Tuesday, November 10, 2020

From Congaree to Gamble Rogers

November 10, 2020                                                                Most Recent Posts
Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area               Closing October – Back on the Road
Flagler Beach, Florida                                             October 2020 – Fall Finally Arrives


I ended my last post with my arrival at Santee State Park in South Carolina where I’d gone in order to visit Congaree National Park whose two campgrounds only accommodate hike-in campers with back pack equipment.  State Parks are  no longer the inexpensive places to stay that they once were.  Although I suppose that at $45 a night including tax, it is still less expensive than private campgrounds.  Though it is perhaps the most expensive site I’ve paid for.  This was not for full hook ups.  Water and electric only.  Inconvenient dump station available. 


IMG_0575I arrived at Santee on Friday October 30 and found that in previous years there had been a Halloween decoration contest at the park.  But not this year sadly.  Though some people did still put out things.





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On Saturday morning I drove 38 miles to visit Congaree National Park where the Mosquito Meter outside the visitor center was thankfully reading Mild.


IMG_0581I was surprised to find that inside what had been the visitor center was only a small gift shop.  All of the exhibits had been blocked off and the only information available was outside the VC at a small window manned by one park employee.  So I’m zero for two in terms of being able to see the visitor center and its information.  If you are interested in why we didn’t see it on our first visit, here is a link to that 2013 blog where you can see David having a wonderful time among the big trees even without being able to have VC information.


IMG_0582The 2.6 mile round trip boardwalk trail is the center of the trail system at the park and I started there.  There are 10 trails in addition to the boardwalk for a total of over 44.5 miles of hiking within this mostly designated wilderness park.



There are a lot of big trees here and it was a bitter sweet visit for me remembering how excited both David and I were to see them in 2013.  It appears that the last survey of Champion Trees done in Congaree was in July of 2009.  At that time there were 26 trees that qualified based on circumference, height and crown spread for National or State championship status.

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Congaree protects the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest in the United States.  These Bald cypress and their “knees” are common to see standing in the swampy areas.



With 11,000 acres of old growth forest within the park’s 27,000 acres, there is plenty of room for Champion trees. No area in North America has a larger concentration of champion trees.  Congaree is noted for being one of the tallest temperate, hardwood forests in the world.  Loblolly pines as tall as a 17 story building, Sweetgum 15 stories tall.  Of course not all of these are near the few acres of trails in the park.  44.5 miles of trails is a drop in the bucket of 27,000 acres.

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I’d love to come back and kayak Cedar Creek but probably not until there is some more ranger presence and perhaps a map to indicate how to find your way around and through.

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Once a bend in the Congaree River, Weston Lake is now an oxbow lake. Over 2000 years ago the river gradually changed its course and meandered south leaving Weston Lake behind.  The lake is slowly filling in with clay and organic debris.

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This iron box is an old still used to make alcohol.  After the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919 (interestingly the same year women got the right to vote), prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, moonshiners and bootleggers found refuge here in the Congaree River floodplain.  It’s difficult terrain and tall trees made it a perfect hiding place.

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I am off the boardwalk now and on  the trail to Bluff Campground.  Congaree has two campgrounds and both are backpack in.   No RVs which is why I’m at Santee State Park.

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Bluff Campground.  There were 3 widely spaced tents here today.

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On what I hope is the trail to Wise Lake, I find the day’s only wildflowers.

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Not sure if it’s some sort of aster or a blue mistflower.  Anyone know if either of these guesses are correct?




Is this also part of Cedar Creek??  It’s hard to show in a picture how large these trees are without someone to stand next to them.


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There are minimal signs in the park so a map and a compass really are necessary.



Wise Lake I presume.

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Congaree has many grand loblolly pines but none more so  than this former state champion.  Loblolly are the tallest trees in South Carolina and this one is over 150 feet tall.  No way to get a picture of its height but how about its base?   My standing beside it gives a good idea of just how big it is.


And here is David from 2013, happily standing beside what was then the state champion Loblolly pine.  Same tree toes as I see today.  Had I looked at this picture before returning, I would have stood in the exact same spot.

I scattered some of his ashes around this tree to honor it and his memory.  I think it would make him happy.

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By looking down into the swamp waters, I can look up into the skies.

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I have walked over 7 miles both on and off the boardwalk, taking several trails.  I return on the boardwalk and stop to spread David’s ashes around this giant American beech which was the first BIG tree we saw when we came in 2013 and I can remember him saying “Holy Sh**” look at the size of that beech”.  Just thinking about him here brings a smile to my face but oh how I wish he were with me now.


On the drive back to the campground I pass cotton fields and more cotton fields so finally I stop to take a picture of them and me with them and the cotton itself.
I love cotton clothing but it is a heavy feeder, destructive of the land and always reminds me of the stain of slavery on the soul of this nation.

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Back at the campground, trick or treating is getting underway.  I wish you could read the headstones.  There is Kris P Bacon, Barry M Deep, Noah Scape.

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And this cute graveyard guardian was handing out very creative treats.  See the next picture. 

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Apropos of the times, plastic gloves filled with a candy bar and rolled sweets.  Love the spider ring.

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Little Bo Peep and her sheep were here too.



Today is Saturday and usually at 11am I meet on Zoom with my friend Laurie for our book club.  Since it was Samhain and I was going to Congaree, we agreed to wait until 5:30 to discuss our current read which is The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh.  We are both fans of the charismatic bear and this book is a really beautiful  look at the place that inspired Milne’s stories.

Pooh of course is part of the club and was trying to finish his reading with Owl’s help.

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I closed the night off with a beautiful full moon breaking through the clouds of a black sky.  Love these dark sky parks.

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I couldn’t decide.  Similar but not the same.  Beautiful both.

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IMG_0698On Monday, I left Santee for an atypically long drive of 221 miles to the Walmart in St. Mary’s Georgia where unlike a few days ago in Roanoke Rapids, everything worked fine.  In addition, for all 221 miles the Service Engine light did not come back on.   The moon appears totally full for days before and after the actual full moon date.  Even in the Walmart Parking lot it was quite a show.  Almost looks like there are continents on it.  But I don’t see the man in the moon or any witches riding by.



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My drive Tuesday was a more typical 111 miles and therefore I was able to take my time and stop at the Florida Welcome center where I knew they would have fresh orange juice.  I’m masked up to go inside and get some.

Inside I also enjoyed the clocks showing “Florida time” and both time zones in the state.  I think that is so silly to have people in the panhandle in a different time zone from the rest of the state.  Why do they do that??  Probably the same reason that we STILL do spring forward and fall back.  (This makes me start singing “Day Light Savings Time by Mike Yank and the Armadillos-right Carrie?)




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And then here I am on  the main drag in Flagler Beach Florida, A1A, right beside the Atlantic Ocean.  I was stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk when I took this.

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You are no longer allowed to build on the ocean side of the road and for those buildings that are “grandfathered in”, like the restaurant and little hotel next to the state park, if a hurricane destroys your building, you are not allowed to build it back.  No building on the ocean front or its dunes in Flagler County.

IMG_20201103_110229310This road reminds me of what Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach  looked like in the 70’s when I  lived on 42nd street just before the referendum passed permitting Liquor by the Drink which opened the flood gates to high rise national hotel chains and eliminated the view of the ocean from all of Atlantic Avenue.  Now it’s just a wall of buildings.  Good for the people of Flagler Beach to resist the siren song of money and protect their public beach.


I pull in to register at the park and have to stop for a parade of White Ibis crossing the road.  I feel like I’ve actually arrived now.  There’s the Flagler Beach water tower.  I wonder how many little towns still have water towers?  I just love it.

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As usual here, I pull into my site, I do not back in, so that I’ll have an ocean front view out my big windows.  But before I set anything up, I need a visit to the ocean.  It’s been a year since I’ve been here but things look the same thankfully.  So many hurricanes in Florida this year, but none has impacted the park.

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Pretty happy and as you can see from my long sleeves, it’s not too hot YET.

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Here’s the view out my front window.

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I spend most of the rest of the day leisurely setting up in site 15.

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The park has two campgrounds.  One on the ocean side of A1A and one on the sound side.  Both are not large – perhaps 30 sites each – and their smallness is one of the things I really love about them.

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Never enough ocean views.

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My first dawn and sunrise at the beach are not that spectacular but it’s the only one that isn’t completely clouded and rained out in the first week of my visit.  I am writing this at the end of that first week after days of rain and high winds that have kept everyone inside including my slides.

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There isn’t much to say about what I’ve done while here since I’ve been confined.  When the rain takes breaks I try to get my 10K steps in without being blown over by the winds.  Before I had to bring in the slides I tried to do 30-60 minutes of yoga but now with my nearly complete confinement by high winds 18-30 mph and nearly constant rain, I’m mostly reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, doing puzzles,  watching videos, emailing friends and wondering how long it will be before Mr. Trump will let Mr. Biden get on with his job.   Getting antsy for sure.

Speaking of puzzles, I start out with something easy and small  on my new puzzle board which is perfect for RVing.  It folds up, puzzle, pieces and all for storage.  It’s a bit big for my dining table but I make it work.

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Nearly finished.

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               All Finished.












I did have a couple of days to enjoy the beach before the bad weather set in.  I so wish David were here to enjoy this with me even the confinement.  I’ve thought this throughout the pandemic.  We could play cards and games, read aloud.  But he is here in a way.  I carry his ashes as he asked me to.  He sits in the window of the RV when I’m parked as in the picture below and in the passenger seat when I’m driving.   I miss him every day.


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38 comments:

  1. So sad to think about you without David. I miss him too. Great pics of the trees at Congaree.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Lynne. Things really are so very different now in so many ways.

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  2. I enjoyed our stay at Gamble Rogers, heck I've enjoyed all the FL state parks we've stayed at.
    I enjoy your reports... just saying.

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    1. Thanks Rob. I'm glad you are coming along. I've enjoyed all the Florida State Parks too other than Little Manatee River where they were callus and unfeeling on the day David died. I'll never go back there again.

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  3. $45/night, OUCH! I can't afford that, even for one night. Many NP sites have no VC open at all. Took a while for Bryce to figure it out even with no movie seems mostly for merchandise sales. The boardwalk trails are spectacular, I've only seen souvenir knees. A Ranger lead kayak trip would be awesome. I remember that photo of David and still see and feel his smile. He will be with you always. In fact, you look good with cotton, more relaxed than in a while. The moon is the moon wherever we are. I was excited for the ocean view and sorry the weather worked against you.

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    1. You really do have to come east and see those knees in person. Not sure what a souvenir knee is. Happy to caravan with you if you do.

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  4. Glad you are in your favorite spot at Flagler Beach. How nice to be able to scatter some of David's ashes in his favorite spots. That makes me smile. You look terrific by the way :)

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    1. Thank you for the compliment. I wish I felt terrific more often. Glad I could give you a smile. There seem to be too few of them these days.

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  5. Nice that you got a picture of you at the same tree that David stood by. I assume that by naming some of the trees Champion trees, that they are protected. So many trails to explore! Your ocean view at the one campground is beautiful. I think it is worth getting a little rust on Winnona to have a view like that! I hope that you aren't rained in too often. I think I'd go stir crazy. Love Winnie reading with owl. Have fun! xxxooo

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    1. Congaree is a National Park so all of its trees are protected. And a great deal of it is wilderness which is an even steronger level of protection.

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  6. Lovely that you were able to spread David’s ashes in some of your favorite places. Hope that was a comfort to you in some way.

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    1. Good to see you Jeannie. I know David would have liked being in Congaree which is why I made the stop.

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  7. Love the photo of David and the BIG tree...he was always happy when he saw a BIG tree!!! Sorry your time at Flagler Beach has been so windy and rainy...sure been a crazy year!! Hope you get some beach days soon!!

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    1. I had no idea it was going to warm up to the 70's in Virginia 2 days after I left or I would have avoided these mid 80's in Northern Florida. Things are definitely strange.

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  8. I miss him too, but nowhere near as much as you. Wish we were all there! The beach looks grand! Yes Mike Yank and the Armadillos - what a blast from the past. Lovely to see all the big trees and beautiful sky shots. I hope the weather is cooperating more now. Purple suits you.

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    1. Purple is definitely tied with blue for my favorite color. Wish you were here too. Being stuck inside would be much more fun with a partner.

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  9. That is how I remember David always standing next to a big tree with his great smile. Hope leaving his ashes in special places brought you some comfort and having him ride along with you.

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    1. Thanks Jo. He was definitely a big tree man.

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  10. Can't get over the rising price of state campgrounds, I guess they are following the lead of commercial campgrounds. At some point they might just price everybody out of camping. Sad to think that already some families can't use them after the terrible hit the virus had caused to many families.

    Love the picture of David by the tree, that's the way I will always remember him, nothing got him down. He was a great example of enjoying every day he had. We miss him greatly and will always remember him as a friend. I fondly remember him crawling under my motorhome at Disney showing me how to work on my slide bushings. He was so helpful.

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    1. Yes the shock of prices in state park campgrounds hit me too. Virginia and SC in particular although they aren't alone. I don't know how so many people can be buying RVs and camping in this time of so many out of work. Love your story about David Paul. Thanks for telling it.

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  11. Nice to see the cotton as I had to pick it as a kid. Hard work for all. I got a high surf advisory for Merritt Island, so I suspect you will see some big waves also. Stay safe.

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    1. We're seeing big waves and big winds here making being on the beach nearly impossible. But you are in Alaska right?

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  12. Thinking we may have exited our full time lifestyle at the perfect time. . .yowzers. $45 per night is $1350 per month, and you are bringing YOUR OWN HOUSE.

    I remember thinking how ridiculous it was when a friend was paying $1350 per month for a luxury apt with a garage. Wonder what they are going for these days. . .goodness!

    Thinking that not being allowed to re-build on the ocean side in Florida may work out to be a great decision.

    One of my favorite things about Oregon was the fact that land on the ocean is not commercialized, and we, as regular peasants, could enjoy all the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.

    So very thankful for the opportunity of meeting you and "your David" in Maine in 2013. What a wonderful relationship you two shared. Blessings, peace, and comfort for you in your future endeavors.

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    1. Thank you Janice for this great comment. Yes $45 was amazing especially in a state park. Doubt I'll be visiting South Carolina State Parks again.

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  13. Not only that but it isn't full hook ups for that $45. But take a lot at hotel prices for a night. It's interesting how many of the full timers we knew and met up with have gone off the road just before this huge surge in RV buying. I definitely agree with no building on the ocean front. Too dangerous. Too destructive of the dunes. Thanks so much for your wishes Janice. It's good to see you here.

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  14. I'm sure that David speaks to you through the trees and places you have shared together....

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    1. Thank you Yankeeflyer for this thought. It's certain that every big tree reminds me of him.

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  15. I'm disappointed that I can no longer see your photos—I have no idea what's going on. I've tried several times the past couple of days but no photos. :-( But you provide enough commentary that I get a good idea of what you're up to!
    I was looking forward to seeing your photos of Congaree NP. Knowing that you and David enjoyed it so much makes me for sure want to go there. It was so poignant to read that you spread some of David's ashes there, next to a big tree that he loved.
    I hope your weather is improving at Gamble Rogers (although with that storm going through, maybe not!). So many storms this year, in so many ways. I'm with you about Trump acknowledging Biden as our next president—but you are much more polite about it than I am. I am so OVER Trump's petty, childish, vindictive temper tantrums. He is a serious threat to our democracy.

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    1. I am also disappointed that you can't see the pictures. Perhaps one of my readers can advise. I haven't heard that anyone else is having trouble. You are a great friend to keep reading anyway. Ditto on the threat to democracy and I fear it ain't over until he dies.

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  16. Running a bit late, Sherry, but loved reading about your onward motion. You are doing amazingly, IMHO. Such a great idea to spread some of David's ashes at one of the huge trees that he so loved. Actually, the photos of David I remember so much are his happy face when getting something wonderful to eat that he loved. Those smiles come back in my memory even more than his delight when hugging a tree. Been watching the weather and hoping you are battened down and ok in the midst of the Florida storms.

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    1. You are so right Sue. Big trees and FOOD brought a smile, a huge grin actually, to his face. I'm glad you have fond memories of him.

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  17. A lot of this post made me sad and really miss David again, but I did smile when I at first misread "This iron box is an old still used to make alcohol." I thought you wrote, "This iron box is old and still used to make alcohol"! Oh, me. It's lovely that you are spreading his ashes in places he loved. Take care of yourself. Thank you for sharing this. Love to you!

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    1. Love your misread. I should have said that was used to make alcohol during prohibition and beyond. Gave me a laugh! I can use them. Thank you for commenting. Love back to you.

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  18. How lovely to spread David's ashes by trees he loved and to have him alongside you. Hope the weather improves!

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  19. Thanks for your sweet comment Michele. It's not as lovely as having him here but it's the best I can do.

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  20. Wonderful post filled with rivers and trees and birds (as Mary O said in “Singapore”), as well as blue moons, the ocean, Pooh, amazing cloud-/sunscapes and much more! Those big trees, especially the loblolly in the photos of you and David- so quietly majestic; they should be in charge, instead of humans. A beautiful, beautiful place for some of David’s old shell to rest and feed the soil, and for you to always know you can go to to connect with him. Love Pooh and Wol reading! The Halloween costumes are so sweet (including the pumpkin-dog) and whoever thought up the severed-hand treat is a genius.

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  21. That Samhain full moon was so special, glad you were able to enjoy it through the wispy clouds. I continue to be amazed by the variety of species and history of all the trees in this country. How lovely to return David to places he loved on this side of the veil. I love the power of storms but I'd be ready for this one to move on after days of tight confinement. Hope you're getting calmer days to enjoy your beach. I like the sound of that Pooh book :-) Your puzzle mat puts my little green roll up one to shame - looks like it gives you lots of space to work!

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  22. This summer we left our VC open, though there were tables up to reduce the distance between the desk and guests, we also took out interactive displays but otherwise the history and displays were open to people. What an interesting area to hike, and you're still sharing it with David.
    Nice moon photos, we too look forward to getting back to some dark sky parks, but that won't be until next winter.
    You sure put in a long day's drive, glad it all went well.
    Lots of water towers around us in rural IL. Maybe I'll get Dave to do photos of all the different ones next summer.
    I like the roll up mat for the puzzle, I've missed doing puzzles, might have to look into one of those. I am enjoying all the reading I've been doing though.
    What a great way to honor David, having him ride shotgun with you as you continue on the life you both loved.

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