don't worry! By the way....TWO blazes like on the tree photo above means the trail is going off to the right.

Here's Doah and Hare....Doah is hiking in a tee shirt DRESS with shorts underneath....She says it's super comfortable!

Sparky LOVES meeting the thru hikers on the trail. The thru hikers start in Springer Mountain GA, and hike all the way to Katahdin, Maine, a distance of 2,181 miles.

They have such great stories and are having a wonderful time....

Sparky kept going on the rocky, tight trail until she came to the lookout tower, and of course, she just HAD to climb it...It was scary going up! Can't believe just anybody can climb up this lookout tower. This was the Culver lookout tower.....

Not very secure fencing and open sides in some places...yikes! But what a view! Eldo was going to call the ranger if Sparky didn't make it back down within a certain amount of time so it was time to turn back and head down. 

not the worst of it!

Trail experience #2.....Sparky hiked the Mt. Minsi trail, a five mile loop trail....WOW! This was the most strenuous hike ever for Sparky. There are two ways to get to the top of Mt. is a stream bed (VERY rocky but not as steep, just treacherous footing), and the other is a straight up climb from 520 feet in the parking lot to over 1,400 feet at the top. Sparky took the hard one.....but it was worth it.....Look at the view!! It was spectacular and so was the drop off just a couple of feet from the edge. Sparky got a little woozy just looking over the edge of the trail.

This view above was the best of all. Sparky was exhilarated to have hiked the AT twice. She hopes to do more hiking on the AT in Maine ....And that is it for today....We have just a couple of days remaining of our stay here in Timothy Lakes Campground South. 

We highly recommend this area for hikers and bikers. You can rent kayaks and canoes and go rafting. You can backpack on the Appalachian Trail and follow the footsteps of many who have gone before you. You can go for a leisurely float down the Delaware River if you like. Lots to do here for the nature lover, not so much for people who like to shop and check out touristy stuff. Its been a great stay, we plan on returning to the area on our way back from Maine...we will see you again soon down the road! Bye for now.....

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Traveling Through Pennsylvania On the Way to Maine....

June 19th.     High: 85      Low: 60      Site: 149 at Timothy Lakes S.

We left Brian's house (Eldy's son) after a week of recuperating from time zone changes and a red eye flight from Alaska back home to Indiana. (Note: The Alaska blog is still coming, Sparky just is still sorting through and finding the best of the best photos to publish all about Alaska.)

It was great to see family and just relax after maximizing our mileage during our two weeks in Alaska. We were almost always on the go there so we needed time to wind down from all the excitement. Sparky rode the Pumpkinvine Trail for a record number of miles this time--all the way from Goshen to Shipshewanna and back, 32 miles. She did it two days in a row. Sparky loves that trail for all the glimpses into Amish farm life. She saw a little Amish girl leading her little pony to a little cart and her little brother tagging along on their farm at the side of the trail. She couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old. She saw LOTS of laundry hanging out on clotheslines at the Amish and Mennonite farms. Sparky loves to see all the laundry hanging out on the clothesline, because it reminds her that she use to hang up her family's laundry on a clothesline as one of her chores as a kid, and that was in a Chicago suburb back in the 50's! Sparky saw the little "rare specimen", the cactus that has started regrowing in a little patch by the bike trail after being mowed down a few weeks ago. As reported previously, it's doing well! Pretty unusual for a cactus to be thriving in Indiana in the shade at the side of a bike trail, for sure!

We traveled from Indiana to Ohio, staying at a Thousand Trails (our membership) park for free for two nights at Lake Kenisee in Ashtabula, Ohio. If you spend any time there, be sure to do the covered bridges tour, covered in a previous blog. We enjoyed our stay there very much this time, although it was a short two days. The pull through spaces at Lake Kenisee are extremely roomy and spacious between sites. WOW! Look at all this room! They have a huge field behind the pull thru sites that they could definitely add more RV sites, but they haven't done so, despite the fact that the pull thrus fill up really fast and the rest of the park is heavily seasonal and annually rented out.

They do have very strict speed limits in the park, 5 mph. and according to park management, it is strictly enforced with strict penalties if you can't manage to keep your vehicle slowed down enough in the park.  

Sparky loves this park because the Great Western Reserve Bike Trail, a Rails-to-Trails bike route, is within two miles of the park. She rode two straight days in a row, over twenty miles each time. This trail is well shaded in either direction you set out from at the trailhead that is close to the RV park. The trail is mostly forested, with a few open spaces where you can see farms and cornfields in the distance. There are a few wildflowers this time of year but for the most part, the trail is a little on the boring side...Sparky saw some blooming sweet peas....pretty!

The trail is nice and flat and level, however...Sparky saw this beautiful wildflower and had to look it up....Viper's-bugloss or blueweed....It used to be used to treat snake bites a long time ago!

On to Pennsylvania! We are staying for ten days at the Thousand Trails Timothy Lakes South campground/RV park. Timothy Lakes South is in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, so read that as the campground is heavily wooded, so read that as watch your rig when pulling in and out of areas in and around the campground, and choosing a site. Look up above for low hanging branches that could scrape your rig roof. (Ask us how we know!) 

When you drive into a Thousand Trails campground, you have to drive around and find your own campsite, having previously booked a site which you pick once you come into the campground. You have a site, you just don't know which one it's going to be until you get there and look around. It's a lot harder to pick a campsite when you are towing a 41 foot rig behind you and trying to decide what site will work as you maneuver around the campground. The first site we pulled in was tight. Sparky knew we were in trouble when three people started watching us pull in a site that really wasn't big enough or wide enough for good clearance. They were like, OMG, they are going to try and fit in that site! (OMG! Now you tell me! fusses Eldo.) We had some branches scrape the side of our rig. Guess they weren't so soft! 

Back window view

The second choice was much better! We have a lovely view out our back window. A deer walked right behind our rig our first night here! Sparky got a shot with her phone as it walked off. We also saw a momma turkey with eight little chicks crossing the road just outside our campground today...lots of wildlife around for sure! The little ones are hard to see in this iPhone photo, but they were there. So cute!

Sparky saw a sign today..."Caution: MAJOR Wildlife casualty area"....Must be a ton of deer collisions in the area, it's all winding roads, blind curves and mountainous, you can see why the need for the sign!

It's going to be a noisy weekend, with barking dogs, lots of families and Father's Day weekend. But that's ok...Sparky will get to see little kids and families camping, always a wonderful thing and she loves that this park is near the Delaware Water Gap. Should be some great hiking and/or biking trails nearby! It is tough to get information right now about the area, as Pennsylvania seems to be a little more "buttoned up" from Covid and visitor's centers for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are not open. Sparky will try to get information online and from trail apps to get out and hike.

By the way....Eldo is growing a beard if you haven't seen it on Facebook. Sparky loves it! If you don't like beards....SH-SH-sh-sh-shhhhhhh....Just keep it to yourself. He is waffling back and forth about keeping it or not. The great consensus so far, is.....YES! Nice look! This is the first time he has ever had one. His brother has one, his son has one, it's time, Eldo!

Happy Father's Day weekend to all you dads out there! A shout out to all of Sparky's brothers who are wonderful dads...they cook, they clean, they take good care of themselves so they can take good care of their families. A shout out to Eldy's son and son-in-law, who are also great dads...And with that, we will see you again soon...right here!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Back Home Again in Howe, IN and the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail

Howe, IN         High: 83   Low: 61        May 2021

Sparky is a little behind on the blog, so she will hurry up and catch up so she can start talking about our fabulous Alaska trip that lasted for two weeks and with her friend, Jeannie Garrett-Kelly who caravanned with us.

We are settled in for two weeks in Howe, IN. We love this area. It's rural, and it's the heart of Amish country. We love seeing the industrial Amish work their farms, ride their buggies, and get dressed up in their Sunday finest to go to church. The women put on starched white bibs over black dresses, the men all wear white shirts, black ties and black coats and then off they ride in their buggies early Sunday morning. LOTS of buggies on the road on Sunday mornings. Here, they are gathering at one of the farms on a Sunday, and they rode their bikes to get there.
We've seen them plowing their fields with big draft horses, pulling the plows behind them. We've seen them riding barefoot on their bikes on the bike trail. Sparky even saw an unusual situation yesterday. An Amish or Mennonite mom was riding her bike on the highway, two daughters were riding foot pedaled scooters behind her, and a third daughter was running barefoot behind all three of them, running as fast as she could to keep up.  She was running barefoot on the shoulder of the highway in her long dress and looked exhausted. Sparky immediately had the thought that maybe the last daughter in the line was being punished for something? It was different, that's for sure!

While we were here, some friends came to visit. Sparky's childhood classmate from elementary school doesn't live too far away, so we were excited to get together after many many years (Sparky won't say how many) of graduating from elementary school. It's always fun to catch up and see how we've all aged. A big thank you to John and Susan Dorrer, who drove to see us. We had a great time catching up on childhood memories and our RV travels. John and Susan travel in a truck camper with a dog! But they are not full timing, just part timing. Eldo and Sparky would never make it in a truck camper, but then again, you usually go a little bigger if you are going to live in a rig full time. It was great to see you, John and Susan! Safe travels...until we meet again!

We've also been visiting Eldy's son and his family. Brian, his son, put in a 30 amp plug for us so we can MOOTCH DOCK while we are in Alaska. Mootch docking is what RVers call being able to hook up and have electric and water at a friends or relatives and be able to stay for FREE! Thank you, so much Brian! And, we are getting ready to fly to Alaska and rent an RV for two weeks. My master researcher, Eldo, says that by renting:  
1) There will be no wear and tear on your own rig
2) You won't have to replace your tires on either truck or RV after several thousand miles of driving there and back, 
3) You won't have to worry about damaging your windshield which is apparently a common thing when RVing in Alaska, (from rocks flying up against your rig on some bad roads). However, we have found the roads not to be bad at all in having rented an RV three times before as long as YOU STAY ON THE DESIGNATED HIGHWAY ROADS FOR RENTAL RVS. Anyone would like more information about renting RVs in Alaska, just ask Eldo. AND we got very reasonable air fares which make it doable this year for us. Since the Canadian borders are closed, it made sense to fly and rent. So the next blog will be about Alaska! Back to this blog.....

Star of Bethlehem
Sparky has been riding the Pumpkinvine quite a few times. The Pumpkinvine in spring is absolutely delightful. The wildflowers are gorgeous. Sparky has been using the "Seek" app to identify some real beauties....That's a really cool app. You just hold your camera phone in front of the plant or flower, and the app tells you the name of it and the species if it can. Sparky has seen all of these on the trail so far: False Solomon's Sea, Amur honeysuckle, White Campion, Nannyberry, Jetbead, Spiderwort, Aniseroot or Sweet Cecily, Trillium, Morrow's Honeysuckle, Greater Celandine
 and Dame's Rocket.
Greater Celandine
Sparky in front of Dames' Rocket

Not only has Sparky seen some amazing wildflowers, but she saw a muskrat leisurely cross the trail today, along with several cats out hunting. This bunny rabbit met his untimely death shortly before Sparky came on the scene and the cat seemed to be quite proud of his catch, walking the trail to mosey along back to wherever he or she came from.
pink trillium

Sparky is still interested in the birds, but having lots of trouble with her Nikon P900 camera and its focus. So, for now, the birds will remain elusive in photos, but seen in Sparky's mind. Sparky has seen beautiful blue indigo buntings every time she has ridden, orioles, a scarlet tanager, a red bellied woodpecker, and tons of robins who strut their stuff on the trail and let you get pretty close before they fly off to the thicket. But hey--how about some beautiful wildflowers along the trail, like these flax?

You can ride Shipshewanna to Goshen and get a lot of miles in. Sparky does the ride from Shipshewanna to the part of the trail that takes a detour near Goshen onto a busy county road, where Sparky doesn't feel comfortable riding. It's 9.5 miles to that detour for a total of 19 miles if you get to that part of the trail, then turn around and come back. They are working on a new part of the Pumpkinvine Trail that will do away with that dangerous detour--terrific! Due to be finished fall, 2022. OH! Almost forgot--there are beautiful lupines blooming at this time on the trail at the Shipshewanna end.
Today, Sparky rode all the way from Abshire Park in Goshen, to Shipshewanna and back, a distance of about 31 miles. That is a new record for Sparky, and boy, do her knees say, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, WOMAN!?????" But it was a beautiful cooler day today after being in the 90's with a lot of humidity yesterday, and Eldo was off playing golf with his brother, son, and granddaughter, so why not try for a personal best? Whew! The trail from Abshire Park to Shipshewanna and back is about 50% shaded, (Sparky's wild guess--that's what it seems like. Sparky is NO mathematician, (HAHAHAHAHA....Eldo is rolling on the floor with that one.) Sparky is TERRIBLE at math. You know those little algebraic equations they throw up on Facebook now and then? Sparky ALWAYS gets the wrong answer....sigh. (She decided to go into Special Education back in the 70's for her degree because it required less math classes in college, so that was a big influence back then. Sparky never regretted that decision, however. She loved being a teacher. But she digresses.....

Guess what, the cactus that was growing big time last year and marked with a humorous hand lettered "RARE SPECIMEN" sign on the trail, had been mowed down a couple of weeks ago. Oh, no! It was a cool cactus! Low and behold, when Sparky went back out on the trail for her marathon ride today, a little tiny one had sprouted, AND, it had tons of beautiful little yellow blooms on it, almost like it was defying the person who mowed it down. Woo hoo! You grow, girl! She knows plants have no gender, but what the heck! This one is going strong, so a girl it is!

Wanna hear all about Alaska? It's coming, it's coming. Sparky has to go through a bazillion photos and try to pick the best ones. She will also have to break the blog into about two parts, there's gonna be so much to share! Stay tuned, Sparky is excited to share where we went and how we did it. Bye for now!