Home Safe In Ohio

The first image at the top of this post is of Sara and Kathy out on the side porch working on cutting material to be used in making masks.

It was a whirlwind February and March with our traveling in the coach from Arizona to Mexico for a couple weeks then back to Arizona by the end of February and by the first of March on over to Florida and ultimately up to Ohio (4800 miles total).

The Covid-19 virus put a screw in the works. When we left Arizona for Florida on March 2nd and traveled through New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama there were no precautions taken by us or anyone else that we knew for that matter … but that all changed shortly after we arrived at the Escapee RV Club Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell, Florida.

Our home base for 2 weeks in February (Bushnell, FL)

From then on we were still able to take the car to visit friends and family but hand-shakes and hugs were strictly a no-no. As time went on we were hearing rumblings of “stay-at-home” orders and the possibility of closing state borders to keep residents safe.

Our original plan included a 3 month “layover” in Sylva, North Carolina where we were scheduled to Workamp at Moonshine Creek Campground starting April 1st and running through the July 4th weekend.

Kathy was going to be working in the office greeting new arrivals, handling check-ins and taking reservations in addition to working in the camp store. This would mean she would be face-to-face with customers every day. I would be mostly outside taking care of the grounds, helping arriving RV’ers get parked along with being responsible for the daily cleaning of the bathrooms in addition to the new added task of 3x/day disinfecting of same.

As we started hearing reports of the virus and the precautions that different states were taking, we started to use Social Distancing as well. We did not go anywhere that there might have been a large crowd – Ooops – I just remembered. We DID go to Weeki-Wachee near Brooksville Florida to see the mermaid show. We went with our good friends Matt and Sherry on March 13th. They had just checked into the same park we were at in Bushnell while traveling from Tampa Florida to their newly acquired RV lot in Hondo Texas. Matt and Sherry had plans of a trip to Ireland in April but by now they knew that wasn’t going to happen.

You can click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image

From that point on however we were only with our friends or family and at all times with only 1 other couple at a time. We always kept our distance and washed our hands regularly.

We have always fulfilled our Workamping commitments in the past and felt badly that we needed to back out on this North Carolina job, but under the circumstances felt it best for us to cancel. With all the uncertainty, we didn’t want to get stuck anywhere if they did decide to try to limit travel and close any state lines.

After visiting my sister Marilynn and brother-in-law Rick in Jacksonville, we left Florida and as we traveled northward we stayed overnight at Elks lodges two nights along with one night in an RV park. In all cases, we never saw or interacted with anyone in person. The arrangements for our stay were made either by phone or online.

We are back in Ohio. Although we claim Texas as our domicile now, Ohio is home in our hearts. Our children and their families are here along with so many good friends we’ve made over the last 30+ years living in Mount Gilead. We’ve missed them all so much and now we’ll have (hopefully) plenty of opportunity later this summer to make up for lost time.

The coach is at our son and daughter-in-law’s home about a mile down the road while we are living up in the bunkhouse above the garage at our daughter and son-in-laws home just north of Mount Gilead, Ohio. We made it here late March and spent the first few days getting the bunkhouse organized for us to live in for the next few months. We took some of Sara & Stu’s belongings over to the coach (for storage) and brought other things from the coach over here.

It was kinda funny actually and a good thing that our home on wheels is parked only a mile away. We’d make a list of things to bring over here and drive over to David and Lisa’s place to get those items. Later that day we were already making another list of things we forgot to bring. This went on for at least 3 or 4 days! We’re blaming that on old age …

The Bunkhouse above the garage

In addition to working on the bunkhouse, we’re keeping busy here helping Stu and Sara with the annual spring chores. There’s always springtime tasks like; raking out the flower beds, picking up fallen sticks and branches from the many trees around the house, cutting the grass, and cutting and splitting firewood for the next winter season.

I enjoy doing these chores … I need the exercise and enjoy working outside (provided it’s over 50 degrees and sunny) and the kids can use the help.

Moving firewood over to the splitter
Kathy, grandson Garret, and Herb splitting and stacking firewood
One of my favorite pastimes

The first image at the top of this post is of Sara and Kathy out on the side porch working on cutting material to be used in making masks.

Stu is (thankfully) still working during this time. His physical rehab work at the nursing home is considered essential and so he is still working. Sara, who was driving a mini-bus for the county’s transit system has taken a lay-off. Their normal crew of 18 drivers has been cut down to only five for the remaining runs to medical needs that include dialysis and other essential services.

For years before we left Ohio and hit the road full time, we made a regular Friday night ritual of having dinner with 3 other couples of very close friends. Often we went out to a restaurant and occasionally we enjoyed each other’s company and dinner at one of our homes.

We were certainly looking forward to meeting up with our “Friday Night Gang” again when we eventually got back to Ohio after our North Carolina gig. This would have happened right after the July 4th weekend.

But in the meantime, we’re using ZOOM to meet virtually. We tried it Saturday night and it worked great! There are four couples and each of us had a corner of the screen and we could all see each other during the whole 40 minute meet-up. It was great and so much better than emailing, texting, or even talking individually on the phone. What made it so special and fun was that we could all see each other’s expression and body language just as it would be if we were around the dinner table from each other. And when any one of us said something funny, we could all laugh together! Although we couldn’t give and get hugs, it was wonderful to have that personal connection again. We’re making a date for 7:00 p.m. every Friday night from here on out until we can once again meet in person.

Here’s an example of what the ZOOM app looks like on your computer

So we are doing very well under the circumstances. We miss seeing our friends, we miss being able to come and go as we please. We are staying on the grounds here at Stu and Sara’s home as Sara is doing the grocery shopping. There are plenty of projects to keep me busy, although Stu is the one to stop at Home Depot or Lowes on his way home from work to pick up any materials or supplies we might need.

I was saying to Kathy just this morning … I want to go out for breakfast again … but that’ll have to wait.

What about you? How are you handling the situation we find ourselves in? What are you doing to occupy your time if you’re quarantined? Are you still able to work either from home or at your work location? If you’re working away from home what are you doing to stay safe?

That’s the main thing – stay safe by staying home if you can. Use a mask if you go out in public while maintaining the 6′ distance from others and then wash your hands as soon as you get home. Use hand sanitizer as soon as you get back in the car so you are not transferring anything from your hands to your steering wheel and ultimately back to your face.

We look forward to hearing from you.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Giving Back to Our Hosts

NOTE: This post was started about a week earlier but I ran out of data on my Mexican (Telcel) phone and so I no longer had a hot spot for wifi to my computer, so I’m finishing up this post while we are back at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande Arizona where my Visible phone service and hot spot (with no data cap) is working great.

Now, back to the story …

Yes, we’re really enjoying our visit to the Baja with our new Escapee friends. Although we’ve been members of the club about 5 years now, there’s no way you can get to know everybody as there are currently (I think) over 50,000 members nationwide.

The main entrance to La Jolla Beach Camp

To find out more about Chapter 8, visit their web site at this link. And here is the link to the Chapter 8 Facebook page.

And although Chapter 8 has been coming to Mexico for 37 years, the people that travel with them change from year to year. Some have been coming for years while others (like us) have made this their first trip with the chapter and very likely the first trip to Mexico. They don’t always travel to this side of the Baja. Sometimes it’s San Felipe, Rocky Pointe, or even Mexico City.

We’ve been given the opportunity to give back to the communities in which we stay. At our stay at the zoo in Guadalupe Valley we were offered reduced camping fees and free admittance to the zoo (even when they were closed to the public) and in return we helped the keepers in the care and feeding of the animals and their habitats.

We learned that the zoo was founded by Mr. Jiminez and his wife Perla as a service to the forgotten and abandoned animals and the children of the community. They wanted a place that all families could come and enjoy wholesome family time together not only to learn a little about the wildlife kingdom but also to enjoy some recreation together.

The Jiminez family also owned the Jersey Dairy and for many years the dairy supported the zoo financially. Recently the dairy was sold to another corporation and the zoo is now a stand-alone non-profit zoo. It still has Perla (Mrs.) Jiminez as Director and the family is still involved in the management and operation, but the funding is FAR below where it was just a few years ago.

As a result they are struggling to feed and care for the animals. A lot of their “residents” are brought to the zoo by the government that has confiscated these illegally owned animals at ports of entry. Although the government delivers the animals to the zoo to be cared for, they provide NO financial assistance for their care and can come and remove these same animals at any time. That’s a real frustration for the keepers.

We (Chapter 8) members will also help the zoo by ordering items from their Amazon Wish List and some of us brought items down and hand delivered these things to the keepers while we were there. The keepers here are much like our teachers back in the states in that they buy a lot of their own supplies to care for their “flock”. Many of the 13 employees at the zoo are single and are so attached that they think of the animals in their care as their “family”.

In case you are interested in seeing what sorts of things the keepers need – and maybe you’re even moved to help as well, you can check out the Amazon Wish List link here.

When we arrived here at La Jolla Beach Camp, our hosts the Pabloff Family introduced us to the need at a local “Grandparents House” about 10 miles away from our camp. Our Wagon-master and Charity Committee had previously arranged to have us form a work party and provide them with about 200 man hours work to insulate one of their new living units.

When we arrived on site we were introduced to the husband and wife team, Angelica and Nicholas (both pastors) who started this mission along with the help of Justin who’s family is doing mission work both at this home and another one a few miles down the road.

We arrive at the site about 10am and greet some of the residents who were waiting to meet us outside.
Justin gives us an overview of the home and the history of the Pastors and their work

It’s really a pretty remarkable story. Mrs. Pastor fourteen years ago found an old woman sitting on her front lawn. The lady looked to be alone and unfortunate so Angelica invited her into her home for lunch. They chatted and got to know each other. At the end of the lunch, Angelica told the lady she was welcome to return for lunch again the next day. The lady thanked her and asked if she could possibly bring a friend …. and so the beginning.

One friend led to another and another and another. Pretty soon Angelica was feeding 20 homeless old people on buckets and tree stumps in her front yard.

In Mexico there is very little money for programs like we have in the states and further these people that Angelica was meeting were mostly forgotten. They have no family that will admit to being related to them, they have little or no education, they have no way to travel, and they have not the knowledge or experience of how to ask for help. They are typically migrant farm workers who historically have lived the nomadic lifestyle traveling from farm to farm working in the fields and living on what little meager existence they can eek out with the wages their farmer pays.

Angelica knew there must be some public assistance available for these poor souls. She took one of them into a government office and introduced her as her grandmother. The agreed that Grandma qualified for a pension of $25 every other month. She then took another and introduced him as Grandfather. Then another and then another. You know what happened next … by the 5th time they knew something was up. She told the government agents the truth. They told Angelica that they were going to make a surprise visit to see for themselves.

When they arrived and saw what she was doing – unfortunately they couldn’t help financially with anything more than the $25 per person every other month. But the COULD provide her with a building close by where she could prepare and serve the meals. Soon after and still today, she and her volunteer helpers are serving meals to about 200 forgotten souls on a daily basis.

But she knew there was still more to be done. These people needed homes. They were living under sheets of cardboard under trees. The more fortunate ones had acquired plastic tarps to live under and were begging on the streets. These are sick and aged people in their 70’s and 80’s who could no longer do manual labor.

That’s where our new friend Miguel Pabloff comes in. Mike helped them obtain the land on which to start a small community of nice clean stick-built homes for these people. All the work and all the materials have been donated. Angelica and her husband Nickolas receive no government funding except the $25 previously mentioned.

We will be insulating the orange building. The purple and green buildings are completed and occupied with 5 residents in each building – each with their own room

Currently there are 15 residents and the Pastors do all the cooking, cleaning, bathing, activities and more. The do get volunteer help as well. The day we were there two student nurses came to check on all the residents and will be coming weekly for the next six months while they are still in school. Other volunteers come (unsolicited) from churches and neighborhoods in the area to help because they’ve heard of the unselfish work that Nicholas and Angelica are doing and want to help.

One of the 5 resident rooms in each of the finished buildings. Each resident has a bed, a chair, a toilet, sink, a small table, and a clothes closet

Although the resident rooms are very plain, we were told that to these folks, it’s a castle. Most of them had been living on the streets.

The rooms are spartan and very clean. There is one very large shower (to accommodate a wheelchair) in each building. When the residents want community or meals, they need to get over to the community dining room. Some are ambulatory with the help of canes or walkers while others need to be pushed along in wheelchairs.

The dining hall / community room where we ate beef quesadillas for lunch
The new kitchen under construction – currently Angelica prepares ALL the meals for the 15 residents and her own family on-site in her home

Remember, clicking on any of the thumbnail photo will open a larger picture so you can see more detail.

Our own Malcolm Russ entertained the residents with his violin and beautiful singing voice

The pictures in the gallery below show tables filled with donation items (food and clothing) for the Grandparents home and also to distribute to some of the less fortunate out in the country.

We collected (from ourselves) the donations and then on Saturday night we had an auction where we got lubed up with $2 Margaritas beforehand and then bid on items given by ourselves to our “other” selves. We raised about $4000 in the auction. This is just part of the monies that Chapter 8 will be giving back to four different Service Projects (charities) here in Baja California before we leave.

Thanks for riding along … More to come in our next post.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day 4 – More Zoo & Wine

This might be getting a bit repetitive, but it’s not getting old for us! This is so wonderful being able to get such a close-up interaction with the zoo animals and their caregivers.

Today we spent time with the Yellow Parrots, Pumas, Spider Monkeys, and Macaws. We helped to feed them and helped to clean their habitat — things that the keepers do every day. We also gave them enrichment toys – things that help to keep them curious and stimulated – not just bored & locked in a cage.

See the cart that Arturo (picture above) is pulling along the trail as we walk from exhibit to exhibit? They use carts (usually pulled by bicycles) to move tools and supplies around the zoo as they need them. In the states we would have the luxury of being supplied with motorized carts/trucks of some sort.

One of the groundskeepers emptying the trash receptacles in the morning

Arturo got one of the staff here at the zoo to take our wheel off and get the flat tire fixed and reinstalled. Service on-the-spot and only $300 pesos ($15 US) – Hooray!

Our flat tire got fixed by one of the staff

Later in the day we got to share some time with a new (3 month old) lion cub “Carlotta”. She’s very playful so she had to be watched very closely by both Stephanie and Antonio (keepers) because the wooden fence isn’t that tall and she can jump easily and quickly.

Keeper Carlos talked to us about the 4 different types of reptiles and introduced us to a few of the residents of the habitat he manages. Some were so uncomfortable they left the room or refused to come in to begin with, but most of us stayed and enjoyed Carlos’ informative presentation.

Late afternoon we all carpooled to L.A. Cetto Winery. We got a great tour of the operation led by our tour guide Adrian. He shared with us that this winery was started in 1928 here in Guadalupe Valley and it is the largest winery in all of Mexico. They manage and harvest about 3000 acres, having about 250 seasonal employees in the fields. The grapes are all hand picked and they produce over 1 million cases of wine annually. The (2) rooms of stainless steel fermenting tanks hold over 3 million liters of wine at a time. After fermentation the wine is transferred to the oak barrels where it stays for just a few and up to 65 years!

After the tour we all went up to the outdoor patio for the wine tasting and Tapas made by our own crew. Our caravan leader Ed Dennis graduated in culinary art from a Paris school years ago so he asked for volunteers from our group that could help him prepare our afternoon feast – It was fabulous!

There’s more to come …. we’re all heading out to a local Mexican restaurant tonight and tomorrow morning we will all say goodbye to our new friends at Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe Valley and head further south on the Baja Penninsula to La Jolla Beach Campground.

C’Mon Along!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day Three

Day three (Saturday February 15th) started out another beautiful sunny wonderful day in paradise. After breakfast in the coach – Kathy with her oatmeal and me with my scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onion, and a little potato mixed in – we headed on over with the others to the pavilion in the center of the zoo. Here we met with zoo biologists and keepers where we divided into four groups of 12 and then headed out for our “up close and personal” tours of the Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe.

Our tour group leaders (biologists, keepers, veterinarian, director)

This zoo was started dozens of years ago by the owner of the Jersey Dairy Company. He and his family created, managed, and funded the zoo. In recent times, this man passed away and as a result just this year the zoo no longer gets any funding from him or his family. The zoo is now a not-for-profit organization and relies on admission prices and donations to stay afloat. It became very clear to us during our tours that the employees of the zoo (11 employees total) are working here because of their love for the animals. This .. in many ways is their family.

The Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 “Mexican Connection” came here last year and again this year to not only be entertained but also to help out both physically and financially through our admission fees and our auction that will be held here later this week.

Antonio – Our tour guide for the day – 32 year old Zoo Biologist

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image.