What We Did on our Summer Vacation


June, 2008

We've been terrible about keeping our web site current. Rather than bore you with all the details of the last eight months, I'll just begin with The Present.

We're workamping at the same national wildlife refuge we worked at last year, Crab Orchard NWR in Southern Illinois. If you've ever wondered, as we have, why the S in Southern is capitalized, here's why: the entire southern part of Illinois is the most scenic area in the state. Crab Orchard encompasses nearly 45,000 acres, and Shawnee National Forest, just to the south, is nearly six times bigger, at 268,400 acres. Plus, there are several state parks a short drive away.

Crab Orchard is near the midpoint of the Mississippi Flyway, and its primary reason for existence is to provide a winter feeding and resting area for Canada geese. They are very prolific and quite bold when their numbers swell (like right now, actually.) On the Refuge are six hiking trails and three lakes totaling more than 9,000 acres, so naturally, fishing is a year-round past-time.

Papa keeping a hold on Bobby (literally) while he tries out his first real "shishing pole."

Nearby, is a sizeable wine belt called the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail that includes more than 17 wineries. The closest one to us is less than 10 miles away. In our early days, we lived in St. Louis, 100 miles away. We had no idea that nirvana was so close. Not just the wine, but all of this Nature!

This year, we had our choice of where we wanted to work: either at the marina again, or at Devils Kitchen Campground. We chose the campground. It was closed all of last year, and scheduled to re-open again this year. After lots and lots of prep work of the large bathhouse, we're painting. With any luck, the campground will open 4th of July weekend. We will be the camp hosts of an 8-site primitive (tents only) campground and be responsible for keeping the bathhouse clean and the grass surrounding it mowed.

In exchange, we have a most enviable campsite with all the comforts of home (water, electric, and sewer.)

Our RV sits atop a bluff, surrounded on three sides by Devils Kitchen Lake. The view is the best we've ever had. There are eight small docks to accommodate the campers' boats, so the little Whaler will feel right at home.

It should come as no surprise that we see a LOT of wildlife here on the refuge. Still, I was so surprised to find this fragile creature under the RV the first morning we were here…

Prior to coming here in early May, we traveled south to Austin, Texas for our son, DJ's, wedding to Ariel. It was a beautiful event, and we were so proud of our new daughter-in-law for planning everything herself. For those of you who knew DJ when he was as young as 10, you might be shocked to know that he's 25 years old now and does technical support for Apple. (A chip off the old block.) Ariel is taking graphics design classes while working at Whole Foods full-time. We couldn't be more proud of them.

A big reason we returned to Crab Orchard is that it's only two hours from Kate's place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. We're close enough to babysit Bobby whenever Mama asks, and most of the time we meet halfway in Paducah (which has an excellent artists colony, by the way) for the hand-off. She needs our support, especially now that Steve is deployed to Afghanistan. They are expecting a baby girl in mid-September, and although Steve will be able to take leave and be home for the birth, he will have to return overseas. They are hoping and praying he will come home for good in early 2009.

Both of us are preparing to take the tests for our CDL (commercial driving license) thinking that may be of use some day. Since we're considered Florida residents, we chose a school near Jacksonville. There's a 2-part process: home study (33 lessons) and a three-week residency program. We anticipate doing the residency part in February, and afterwards head south to take in some spring training games. We hope we can visit all of our Florida friends along the way!

That's pretty much all that is happening with us. Life is never boring. Take care, All, and we hope to hear from YOU soon!

-Maria, Dave and Victor (woof!)