Not all who wander are lost.

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Headed South

The other day Jason and I were trying to remember a day when we both felt good at the same time and its been awhile.  Jason got sick with Bronchitis soon after we got to Colorado (in November) and it hung on forever.  Just as it seemed as though he was starting to feel a little better, I (the person who never gets sick) ended up coming down with this awful cold/flu thing just in time for Christmas and its been with me ever since.  We’ve had some days where we felt okay, and others where we felt like complete crud but it hardly gave us the motivation to update the blog or much else. We did have a couple good days we were able to get out and ride our bikes, only to be completely drained when we got back.  I wonder if we’re actually picking different illnesses up as we go along since we’ve been traveling so much.  I think we’ve finally turned the corner though and even though this cough seems to have taken up permanent residence in my lungs, we’re able to get out and enjoy the area a little more finally.  And feeling well or not, waking up to the blue skies of Florida and ocean just out our front window is far better in our minds than being so cold in Iowa. We’re hoping to get everything caught up within the next few days.

One of our first stops on the way here was in Nashville at a place called Redkite Bicycle Studio.  Ron, at Skunk River Cycles in Ames had located another Raleigh Sojourn and since we were headed southeast anyway, picking it up worked out perfectly and saved us a ton of money in shipping.  These guys are actually more into the racing aspect of biking but they had the bike we were looking for and they were getting all tweaked and ready to go when we walked in.  We were immediately greeted by Patrick and Shannon and the first order of business here is to share stories and get to know each other a bit over coffee or a beer, depending on the hour of the day.  We hung around for a little while talking about bikes and complaining about the frigid temperatures we’d just left.  I don’t know why they did it, but they only charged us cost for the bike.  In other words, these bikes usually cost around $1300.00 but they charged us only just over $700!  I don’t know if it was because we shared our story with them, or if they just wanted to get the bike out of the showroom but given some of the luck we’d had recently we were reminded that there are still some caring and decent people out there.  I don’t know if we’ll ever make it over there again but we would gladly spend our money there if we ever decided to add racing as one of our hobbies.

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We wanted to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit so we scoured TripAdvisor looking for something to see in the area. I gotta say, when you’re on the road an Iphone and TripAdvisor are the best thing there is when looking for something to do or somewhere to stay.  We stumbled across a place called Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama.  Its located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, which is the only Benedictine monastery of men in Alabama.  We stopped to pay admission and met Brother Christopher who shared the story with us.  On the site of a former quarry that was used by the Abbey,  the grotto was opened in 1934 to display the works of Brother Joseph Zoetl who came to the Abbey in 1892 where he spent his life in prayer and working in the powerhouse.  When he wasn’t shoveling coal, he was creating miniature replicas of famous buildings and churches from all parts of the world using stone, concrete and and other found or donated objects like broken plates, jewelry, seashells or the like.  They were built and installed along the hillsides of a 2 block pathway in the gardens of the monastery.  What I found amazing was that of all these 100’s of little buildings and structures he had only actually seen 6 of them in person. The rest were inspired by photos people had sent or just printed descriptions.  I couldn’t imagine how he was able to create these in such detail only using a written description.   He started his first structure 1912 and continued on even after a back injury caused him to have a haunch back and completed his last work in 1958 at age 80 which was miniature of Lourdes Basilica Church. The difference in his craftsmanship from his first work to his last is very distinct.   As we walked around we were completely overwhelmed with the sheer number of these things.  We could stand in front of a small portion of the hillside and look for a half hour and still not see every creation in the 4 foot section before us.

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Out of all them a couple of my favorites were Vatican City where you can see things like St Peters Basilica and The Colosseum just to the upper right..

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…and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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I loved finding this unexpected treasure along the highway in Alabama.  I find myself constantly drawn to the unusual, less publicized places that people have created with their own two hands for no reason but to share their passion of something for anyone who cares to go find it.  If you find yourself along I 65 near Cullman Alabama, take a break, get out of the car, and fork over the $4 and go see this place. Talk with Brother Christopher who will tell you the story about how the  F4 tornado of 2011 ripped through the city stopping only a block from the Abbey before it abruptly changed directions, or how the huge tree fell in the garden missing many of the structures in the grotto by inches proving to him that the Abby is a safe and sacred place.  Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop before you leave and pick up some Mystic Monk Coffee and some Strawberry Rhubarb preserves!

We arrived in Laguna Beach, FL which is right by Panama City Beach and we’ll be here through the end of January.  Even though we aren’t right on the beach, we can look out the window every morning and see it right across the street which is good enough for us.  After getting yelled at on our first day here by an old busy-body dude, we found out pretty early that most of the beach front here is dog UN-friendly but there is a dog beach just a few miles up the road.  After speaking with the locals we found that most of them take their dogs anyway. Yesterday we were feeling like rebels so we took them down for a little bit and luckily didn’t face an encounter with anyone else who chose to set us straight.  Jude loves the water and looked like a little kid trying to body surf.  Lucy….not so much. She ran like hell every time she heard a wave crash.  We’re hoping to extend our stay for a little while but haven’t decided how long or where we want to go.  All we know is that we aren’t ready for the bitter, nose hair freezing air in Iowa just yet.


A Walk in the Park

We spent a good portion of yesterday in much better spirits driving from Grand Junction, CO to our next stop.  We had the Rockies in our rear view mirror, the Sierra Nevadas in front of our windshield, and we were driving through everything in between.  It’s a beautiful drive!  As we drove through the vast areas of bare land, we were able to get a sense of what our country might have been like before it sprouted huge housing developments that led to the perceived need for Walmart, strip malls, and Starbucks.

We landed in St. George, Utah for a couple days which is in the SW Corner of the state not far from Arizona or Nevada.  We chose this spot so we could spend some time wandering around Zion National Park but as we were driving around running some quick errands we couldn’t help but notice this magnificent, white, structure that could be seen from pretty much everywhere in town.  We were pretty sure that this was a Mormon temple so we drove over for a closer look.  This thing was huge!  We saw a sign that said “Free Tours” so we went in to the Visitor Center to see what this was all about.  We were greeted by a very nice man who gave us a tour through the center and told us about the history of the Mormon settlers who were sent to St. George to grow cotton, grapes and harvest silk (which have since been replaced by more prosperous business)  We were pretty amazed when he talked about how the temple was built.  It’s crazy what the early settlers were able to do without the modern tools we have today.  I love to hear about the history of places and how they got their start.  We had the dogs in the car so we couldn’t stay long so we took our Book of Mormon and headed to the park.


If you’re in the area this park is a must see!  One of the little challenges that we deal with from time to time is traveling with our dogs.  Although we are finding the places are becoming much more accommodating, most of the national parks will not allow dogs on the trails at all.  At Zion, there is one very nice trail that will allow leashed dogs so we were able to get in a nice 3 1/2 mile hike.  Its difficult to describe the absolute awe of this place.  It’s a combination of mountains, streams, little pine tree forests, meadows, and wildlife.  Once deep into the park, we were surrounded by the red and white massive rock formations that almost gave us a feeling of being inside a building.  At times it was incredibly disorienting and we couldn’t get a sense of just how big these things are so we lost all perspective of size and distance and it eventually made us a little dizzy. We found ourselves about 20 feet from a female mule deer and her baby.  In Iowa the deer would have just run away but this mama decided she wanted to have a little stare-down with us as if to see which one would back away first.  As soon as she took one step toward us, she scared the hell out of me and we were perfectly happy to back up and leave her and the baby to continue munching on the vegetation below them.  I’ve apparently watched “When Animals Attack” one too many times.


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Overall, it was a really good day.  St. George is a really nice place and the people are very welcoming.  It would be nice to come back here and explore Zion National Park a little more and hike to some of those areas that we couldn’t go with the dogs but tomorrow we head out and will be spending the evening in Las Vegas.  The way our luck has gone lately, we aren’t staying anywhere near the strip and we aren’t going to put one cent in a slot machine!

Happy Thanksgiving

We would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers. We hope you all have a wonderful day. We will miss our friends and family back home. This will be our first Thanksgiving away from home. We are thankful that we will be spending the day with all of our kids but one (miss you Ben) at our oldest daughters place in Fort Collins, CO. We will be having a late dinner because a few of the kids have to work. This will give us a little more time to get dinner ready. The weather out here is suppose to be beautiful, temps in the lower 60’s with lots of sunshine.

New Technology Q&A Page

Those of you who know me, know I have been called the IT guy for a long time. For those of you who don’t, I have spent the last 15+ yrs setting up, repairing or managing information technology systems. We have just set up a new Technology Q&A page to help those of you who have technology questions or problems and need some help. I can also always be reached through our contact page. Although donations are not required they would be greatly appreciated. You will see a donate button on the bottom of both the Q&A and the Q&A Ask pages. There will also be a donate button on the bottom right hand side of all the other pages.

Just a quick update

We have finally thawed out:) We now have flowing water once again and was able to get  the tanks drained. Not only is that good news but there doesn’t seem to be any damage to anything due to the pipes freezing. The weather forecast is looking good with temperatures in the lower to mid 40’s for at least the next 8 days. We are planning on moving south after the Thanksgiving feast with the kids.

Status on our truck: We found an auto repair shop in Fort Collins that would charge us for labor only and we could purchase new part. So we purchased the new wheel hub assembly from NAPA and dropped the truck off yesterday and it should be done today. After reading all the forums and even talking to the repair shop we decide it would be better to replace the whole hub assembly rather than just the abs sensor itself. With the price of the new part and the cost of the labor from Campus Repair, it is over 100% cheaper than having the GMC dealer do the work. A 100%! That just seems crazy to me that the dealer is that much higher. So total cost for part and labor should be somewhere around $315.

Tomorrow we are going to be leaving Boyd Lake State Park and moving to Horsetooth Reservoir Campgrounds. We will stay there until we head south for the rest of the cold months.

GMC ABS sensor

Took our truck in to the GMC dealer today to have the brakes checked out. I had noticed that when applying the brakes at speeds between 5-10mph I could feel the ABS kick on. After combing the internet I had found that there is an ABS sensor in the wheel hub which is also call the wheel speed sensor and I guess they are known for going bad. You can purchase just the sensor for around $50. Which I didn’t think seem to bad. The GMC dealer called and confirmed what I had thought but also informed me that the entire wheel hub assembly needed to replaced and they won’t replace just sensor itself. I have read forums about pros and cons of replacing just the sensor and replacing the entire hub assembly. The dealers quote was around $750 per side. This seems very high. Monday I will call around to see if I can get a few more quotes. Hoping for a better price. If anyone else has had this problem I would love to know what you did. Did you replace just the sensor or replace the entire wheel hub and what was the cost?

Blog Update & Changes

We are making some changes and upgrades to our site. First, we have set up a new Facebook page called so now when we post it will feed this new Facebook page rather than feeding our personal Facebook pages. So if you haven’t liked our page yet please do.   Here is the link to our Outwandering Facebook Page. Jenny just pointed out that to get the Facebook notifications you will need to click Get Notification under the like button (see featured image on blog). If you can’t find it let me know and I can walk you through setting it up.  Next, I have set up a new photo gallery page and I am currently working on setting up an YouTube  channel. Hopefully coming soon we will be setting up an online fiber shop for Jenny’s creations. Also remember we are now Amazon Associates so if you are ordering from Amazon, please go through our site or bookmark our Amazon Link. You will know when you are on our associates page because it will have the amazon associates link bar. Every order placed through our associates page we will receive a small percentage of the order for advertising Amazon on our blog. I would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and support since we have set out on our new journey.