Whale Watching and Friday Harbor

Whale Watching and Friday Harbor

Trips and Places to Visit while at Thousand Trails La Conner

Whale Watching!  We spent a day in the San Juan islands located north of Puget Sound watching whales and visiting Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island.

We started off with a ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan island.  The water was calm and weather clear so we could see Mt. Baker in the Cascades and Mt. Olympus in the Olympic range.  I always feel reinvigorated feeling the sea breeze wash over me.



No drone video for this episode – took the little Panasonic for stills and video using that.  After arriving at Friday Harbor we drove to Lime Kiln State park while we were waiting for our whale watching boat.  You can often see whales from the point, but no such luck this time.  There is a neat little light house at the park you have to check out.

We drove back to Friday Harbor and had lunch then went out on the whale watching cruise.  We took the Western Prince Whale tour.  I have been on a half-dozen whale watching trips in California, Hawaii and the San Juan Islands, and this is probably just about the best.  There was a lot of activity in the pods we watched – so I hope I caught some of the excitement in the videos and pictures.

After getting back to Friday Harbor we got the car and got in line for the ferry.  After talking to the Western Prince folks when we got there they suggested we change our ferry reservations to the last ferry out.  We did, but made it back in time for our original time and was able to change back – getting back to Anacortes and Thousand Trails La Conner in time to share our experiences with the rest of the family who were exploring the trails and beaches at TT.

This was a great birthday present from my eldest daughter and family.  Thank you!

Happy Trails!


Lake Tawakoni Thousand Trails

Lake Tawakoni & Venus Texas


We had very poor internet access after leaving southern Florida – so we are now catching up on our video and blog postings.

Lake Tawakoni Texas – Thousand Trails

March 2017


Central Texas

 We are on our way west to the Escapee Escapade in Tucson Arizona.  We stopped at Lake Tawakoni to take a few days to veg out and unwind from traveling from Southern Florida.
Lake Tawakoni is a Thousand Trails RV park.  It was flooded some time ago, but many repairs are being done (primarily electrical).  The park is spacious and it was fun flying Eyes of Lola (our DJI Mavic Drone).  The wind was calm and weather good, so we got some good flying in.  We are getting the many features of the drone dialed in, and you will see more improvements over time.
The trees were just starting to bud out, and the wildflowers were showing their colors.  There are some neat spiders just waiting for a quick snack too!
 Lake Tawakoni
There were lots of trails to walk the dogs, and the lake has some great places to boat.  Some of the reviews complained about ruts in the roads, but we didn’t have any problems as long as we kept Lola at the 5 mph.  Like many other Thousand Trails parks there are more and more seasonal or annual sites.  Lake Tawakoni is no exception.  We feel some of the sites really needed more cleanup; however this was still early in the “season”.
Just before leaving, our water heater started leaking (inside the RV!).  It appears the back flow valve leaks.  I took it out and removed the back-flow valve inside, but it was still leaking.

Venus, Texas

We drove on to the Texan RV Ranch in Venus Texas to see our good friends in Arlington.  We had a great dinner with Mike and Vicky then did some much needed shopping in Venus.
Next – on to Lake Whitney – Another Thousand Trail preserve and a quick visit to Magnolia Market in Waco.
As always,
Happy trails!

South Central Florida

South Central Florida

We decided to try out a private RV park near Lake Okeechobee after seeing the prices to stay on the Keys, and Miami did not excite us.  We found M RV Resort in Moore Haven.  The reviews were good and the price was right.

Many of the reviews indicated that the biggest challenge was grocery shopping.  Even though Moore Haven is Glades county seat, there is not a single grocery store in town.  However both LaBelle and Okeechobee stores such as Walmart and Winn-Dixie.  They are about 20 to 25 miles away.

The park is pretty basic, and most of the lots are fairly close together, however once we got parked (snug fit) it was fine.

There is a nice heated pool, shuffle boards and rec center with pool tables.  There is no exercise room or hot tub – but there are gators in the ponds to make up for that!  We haven’t seen a gater in the park though several have seen them.

Exploring the area – Lake Okeechobee, Fisheating Creek Bird Sanctuary, Manatee Park (Fort Myers), Bonita Springs

With almost perfect weather hovering around 80 degrees 5 days out of 7 and lows in the 60’s.  Real tough eh?

ForecastA couple of rainy days – and a few windy days but for the most part the weather has been perfect for flying the drone, walking the dogs, and exploring.  The Herbert Hoover Dike is 143 miles long and offers great walking and biking opportunities.  We feature the dike in both videos.  However, much of the dike is under restoration, so check with the Army Corps of Engineers before heading out.  We found their maps somewhat accurate, if you know what I mean!



I’ve been taking care of my dad’s probate, with lots of help from my brother.  My brother has been living with and taking care of dad for the past several years – that has provided dad with a very good quality of life up to the end last December.

Bonita Springs

We visited with longtime friends in Bonita Springs, and they took us on a boat ride along the intracoastal waterway.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon enjoying a lunch on the water and then doing a little bit of exploring in areas you normally don’t see from the road.


Manatee Park – Fort Myers

We made a trip to Fort Myers to establish a bank account for dad’s Probate, and visited Manatee Park – a Lee County Park.


Fisheating Creek Bird Sanctuary

Just a short distance away from Moore Haven, towards the town of Okeechobee is the Fisheating Creek Bird Sanctuary.  It is also the location of the site of Fort Center.  Fisheating Creek Bird Sanctuary is a great place to explore wildlife.  There is one Alligator near the visitor center that looked to be 10 to 12 feet long.  We stopped at the visitor center to make sure we could use the drone for pictures, which they said was ok as long as we weren’t using it for hunting or harassing any of the wildlife.  The Sanctuary has both wooded area as well as Florida Savannah (combination grassland and trees).  We biked around as long as the road allowed, but then got into an area with deep sand and walked the rest of the way.  Did get a flat tire while riding back, but that allowed us to see more birds while walking back to the visitor center and our car.

US Highway 29 between LaBelle and Moore Haven

We passed a pond 2 days in a row and saw a cow in the middle of a pond munching away on pond plants.  Each time, we said “we have to take the drone and get a picture of the cow with the birds.”  The third day we drove by we had the drone, but no cow.  There were 3 fat alligators we took pictures of though and lots of jumping fish!


Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

Central North Carolina

Family History in Central North Carolina

Family History On The Road

Central North Carolina has lots of roots for Jeff’s family.  His father’s mother and father have ancestors that were among the first settlers in Rowan and Guilford counties.


Salisbury North Carolina (Randleman)


Zion (Organ Lutheran Church) Salisbury, NC

Zion (Organ) Lutheran Church – Salisbury, NC

Our Family History tour takes us to Salisbury – Central North Carolina next where Jeff’s 5th Great Grandfather Christopher Randleman had moved after immigrating to the Colonies in 1754 at the age of 36.  He was very active in organizing the local church, and went back to Germany in 1773 to recruit a pastor for area.  Zion (Organ) Lutheran Church was organized shortly afterwards.

We found the following:

“Founded shortly before the middle of the eighteenth century by Pennsylvania Germans of the ‘Dutch Second Creek Settlement,’ it first occupied the so-called Hickory Church but had no regular minister for a generation. Then, in 1773, one of its members, Christopher Rintelmann; (Rendleman), and Christopher Layrle; (Lyerly), of Buffalo Creek Church (now St. John’s), returned from a trip to the Fatherland, where they had successfully petitioned the Hanoverian Consistory (“Consistorialrath”), for a pastor, the Rev. Adolph Nussmann, and a schoolteacher, Johann Gottfried Arndt;. The latter, having meanwhile been ordained, succeeded Nussmann in 1775, following this removal to Buffalo Creek, in the present county of Cabarrus. These two subsequently established many new congregations in piedmont Carolina. The Hickory Church, which had been used jointly by the Lutherans and the German Reformed neighbors, was replaced in 1774 by another log building, on a different site, after some disagreement had arisen between the two denominations. For this second church a member named Steigerwalt (Stirewalt) built the first pipe organ known to that section. Soon the official designation of Zion gave way to the name of Orgelkirche, which in its Anglicized form, has persisted until now. From the fact that on August 16, 1786, Ludwig Siffert; deeded ten acres of land ‘to the Lutheran congregation belonging to the Second Creek Organ Meeting-house,’ it is evident that the organ had been installed prior to that date. The instrument was later moved into the stone edifice erected nearby a few years thereafter.

It’s amazing that at the age of 55 Christopher traveled back to Germany via England to find a pastor for their church.  They went via England to get permission to recruit the pastor.

Christopher is buried at the Zion (Organ) Lutheran Church.

Alamance North Carolina (Clapp & Albright)

Just outside of Greensboro North Carolina is Alamance, where multiple 6th and 5th Great-Grandparents (Clapp & Albright) lived and are buried at the Brick Reformed Church.  The church is still active and has a nice history page here.  The Clapps and Albrights are ancestors of Jeff’s Dad’s mother.

Old Brick (Clapp) Church in Alamance/Burlington North Carolina.

Mount Pleasant, North Carolina (Furr)

Heinrich (Henry) Furr (Furrer) was Jeff’s 5th great grandfather, and his family settled the area around Mount Pleasant after emigrating from Switzerland.

Monument near the original Furr Settlement

National History intertwined with Family History

Regulator Movement

Even before the Revolutionary War, Jeff’s ancestors participated in rebel acts.  The War of the Regulation (Regulator Movement) started in 1761 in North Carolina.  This was a rebellion against taxes levied by the English government.  The Signatories Regulator movement included both Clapp and Albright families.

In 1771 armed hostilities broke out virtually in the back yard of the Clapp and Albright homesteads in the Alamance Battle.

Typical early 1700 cabin at Alamance Battlefield

American Revolutionary War

On the Clapp side, George’s son Martin (4th Great Grandfather) fought in the later part of the Revolutionary War serving 3 different times.  At least one of these times he served in place of another individual.  There is a good chance he fought at Guilford Courthouse (now a National Military Park) on March 15th, 1781, or other battles nearby.  The battle at Guilford Courthouse was the last major battle won by the British.  General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown on October 19th, 1781.

Guilford Courthouse National Battlefield


This was a great visit to North Carolina where we were able to tie in where Jeff’s ancestors lived and the history that they were involved with.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles


Washington North Carolina

Which Washington North Carolina?

In doing our genealogy – family history research Jeff identified property that his 4th Great-Grandfather owned in Washington North Carolina.  And we are there!

Only problem, reading the history of Washington in North Carolina we find out that the area of Washington in 1750 became a county in North Carolina that later became part of Tennessee!  Carter County Tennessee to be exact.  Once we figured that out we added Tennessee to our schedule, but left Washington North Carolina as a 3 day vacation and research stop since Jeff had been unable to complete his detailed research on where (exactly) to go because his stiff neck prevented him from working on the computer.  Yeah, long story short.

Washington (the town) North Carolina was named by a soldier who fought under General George Washington.  The city is on the Pamilico River that empties into the Atlantic Ocean a few miles downstream.  It has the distinction of being the first town named Washington!

What to do in Washington North Carolina (The Town)

Little Washington is a nice quiet town off the beaten track.  It has a nice boardwalk, and in November it does not have the hustle-bustle that we are sure happens in the summer.  There are some nice sea food restaurants, and the boardwalk is a nice place to walk the dogs.  It appears to be a boater’s paradise.

Goose Creek State Park

Close to Washington, is Goose Creek State Park.  It is another wonderful place to walk the dogs and watch the boats out on the river.

Tranter’s Creek Campground

We stayed in Tranter’s Creek Campground.  It had great Wi-Fi for Jeff’s research and our movie streaming.  It also had a really nice open area just in front of the RV to walk the dogs and for Jeff to fly our ‘practice’ drone.  Only got caught in the trees once!  Jeff had to get the RV ladder over by a tree along with a pole.  With Christine holding the ladder, Jeff managed to whack the drone a couple of times until it fell off the branch that was holding it captive.

We would stay in Tranter’s Creek Campground again.  Staff if friendly and the park is clean.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

St Lawrence Seaway October Walk

By the St Lawrence Seaway for an October Walk

We are taking a break from working on Lola and the Cabin.  We have spent all of October working on several projects at our cabin and getting Lola all spruced up.

Freightliner – Cornwall Ontario (Fail)

We took Lola to Freightliner in Cornwall Ontario for her annual maintenance.  They found a suspension valve leaking and that got fixed as well.  I must say they were not too happy to work on an RV.  I wish they had told me they didn’t like working on RVs at the time I made the appointment.  I only chose them because they were closer than the Freightliner Oasis dealer near Watertown NY.

Washing and Waxing Lola

While Christine worked on several projects inside and outside the cabin, I spent nearly a week washing and waxing Lola and reorganizing our basements.  It took a full day to wash all the berry stains off the roof.  I ended up using Magic Erasers (nearly a box) to get all the purple off.

After washing Lola, I used Driven Automotive Polish and it works great!  Easy to apply and wipe off.  Just a little buffing with a micro-fiber cloth.

There were a few scuff marks in a couple of places, and I used Driven Finish Restorer on that.  It was the first time I used the restorer and it also worked well.

Cell and WiFi Antenna Upgrade

Next I removed the King Dome Satellite dish and installed the WiFi Ranger and WeBoost antennas then did all the wiring for that.

I wanted to share that experience so there are 3 posts covering that process.  The first day the King Dome Satellite dish was removed.  Then it rained for a couple of days – but no worries!  Everything was sealed up.  Next I removed the access panel on the roof and mounted the two antennas.  Then Christine helped pull the new cables into the cabinet in the front of Lola after I pulled one of the old satellite cables out (with a string attached).  Last everything was wired up.

New Bedroom Blinds

Then Christine and I mounted 2 MCD Shades in our bedroom in Lola.  This was not easy!  My guess is that our valance is a little narrower than most because it took a full day to install the short shade.  When we tried to install the 2nd shade the roller assembly was defective and we had to request a new one.  Then it took a full day to install the 2nd shade – also because of challenges with the valance.   We would not do this ourselves next time.

Getting Ready to hit the road

We are working on two things for Lola now.  Replacing the water pump and charting a route to Florida – visiting some of the places Jeff’s relatives lived back in 1700’s and 1800’s.  We’ll be keeping you up to date on these as we hit the road again next week.  The cabin is getting a new garage floor, new siding in the back and several new windows!  Busy month.

St Lawrence Seaway Walk

After two days of rain the dogs and the Trippin’ Engles had cabin fever!  It was brisk and windy, but a great walk before I started attacking the water pump.


Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles


Canal Trails – a Twist on Rail Trails

Canal Trails are a Twist on Rail Trails

We wrote about Rail Trails a few posts ago (see Rail Trails).  Our dogs are all in the senior years.  Both the Black Lab and Yellow Lab can not go on very log walks.  While in Massachusetts we discovered Rail Trails, and when we stayed in Accord New York we found the Delaware and Hudson Canal trails.

New York Canals

New York is making a major effort to make many of these old canalways linear recreation parks just like the rail trails.  Some canalways are still active – such as the Erie Canal, and others have sections that are filled in – used by railways such as the Delaware and Hudson Canal that went from Pennsylvania to Kingston New York on the Hudson River.

Delaware & Hudson (D&H)

Canals made New York what it is today!  The canals brought coal and produce to New York City allowing it to compete with Philadelphia and Boston for seaport traffic.  We spent 3 weeks in Accord, New York and we were out on the Delaware & Hudson paths almost every day exploring different segments each time.  One walk out by Marbletown went by farms that were started in the 1600’s.  The Delaware & Hudson started migrating to using railways early on, running the first locomotive in the U.S. (for one day).  However, they went bankrupt and most of the canalways in the Accord area were taken over by the Ontario & Western railway.  It was a maze of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies over the years that make fascinating reading.


Erie Canal

Of course the Erie Canal is full of history, and is still an active canalway.  There are actually both ‘New’ and ‘Old’ canals.  In some places the canals were widened, leaving the smaller old canals intact.

Here the paths are along active canals where you can see boats traveling back and forth, making for great walks.

Find more information about Rail Trails at the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Our dogs and the Trippin’ Engles are enjoying the Railways and Canalways in New York and Massachusetts.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles.

Rail Trails

Rail Trails in Massachusetts and New York

Finding Rail Trails

We have spent two months exploring Massachusetts and New York.  While staying in Sturbridge Massachusetts we found the Grand Trunk (Titanic) Rail Trail with sections through Southbridge and Brimfield Massachusetts.  In searching for a place to walk our dogs we came across a website on Rail Trails run by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  Using that we found a number of Rail and Canal trails.


Our Rail Trails in Ma. and N.Y.

Here’s some pictures and a video on the old Railroad lines that are now walking, hiking and biking trails.  For the Catskills Scenic trail the paths are also used for snowmobiling during the winter.

We already did a post on the Grand Trunk (GT) Railway trail that goes by Westfield Dam that you can read here and our Sturbridge Ma. post here.  After staying in Sturbridge, we drove to Accord New York where we found the Catskills Scenic Trail.

Rail Trails are perfect for our older dogs because of the gradual climbs and descents.  Many have historical markers along with the trail guides that make it fun to learn about our country.

Happy Trails!



Breakneck Brook Gravel Pit

Breakneck Brook Gravel Pit

When you stay in one place longer than a few days, you can find quirky places to see. One of those is a small gravel pit along Breakneck Brook that we happened across. While it is an active gravel pit, it is rarely used so we are not interfering with anyone working.

It rains in the summer in Massachusetts. Almost every day. Sometimes more than once. This is hard to get used to coming from the ‘Left Coast’ where the foothills would get some lightning and maybe a little rain. Especially in dry California the only rain is usually during the winter months. When you add to that 90° temps and 70% to 90% humidity this California boy is having some issues getting used to this type of heat.

Yesterday we were walking the dogs at the Breakneck Brook Gravel Pit, trying to get in a walk before the rains started again when it started to rain. I’m talking about drops the size of peaches! Hail! Nope – just big drops. 2 hit me and drenched me. We should have known better since the thunder was rumbling and the clouds racing by! Especially Christine who grew up in Northern New York where this type of weather is the norm.

As we made our way out of the pit, we heard a Bang and saw a Flash – just about simultaneously. All 5 of us just about jumped out of our skins. We probably had at least 3 torrential downpours over the next 12 hours. Good thing our RV site drains well and is fairly high compared to the streams.

We have visited the ‘pits’ several times in the past few days and have taken some pictures of the wildflowers and old equipment. Here’s some to share.

Happy Trails From the Trippin’ Engles

Wells State Park – Southbridge Massachusettes

A visit to Wells State Park

Southbridge Massachusettes

Wells State Park is near Southbridge Massachusetts.  This was one of the first parks we visited looking for a dog-friendly park.

It has a nice set of trails that are set up for trail bikes and walkers.  There are ranger sessions to teach youngsters of all ages the basics of hiking – with some trails on the flat and others up some hills.

The park is heavily forested with 2 and 4 miles hiking loops.  There is camping available – so it would make a great place for a family with kids that want to bike in the forest.

On the down side is that it’s $5 for day use if you are a Massachusetts residence or $6 for non-residents.

Here’s some pictures taken at the park – click on a picture to enlarge it.