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Parrottrek Journal 2006

September 8th - Hershey, Pennsylvania - Chocolate World -
Have you ever see the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Well minus the Umpa Loompas we have found that it really does exist. We took a tour of a mock chocolate factory, since the real one is closed to the public, and around every corner was a free sample of a different type of chocolate bar. We happened to be there at about 10:00 in the morning so I guess you would say we had chocolate for breakfast and lunch. Shhhhh! Don't tell our mothers, they would be terribly disappointed that we ruined our appetites with candy but I'd do it again in a heartbeat! It was quite fun to learn how a chocolate bar is born. There are so very many steps to it, from the singing cows that explain how the milk is added and quite an essential part. To the drying and rolling process as you can see below to the finished product which can be numerous different types of candy bars. By the end of the ride that takes you through the process as though you are a cocoa bean your quite the scholar of making and creating the perfect chocolate bar.

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After the ride, we boarded a trolley along with Kurt and Philly and  rode all around the town of Hershey. Their main streets are appropriately called Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Drive. The trolley took us past the Hershey Mansion and the Milton Hershey school, where after Mrs. Hershey's death in 1915, Milton Hershey started in her memory to help under privileged children since they weren't able to have any children of their own. The school has over 1500 hundred students from K through 12th. The students come from all over the United States and they are housed and cared for right here in Hershey. Every few blocks on the trolley ride they would again hand out candy. You can see below that even their light posts all around town are of the Hershey theme. They all are topped with a giant Hershey Kiss above the light. Some of them are wrapped Kisses and some are unwrapped. We had quite a fun time in chocolate town and learned more than we ever knew there was to learn about Hershey and the town in was started in.

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September 10th - East Earl, Pennsylvania - Happy Birthday to Frank!!
Amish country is gorgeous. We are parked in the middle of town on a slight hill and all you can see around us are Amish farms and fields and grain elevators. The countryside here is lush and green. In most cities and suburbs we are used to seeing rows and rows of homes all looking alike. Here in East Earl all you see is farmland and pretty views. Today we took a nice long motorcycle ride all around the neighboring towns. What really made today's ride nice is the fact that everything is closed here on Sundays since to the Amish it is still a day of rest. The streets were empty except for a few horse and buggies driving down the road full of families on their home from church. We had almost the entire town to ourselves. It was nice every so often to be behind a horse and buggy since it slowed us down and really gave us a chance to see all the views.

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September 11th -
Since yesterday was Frank's actual birthday, but as previously stated the entire town was closed, we all went out to dinner tonight instead. We went to Shady Maple which is a Smorgasbord where for a nominal fee you can eat all the Amish food that you can handle with some of the best desserts you've ever sunk your teeth into. To make things even better, they give you a free meal on your birthday so we ate like kings for half the price. Frank's birthday couldn't have come at a better time. Lucky for us since they are closed on Sundays they will honor your Sunday birthday the next evening. The best part of Frank's birthday was that our good friends Rick and LaVerne joined in the festivities with us along with their furry friends Kiki and Peaches. They just left Connecticut where they were work-camping for the summer at an RV Park. They now are on their way to Florida where they will work for EPCOT, but lucky for us they had just enough time to stop off in Pa for the night to join us for dinner. That's the best part of traveling friends, no matter what part of the country you are in they may be just around the corner to celebrate with you. Hopefully they will still be working at EPCOT in March when we are home for two weeks.

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Suzy,  Abbey and LaVerne catch up on each others adventures

Kiki and Peaches take a break from playing patty-cake with Cody's tail

Male bonding with Cody, Frank and Rick

September 16th - Reading Pennsylvania -
It has rained straight for the last four days. All day and all night, non stop! Hence, the race has been cancelled. Of course only moments after the race was called off, out came blue skies with lots of white fluffy clouds and a large orange warm thing that we hadn't seen in so long, we weren't quite sure what it was. Where the heck was this weather 24 hours ago? I used to love rain and enjoyed being in it, but now that it has such an impact on our work, my love for it is diminishing greatly! Grrrr!!! Last year when we worked this race it was sunny all weekend throughout the days and would rain all night. That was much nicer than rain 24 hours a day for days on end. We have earned even more respect for poor Noah, however he didn't have to attend and NHRA race, so maybe he had it a little better. On the other hand, I only have to share my house with one person, who I kinda like and three animals versus hundreds. Okay, so Noah wins! At least this way we had a head start on our drive to Texas which is only a mere 1,500 miles away. However once that race is done we have to  turn around and drive back here to, hopefully no longer rainy and wet PA the following weekend. At least it isn't too far out of our way to come back, since the next race will be in Richmond Virginia, only South of our current location. Even in the rain we are never at lack of an entertaining day, and perhaps one of the most entertaining days we've ever had while leaving a track. It was quite comical to watch all the people try and get their stuck motorhomes out of the quicksand style mud that we were all parked in. What was a beautiful green meadow on Tuesday when we parked, slowly turned into a mud pit with so much rain.  Frank, being the genius that he is, decided to park the rear of the motorhome, which is the heaviest part, and contains the drive axles, on a patch of solid ground. He did this on the off chance that we might have to drive out while it was raining and the ground was soft. So when it came time for us to leave the track, we drove out slow and easy and didn't get stuck in the mud at all. Did I mention that he is a genius?? However, please don't tell him I think so, because he's pretty darn proud of himself as is it. :-) Needless to say most of the other motorhomes didn't have solid ground anywhere around them, so they had no other choice than to park in the soft dirt and take their chances. A few of them made it out on their own by driving very slow and straight, but most of the motorhomes had too far to drive before they hit anything firm so the tires just sank. Lucky for all of them the track provided a bulldozer and driver to pull out those who needed help and the bulldozer had his work cut out for him. He worked from about 11 am until around 7pm or so that evening pulling out stuck motorhomes. Everyone had as good of an attitude about it as they could, since the bulldozer driver knew what he was doing, and was very quick about it. I got quite a few good shots of the mayhem and have decided never to take solid ground for granted. A few of the motorhomes were able to back out using plywood, again at suggestion of my non-egoed husband haa Haaa HAAAA!! Don't worry, he'll get over himself soon. After a few trips over the boards, they began to crack or were covered in so much mud it wasn't any better than the ground below them, so all the guys, including a few of the race car drivers, quickly began to search for new clean boards. If I had a video camera, we could have made some serious cash, but the pictures will have to do. Again, we never have a dull moment out here, and if laughing is as good of a weight loss program or stress release as it claims to be, I should weigh about 35 pounds by day break tomorrow, and always retain my sanity!

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Backing out didn't work too well for Larry and Jeanette

Dave pushed with all his might but didn't move Rick an inch  

Race car driver Cory Mac helped out

The bulldozer comes to the rescue

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The pretty meadow we started out with

What four days of rain and 50 motorhomes do to a pretty meadow full of grass

Butterflies in the tire marks left behind trying to dry their wings

September 19th - Driving down the Wendell H. Ford Kentucky Parkway, Kentucky -
We are driving past a beautiful area of Kentucky. There are rolling fields and horse ranches as far as you can see. Beyond the horse ranches is the Keeneland Horse Track. It's enormous and has very beautiful buildings. If we had more time to stick around this area we would have tried to catch a horse race, but time doesn't allow, so we will have to come back here again later in our traveling lives. Yesterday we drove through West Virginia and stopped at the most amazing rest stop we've ever seen. It was actually the state welcome center, and boy did it make you feel welcome. They had doughnuts and coffee in the office and every type of magazine for you to take and read. They had a great magazine that told you everything there was to do at every off-ramp all the way through West Virginia. Those too will have to wait until a later date but this sure is a pretty part of the country.  We even drove over the Continental Divide.

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The buildings of Keeneland  Racetrack

An enormous castle nestled in the hills

West Virginia's Welcome Center

The horse pastures of the racetrack

The most exciting and wonderful thing of the entire day however was once we drove into Missouri. What could be more rewarding to see than a beautiful horse pasture or a real life castle??? What's more fabulous than almost any other sight we have seen in the last year and a half you ask??? The answer? Diesel fuel at $2.37 per gallon! Yes folks, diesel fuel less than $2.50 per gallon is reason enough to throw a party. We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw the sign. In fact Frank turned off the freeway so quickly I think our bus was driving on it's side, on only four wheels instead of it's eight. It was a great day.

Saturday, September 23rd - Dallas, Texas - 4:00pm
A very dark and serious moment in the Budweiser racing world. We have had three qualifying rounds and as it stands we are not qualified to race tomorrow. The Budweiser racing team has never failed to qualify at an event, so hopes are high. There is so much riding on this race that stress is even higher. Where we stand in the points right now, we have a great chance of winning the 2006 Top Fuel Championship. The only thing stopping us is not going rounds on Sunday here in Dallas. No pressure though guys!!! Yikes, boy I sure am glad all we have to do is sell the T-shirts and not actually work on the car, I'd be even more nervous.

Saturday September 23rd - Dallas, Texas - 6:00pm
We're in we're in!!!! We get to race tomorrow. Hooray!!! Wow what an emotional roller coaster final qualifying was. A couple different teams in the top ten points category didn't make it in for tomorrow's race, so this will be very interesting. The points are so close between the top three guys in this bracket which makes these next five races a make it or break it issue for us. Tomorrow is sure to be an exciting day. Let's hope the Budweiser team makes in a few rounds.

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The car takes home another Wally

Brandon graciously hands Eddie the Wally and Eddie proudly show it to the crowd

A very proud Brandon

September 24th - The Winner's circle..... Yet Again!!!
Wow, even more excitement. The red team came from being not qualified to winning the whole darn race. Any race is exciting to win, but especially this one since it is in Texas, home of the Bernsteins and Eddie. It was nice to have a lot of family with the guys in the Winner's Circle.  This victory also puts Budweiser into the running for the championship this year. Kenny, Brandon's father and owner of the team, who used to race the Budweiser car before he retired won the championship in both Top Fuel and Funny Car in his career so it would be great to have Brandon join him in the field of champions. Well, we now get to drive back to Pennsylvania, let's hope and pray the sun stays out and the rain stays away. If it does rain out again they will have to cancel the race completely. They only give each race two shots and if they can't get them in in that time then they move on to the rest of the year. Good thing!

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Nothing like a road closure due to an NHRA race since the finish line crosses a public road... Yikes!

Hooray! The sun stayed out

Our meadow grew back quite nicely

October 1st - Reading Pennsylvania - Take two!!
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, and yes those are beautiful white fluffy clouds. It's a gorgeous clear day here in Reading. The sun is out and the temperature is perfect. It rained all last night and we had heard that the rain wasn't going to stop for four long days. Hooray! The weatherman was wrong!!! No rain after Saturday and no hail at all, Yikes! One newscast said large hail is to be expected. We had a great camping area in a field with a fairly solid ground and beautiful trees all around us. This is a great time to be here on the East Coast. All of the leaves are turning colors. Being from good old California we never see this, but if you look close in the below pictures you can see all the trees with dozens of different shades of green and yellow and burgundy as the leaves turn for the Fall. There were still a zillion butterflies all around as well. We even had one hang out with us in our trailer for awhile. There wasn't too much traffic since the road was closed just above us. As you can see they had barricades up warning on coming traffic that you might just get T-boned by a speeding Funny Car impacting you at about 330 miles an hour. Luckily the Funny Car has parachutes to stop him, unlike the oncoming traffic. We were thrilled to get the entire race in and move on to the next one. Unfortunately there was no Wally happy ending this weekend... ... ... maybe in Richmond.

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Can you see all the colors in the trees?

Let's go in for a closer look!

Our mascot of the weekend

October 2nd - Lancaster, Pennsylvania - The Heart of Amish Country -
What started as an idyllic day in Amish Country turned into a horrible nightmare for the small neighboring towns. Yesterday, as we drove through Lancaster and East Earl, back to Shady Maple for one last trip to the wonderful Amish grocery store and restaurant, you could see all the houses with their laundry hanging out to dry and children playing in the playgrounds of their schools. It truly was picturesque. As we were grocery shopping this morning we heard the terrible news that just 10 miles up the road from us, a small one room school house was overtaken by a crazed man. I was in tears when we heard at the end of the ordeal 3 little girls were dead as well as the man that took their sweet lives. Eight other little girls were injured during the incident, with three of them in intensive care. As I was checking out of the grocery side of Shady Maple, I notices a group of Amish employees sobbing as they exited a back room and then the store. Over hearing a few of the cashiers and baggers, I asked what had happened. After hearing the explanation and learning that two of the employees had family members attending the school, my hearts went out to them and I almost left the store without my bags of what at that moment seemed to be useless items in regards to the lives lost. The following morning we heard that two of the three girls in critical care had indeed passed away throughout the night, one being removed from life support as the third was still in very grave danger. As we left town you could see the Amish walking around clothed in black and a wagon resembling a hearse that is used in the funeral procession passed by. It was a very sad day and grew sadder as we found out the horrid details of the man's intentions. Please say a prayer for the families of these girls. One family lost two of their daughters in the shootings and another lost one daughter and has another in critical care. Only God knows why something like this would happen. We're sure you have all heard about it on the news or read it in your local newspapers, but to be here in the town when it occurred affecting people in the store to such a degree and to see how beautiful it is here and how they all live as free from the modern world as they can, makes it hit home that much more. They try so hard to remove themselves from the outside world, and then to have it attack them in such a way is devastating. There was such a different feel as we drove out of town today then there was just yesterday. In one article we read, a man who spoke for the Amish community said that they are devastated by this and very saddened by the events of the day, but they are not angry. God has his hand in everything, and it is for them to forgive, pick up the pieces and see what God has in store for them next. They know the little ones are better off where they are, but they will be missed greatly. The women of Lancaster even brought food to the widow of the man that caused this. We know the widow is by no means to blame for anything that took place, in fact she has small children of her own, but it makes you realize what forgiveness people can have.

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A small one room schoolhouse nearby,still with happy children

The actual schoolhouse where the tragedy happened

An Amish hearse passed us on the road

Wow, what a shot. It shows that God is still with all these grieving people

October 7th - Richmond, Virginia -
Surprise, surprise it's raining again here in Fall on the East Coast, so yes once again they have had to cancel our fun-filled race weekend. No worries though, we have decided to take full advantage of the next week off and once again play tourist. Tomorrow we will head to Washington D.C. and see all we can. The track here is letting all of us stay for the week, and it's a beautiful track, so we can't complain about free camping and pretty views. This evening we went to dinner in town and then bowling with a group of friends. It was quite comical. Chris and Maria were there along with Darren, Stacey and Eddie (one of our co-workers for next year) Granted, none of us are exceptional bowlers but Maria was hilarious. She would run up to the lane and then at the last second just drop the ball on the lane. Each time it would make this horrid noise and we all thought that the wood would break at any moment. On one turn, she somehow  lobbed the ball off of our lane, into the wall, off the wall and then into the lane next to us. Luckily our neighbor bowlers were also from the NHRA so we were a bit safe. However they are much better bowlers than our side, hence we were split up accordingly. They were all on their last round. If you don't know much about bowling, this is the round where you get three shots instead of the two regular shots per round. This is the time were you are supposed to score somewhere around 100 points on this round alone. I, personally, have never gotten more than two strikes in any game, let alone one round, but apparently it can be done. Mark, a very serious guy to start with, was up on their side and on his first of three shots. He was deep in thought, according to the trial transcripts, so having Maria's ball cruise down his lane, in his gutter, broke his concentration, of course having all of us burst into hysterical laughter might have added to the distraction. Poor Mark. Quickly thinking, Frank pushed the button to have the little guy from behind the scenes come out, explained to him what happened and assured him that no damage was done. 10 minutes later the ball was recovered and Mark's game was reset to bowl his three frames. No, he didn't get three strikes, so we did have to tease him about that since before his game was reset, he was sure that he was going to. We played two games each and called it a night. The ending scores on our side? Chris = 125 Darren = 120 Suzy = 106 Frank = 105 Stacey = 98 Maria = 43, but she kept us entertained all night with her nearly overhand throws. None of us looked too closely due to the fact that we were all pretty sure we might find a few pieces of broken wood on the lane, or should I say lanes. Have I mentioned lately just how much fun we have out here? And rarely do we find a dull moment!

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The guys try and figure out how to reverse Maria's overhand gutter-ball error

Maria tries to woo bowling secrets out of Chris

Where's your game face Frank?

Hooray! Suzy get a strike and helps raise the girls score!

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Arlington National Cemetery

All the monuments were a site to see

The Ford Theatre where Kennedy was shot

The Capitol building

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October 8th - Washington D.C. -
Today's transportation was a fun little red trolley. It picked us up about 100 feet from our car and took us by each of the sites to see in Washington D.C. We started out being the only four people on the trolley, so our driver stopped everywhere we wanted to go and get out to take pictures. It was great having our own personal tour guide of the city. However, we soon realized that in order to get off for longer than our trolley could wait for us, we had to have ticket to get back on another trolley. Since we wanted to visit the air and Space Museum, that was three stops before the location to buy tickets, we were in a bit of a dilemma. Overhearing our predicament, our friendly trolley driver informed us that the trolleys don't run late enough for us to skip the Air and Space Museum, buy tickets, get back on and see it our second loop

Ready for our trolley tour of D.C.

Instead, he offered to drop us off and pick us up in two hours. Quickly thinking, we decided to take him up on his offer and get off the trolley to explore. It was a good decision and an awesome place. They still had same moon rock that I touched 20 years ago when I came here with my 8th grade class. It was almost like going back in time and reliving it. This time however I did appreciate it a bit more. They had Space Ship One from the X Prize hanging from the ceiling which was indescribable to see. Frank followed that experiment closely and we have all the documentaries on it. It's amazing to think what man can do without the governments help, well heck, we are living proof of that. They also had the Wright Brother's 'Flyer' down from the ceiling on display for all to see. This is the first and only time it will be out of it's regular position in the Smithsonian since 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of their first flight. It will return to the entry ceiling of the Museum in December, apparently they are a little behind since last I checked it's 2006. We safely made it back on our trolley and continued our city tour which included Grand Central Station and beyond.

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The Wright brother's Flyer

Apollo 11's return capsule with burn marks still visible from re-entry

Spaceship One and private enterprise reach the stars with one man's dream

Reenacting the first steps on the moon

October 11th - Playing Tourists -
We have done about all one can do in the last three days. We finished up our tour of Washington D.C. with a walking tour around the White House and a few of the other sights. Most of the roads are closed off to cars around the White House, but you can still walk up to the perimeter fence and get a nice view of the President's home If you look really close, you can see all the snipers that are placed on the roof of the White House and various buildings around. It was a bit of an odd feeling at first, but then you realize they are there to protect. I thought it would be nice to get a closer shot of them and the White House, but after taking bets on how quick they would be on Frank if he jumped over the fence and realizing that he would have about a 5 second life span at the most after that move, we decided that the pictures we had would have to be enough. Keeping Frank around is much better than the perfect picture of the President's home, even though it would have made for an exciting story. The flags around Washington D.C. are mostly at half staff due to Remembrance Day, which is for all the fallen firefighters from 9/11.  Everywhere we went around the city you could always catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument. It was as though it was keeping a watchful eye over us. The tickets to go to the top were sold out by the time we got there, but there's always next year. We figure we have to save a few adventures for our next trip around the country. We arrived at the White House's North Lawn at sunset, which made for a very pretty scene with all the lights.

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The South lawn of the White House

Snipers on the roof

The always visible Washington Monument

The sun sets over the North lawn

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October 13th - Colonial Williamsburg -
We took a nice motorcycle ride today and visited Colonial Williamsburg. Back in Junior High our school took a trip over here to the East Coast for ten days and visited all these places so they are a bit familiar and yet they seem so different at the same time. I guess being older I appreciate the history lessons a bit more then I did back then. It's also nicer to plan your own trips and see what we want instead of being led around by a teacher. One fun thing we did that we couldn't have done back in 8th grade was we stopped for an old English Draft beer at Raleigh's Tavern and watched a reenactment of the early days of the Revolutionary War. Frank's favorite part was a huge two story toy store that had every type of interactive toy imaginable. There were about a dozen that we had never seen before, but they were a blast to figure out.

Suzy stands at the Guardhouse

We could have spent the entire day in there. Either that or go broke buying them all to play later. After dragging Frank out, we roamed through all sorts of colonial homes and guardhouses and finally headed home when the town crier announced Williamsburg was closing. We passed all sorts of cotton fields and huge plantations as we left and will have to explore those next year along with Jamestown and Yorktown which were just up the road.

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An old horse drawn carriage

The fun, enormous toy store

Fields of cotton

A restored colonial house

New shoes anyone???

October 19th - Dallas Texas - Happy Birthday to Suzy-
Today we had a great history lesson. We spent the day at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza. It is in the old Texas School Book Depository where the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald sat on November 22nd 1963 and took the life of President John F. Kennedy. We have both seen numerous movies and documentaries on the assassination of JFK and seen it relived so many times, but to look out the window and walk down the street where it was said to of taken place made it seem so much more real than reading it in history class, especially since it was quite a few years before our time. We were able to see the window that Oswald sat in recreated to how it was that day with boxes of schoolbooks all around the alleged assassin's perch. It of course was blocked off by glass to preserve the museum, but we were able to look at the view down to the plaza and Grassy Knoll from another window just a mere 6 feet away. We weren't supposed to take pictures, but how could we leave without sharing it with you? We walked up and down the plaza about a dozen times imagining what it must have been like to be there that day. They have X's marked on the road from where the bullets began to where they ended. We sat at the Grassy Knoll where hundreds of Americans stood that fateful day. It is still a very active road, so to see cars driving down it you can imagine one of them carrying JFK.

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The view from the 6th floor window

A view of the Grassy Knoll

Overgrown trees would now block his view

The window where they claim Oswald sat that fateful day

If you look close at the pictures you can see the X's on the road, and you can also see all the boxes of books stacked around the window where they found Oswald's finger prints and shell casings. A stairway on the other side of the room is where they found the rifle that was allegedly used. Eye witnesses also claimed that shots were fired from the Grassy Knoll (as it was nicknamed by a reporter moments after the shooting) but no evidence was ever found to verify that. With all the conspiracy theories that are out there we will never know what happened. The museum is laid out to represent all of JFK's presidency, but the day of the assassination the events that followed are laid out on an enormous time line with almost minute by minute details. We sure did learn a lot.After our tour of the Museum and Plaza, we went to lunch at a great restaurant called Antennas. It is in the middle of the city, at the top of a 55 story building and it revolves a complete 360 degrees while you are enjoying your meal, so you can see the entire city in 55 minutes. It was a perfect day for it. It had rained a bit the night before so the sky was clean and clear with just a few white fluffy clouds. We could see for miles and miles. They had a little book that went along with the revolution that pointed out all the sights to be seen, and above the windows was printed which direction we were facing. We again could see the Plaza below us, and even the Dallas Cowboys Stadium off in the distance. Since it took almost an hour to make the rotation you could hardly tell you were moving. It was the perfect birthday lunch and the best way to see the city, not to mention a fun glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion.

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Antennas as it stands over the city

The beautiful views from the top, along with the cutest little Ketchup bottles for your fries. We even took a couple home as souvenirs

After lunch we relaxed on the Grassy Knoll

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A Surprise Birthday Present -
The best kind to get. As you all know we had a disastrous crash with Suzy's laptop a bit ago and we have been using an external screen ever since, but today we received an upgrade. Suzy's fabulous parents arranged for her to get a new, and might we add much quicker than the last, computer. It has a very large hard drive and lots of memory (good for holding a web page with lots of pictures) A faster processor and great photo enhancement software (helpful in fine tuning those web page pictures) It's all around wonderful and best of all, the screen works! Thanks guys! We love it. What used to take 45 minutes to load and publish to the web page now takes about 10 minutes, and it's very sleek with lots of fun blue

lights and a remote control for watching movies on it or listening to CD's or music online. We could even make and burn our own home movies if we were so inspired to do so. Maybe someday we will create the home video version of "Frank and Suzy's Adventures on the Road" Everything from the old computer is now on the new one and we are back in the world of portable computer work. It's so nice to be able to sit outside and be on the computer.

October 23rd - Las Vegas, Nevada -
We have had a great weekend with Chris, Karolyn, Mike, Elena and the whole gang and extended family here in Las Vegas. It started with a wine party at Chris and Karolyn's Saturday night with a group of friends. Chris and Karolyn have a huge wine closet that they are slowly trying to empty out so the six of us helped out best we could. Sunday was Leona's birthday (Karolyn's mom) so we had a bar-b-que to celebrate and watched the World Series. Just to show you how non-sports literate we are I think that was the first baseball game either Frank or I have watched this year. After the game we soaked in the wonderful jacuzzi, which we both missed greatly. Monday was a relaxing day. Frank washed and waxed the bus (yes that is relaxing for him and something we loves to do) while Suzy and Abbey and Dudley (Chris and Karolyn's adorable Basset Hound) played lazy and watched the Law and Order Marathon that was going on that day. Monday night, a big group of us went to Elena and Mike's house for dinner. Elena makes the most fabulous homemade spaghetti sauce. Yes she is 100% Italian and the sauce is straight from Italian heaven passed down to her family. She served it on Halloween plates with Vampire wine from Transylvania. It was a fun and festive Halloween themed dinner and none of us had to dress up. After dinner we watched Monday Night Football. It was fun to watch since they were playing at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium and we had just been there in Dallas and seen the stadium from both the ground and the sky, even though Dallas lost.

October 31st - Happy Halloween!!!!!
Frank has headed back to California to settle in there while I stay here in Vegas for a couple extra days for our annual all-girls Christmas shopping trip. Each year we change the location of the mall we shop at, and this year Las Vegas won as our destination. While waiting for the ladies to drive in from Santa Barbara, I stayed with Chris, Karolyn and Dudley and celebrated Halloween in style. Karolyn and I carved pumpkins to dress up the house and later this evening we handed out candy to all of the little ghosts and goblins and Thomas the Tank Engines of the neighborhood and had quite a bit of fun doing so.

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Karolyn and Suzy carved the pumpkins... ...

... ... Dudley dressed up ... ...

and Chris handed out the candy

November 7th - Pomona, California -
The shopping trip was a complete success. We are officially ready for the holiday season to start. To keep with the exciting news, the last race of the year is here. While Suzy was gone on her shopping trip, Frank entertained himself by buying a guitar and teaching himself how to play. He has gotten pretty good in the few days of practice and you can already hear the notes coming together. By the time Christmas comes he'll have a few carols down for singing around the tree. The birds like to listen to him play. Cody even strums the guitar with him. Santa may have to bring Frank a few more strings for Christmas though.

November 13th -
It's exciting to be done and head home for a few weeks, but it's sad to have to say goodbye to all our friends out here. On the bright side??? This weekend was the last time we had to hook up the trailer to the bus and tow it anywhere. Frank is ecstatic! No more greasy hitch, no more lining up the bus in order to get the 2 inch ball under the hitch. No more 13,000lbs to carrying around the country. We had our Jeep this weekend at the racetrack and we are already getting spoiled being able to drive wherever we want with the heater on instead of a helmet and four sweat shirts. We had to pack up all the merchandise in the trailer last night and boy was that a project. It's amazing how much stuff these things can haul.. ... and yet even more exciting to know we will never have to do it again! Hooray!

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Frank's last time hooking up the trailer

The last time you'll see this set-up

Emptying out the Bud trailer

Bradley sings as Frank plays

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Such a happy baby

I'm ready for my party

Her daddy had just as much fun opening the gifts as she did

Have you ever seen a cuter smile?

November 18th - Happy Birthday to Madison -
Sweet little Madison turns one. We all gathered at Tim and Sharon and Madison's house to celebrate her big day. Madison had just as much fun opening the presents and playing with all the paper and ribbons than she did with the actual gifts inside. Her little face lit up every time someone put a new gift in front of her. Then came time for cake. She was quite cute with it. She ate all of the frosting off it and proceeded to get more around her sweet little face than she did in her mouth. I guess everyone deserves their own little birthday cake on their first birthday. You should have seen how entertained the adults were by watching the activities of little Madison. Have you ever noticed how the smartest adults you know turn into morons around infants? Not a bad thing, just interesting to see.

November 20th -
This is Max. Isn't he darling?? Max is a three month old baby African Grey. He is going to be the newest member of the family. No, not our "bus family" but our extended family.  Max is Abbey, Bradley and Cody's newest cousin. He will soon be leaving the confines of the pet store and move in with Sean, Frank's cousin, and Liberty who is a Blue and Gold Macaw and has been with Sean for a few years now. Liberty is soon to be Max's big sister. Seeing Max brings back memories of our first days with each of our birds in their sweet newborn days. There isn't anything like the first few months of a newborn bid handed to you where you have to teach them how to stand and sleep on a perch, open peanuts without destroying the nut inside and drink water out of a bowl. Little birds are as much as I think little people might be.

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However I have never had the desire to have a little new person around me as much as I love a fresh new little sweet smelling parrot. Hopefully next week, right after Thanksgiving, we will get to meet Max in person and hopefully kiss him all over. You can tell Max is young just by looking at his eyes. African Grey's start out with all black eyes, soon after they hatch. Over the years to outer black slowly turns white with age and the large black pupil fades.

November 23rd - Happy Thanksgiving!!!! - Tustin, California -
We hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We spent Thanksgiving day with family down in Tustin, California. We had lots and lots of turkey with all the trimmings, in fact we had Thanksgiving twice. We had lunch around 1pm and after lounging around and catching up with everyone on the last years adventures we had another turkey feast for dinner. I am a firm believer that one can never have too many Thanksgiving meals, especially the pie part. Yum!!

November 24th - Dumont Dunes -

<- This is a Sand Car! It is a high performance vehicle with amazing suspension and roughly 420 horsepower with paddle tires that enables you to travel at very rapid speeds over the rough terrain of sand dunes and feel as though you are riding on a cloud. It holds up to four people, and has five point harnesses to hold it's occupants safely inside the car as you ride.

<- This is a sand dune. They all have different shapes. Some are flat at the top while others end with a hill on the other side. The flat ones are fun to get a bit of air at the top, where the ones that end with a hill on the other side are fun to go down since at times you can get weightless for a second or two. Some are quite steep while others are a bit more mild for beginners, but all are fun!

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So what happens when the two above objects meet????  Please look below for the answers. However one word of caution before scrolling down!!!!     

Objects in pictures are traveling faster than they appear.

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This weekends adventures brought new meaning and quite a bit of understanding we must say to the phrase - Get in, sit down, strap in and hold on, or should I say SCCRREEAAMM!! But boy did we have a great time. We first tried all the jumps with four of us it the car. John and Andrea, Frank and Suzy. Then deciding that less weight would cause the car to go higher and further, Frank and Andrea got out and John and I went for a few laps. We definitely got a bit higher, and went quite a bit further. In fact on a couple of the jumps we traveled about 8 - 10 feet high and about 20 feet in distance. It was like having your own personal roller coaster, however much smoother and a lot longer.   It was amazing how soft all of the landings were, and just how rough the sand was. We knew this because Frank and I had to drive back to our motorhome each night across the dunes in the Jeep and the ride was rather bumpy. There were a few places that the sand was flat without dunes, so John tested out the speed factor of the Sand Car and got it up to 95.5mph. Not quite as fast as the Top Fuel Dragster, but fast enough for us. We spent the entire weekend here in Dumont which was a perfect halfway point to Vegas where we will go for the Rodeo.

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Hmmm! We seem to be missing a couple passengers

The view of the campground from the top of a dune. Boy those motorhomes look small

A shot from inside the Sand Car. You can't get a better view than here

Competition Hill, the steepest dune at Dumont

November 28th - Las Vegas, Nevada -
Viva Las Vegas!!!! Yes we are back in our home away from home!!! We have spent a bit of time relaxing since we got here and are soon to be in full swing of the 48th Annual National Rodeo Finals - which translates to the best two weeks of the year insofar as working. We work from 9:30 until 5:15 and then have the rest of the night off!!! We will try and attend the actual Rodeo a night or two, spend some time with friends, hang out in the Jacuzzi, have a party or two and pretty much have a fabulous time until the 48th National Finals Rodeo comes to a close. Stay tuned for the fun and wonderfully festive 10+ days of activities!!! Trust us y'all (as they say here at the rodeo) this here event may want ya'll to leave all of regular life behind and join in on the Cowboy Style fun we are about to embark on here at the rodeo!!!!  :-)

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Roping a cow isn't as easy as it looks

Chris and Karolyn, our gracious hosts

Frank enjoying a Texas sized burger

A man and a cow... wrestling

December 7th - Thomas and Mack Arena - The eighth evening of Rodeo competition -
Tonight was wonderful. We spent it watching the rodeo from the Cox Communications suite, compliments of Karolyn. They were the most amazing seats in the place. We did watch the rodeo a few nights ago in some seats that were given to us from a customer but this evenings Boxed Seats were much better. Thanks again Karolyn for sharing your party with us. We have included a few pictures below and above to help explain the various events. I do apologize for the slight blur in the pictures, but with animals and men moving so quickly and my little camera on the longest zoom I did my very best to capture as many moments as I could. The Steer Wrestling (above) is where the cowboy starts out on his horse, chases down the steer, leaps off of his horse onto the steer and then does his  very dragnets to wrestle that steer to the ground pretty much by twisting the steer's horns. Yes, most of the time the cowboy does win, but every so often there is a quick moving steer that gets away from the cowboy. Even if the steer doesn't get away, the cowboy can still loose if it takes him too long to pin the steer down. The pictures in the middle show a bit of our fun suite that we had for the evening and our wonderful host. As you can also see above Frank took full advantage of the dinner buffet provided for us

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The next sports are a bit similar. One is Bareback Riding and the other is Saddle Bronc. As you can tell by the title of the sports the main difference between them is that in one the cowboy has a saddle to sit in and the other he does not. One similarity they do have is that none of these horses are broken, and at the end of the evening a few of the cowboys are. Please keep in mind the saddle is about the size of an 81/2 by 11 piece of leather so again, not a big difference. Other than that the theory is the same. The cowboy must stay on the animal for at least 8 seconds and is only allowed to hold on by one hand. Hmmmm! Since neither of these are anywhere on the list of things I want to do before I die, I can safely say I will die a happy woman without ever attempting either sport.

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Next on the agenda are the two sports where if I were a betting person I would put money down on the little calf. The first three pictures show the Calf Roping. Again, a fairly self-explanatory sport. The cowboy again starts out on his horse with a rope in his hands and one in his teeth. He first tries to lasso the little calf with the rope in his hand as quickly as he can. After successfully roping the calf he leaps off of the horse, runs over to the calf, throws him on the ground and then takes the rope in his mouth and ties three of the calf's legs together. Once this is completed he returns to his horse, gets back and has the wait somewhere around 10 seconds to make sure that the calf doesn't get out of the rope that has been tied to three of his feet. The cowboy only has 23 seconds to complete this or he is disqualified. We saw some cowboys take only 3.7 seconds while others chased the calf around as long as he could but never roped it. These poor little calves must think they are about to when a big horse and cowboy are chasing them down, especially when they are laying on the ground tied up. The last picture of the above sequence, shows the Team Roping. One man is the Header, which means he goes first. Once the calf is released from the pen he must chase the calf and lasso the horns, or head, of the calf. Once this has been done successfully, the other man, known as the Healer, comes from behind and lassos the back feet of the calf. The Healer must get both feet in the lasso and held together otherwise they are penalized 5 seconds if only one leg is caught. Again they have 23 seconds to finish and the team with the best and shortest time wins the cash. We're not sure why, but this sport doesn't look quite as hard on the calf as the Calf Roping does. Perhaps because the Calf Roping the little calf is actually pulled off of his feet in the roping process.

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A graceful Barrel Racer turns and burns

It takes 3 men to secure the bull

8 seconds to victory

The courageous bull fighter lure the bull away from the cowboy

The one safe and fairly happy animal activity of the evening was the Barrel Racers. This of course is also the token girl event of the evening. Not that it isn't a bit tricky, but I ask, why not let the girls get involved with the Team Roping or Bareback Riding. Hey if the boys can do it can't we do it even better??? We ladies are usually a bit more coordinated and a bit more flexible than the boys, however when it comes to brain power we of course again win and therefore are a bit too smart to get on the crazy beasts. :-) This brings us to the final sport of the evening. The Grand PooBaah of all events. The Bull Riding. It is an amazing thing to watch. I love it because the bull usually wins by throwing the cowboy off, and the fans love it because whether the cowboy holds on over 8 seconds or not it is always entertaining to see how the cowboy gets off the bull. The cowboy either leaps off the bull onto another horse being ridden by a very brave soul who gets close enough to the bull to rescue the rider, after the 8 seconds has elapsed and the cowboy is victorious, or the cowboy is thrown from the bull while two of three men a little shorter than the bull try to get the attention of the bull off of his rider and on to them. Now let's think about that for a moment. How smart must one be to purposely cause this very angry bull to chase them. A few years back these men were called Rodeo Clowns, but apparently they felt a bit unappreciated and thought this title didn't exude exactly what it is that they do professionally, so they are now called Bull Fighters. A much more appropriate name, and it doesn't leave any confusion of what their task includes. The saddest part of the evening is when it is over and the excitement ends. The Rodeo is by far one of the best shows we have been to and we recommend it to anyone who is in the vicinity of any type of rodeo. Whether you cheer for the cowboy, the cowgirl or the animals, you will not be let down for an evening of thrills and excitement. Next year you will all have to come to Vegas and witness it for yourself. But buy tickets early because they do sell out!!

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