Friday, May 19, 2017

Spring in New Jersey

Well, it looks like we will be here until June 7-ish.  One of our priorities for our visit was getting eye exams and new glasses.  Once I order my glasses this week it could be up to 14 days until they're ready.  

What else?  The new-to-us Tundra has had a touchy accelerator and thanks to Michael's research and a call to a local Toyota dealership, we learned there's an open recall for the accelerator.  So, the truck goes into their service department this week, plus back to the original Kia dealership for installation of a part that went bad related to the fuel system.  After this, the truck will be 100%.

We had a great day recently visiting with close friends, Billie and Allen.  Allen is a nationally known mentor of purple martin landlords, individuals who monitor these beautiful birds at their colonial nesting sites.  As well he works on a national level for bluebird conservation.  He is a certified bird bander, and had a career with US Fish and Wildlife.  He's such a knowledgeable naturalist, and not only does the aforementioned, but he designs nature trails, and works for conservation of other bird species.

Billie and Allen's backyard looks over a beautiful farm and ranch.

Bluebird nestlings in a nest box on their property.

Part of the day was spent at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center.  It was founded in 1968 to engage artists and audiences in the exploration of creativity.  Located in Millville, NJ, it features a museum of American glass which houses a comprehensive collection of glass produced in America.  The nation's earliest successful glass factory was founded in 1739 by Caspar Wistar in Millville.  In 1888, Dr. Theodore Corson Wheaton, a pharmacist, began making his own pharmaceutical bottles in a Millville glass factory.  From these early beginnings, today's giant glass manufacturer called Wheaton USA evolved.

We walked through the glass blowing studio, watching glass being blown.  We visited an old glassblowing studio and saw literally huge glass blown objects.  There are also craft shops to visit, a nature trail to walk, and a visitors center.

Billie and Allen at the entrance of Wheaton Village.

A purple martin colony at the village with birds perched.  These birds prefer gourd shaped nesting cavities, and nest in colonies.

Chimney swifts use this tower for roosting and nesting.

Visiting the glassblowing studio:

What forms glass!

Giant glass blown light bulbs!  The base was a beautiful iridescent glass.

The molten glass is twirled on the end of a long pole in the furnace.

The furnace chimney goes up and through the roof.

Continuing with the glass blowing process.

Glass vases designed as pitcher plants.

After the glass blowing tour, we walked the mile long nature trail that Allen designed:

Pink lady slippers, typically not easily found!

A wood duck nesting box, over the pond.

Other beautiful signs of spring:

Even though a little rainy, this was a great way to spend the day!  Will catch up again soon!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hangin' in New Jersey

We've taken a hiatus in our traveling and have been staying with family for an extended visit in New Jersey.  We've been here for about four weeks and will depart at the end of the month.  It has been a month of visiting with friends and family, dealing with a death in the family, celebrating Mother's Day, buying a truck, doing trailer chores, etc.

Let's talk truck!  We have loved our 2004 Toyota 4Runner as an everyday vehicle since we bought it used several years ago.  Mechanically, it was outstanding.  Except for routine maintenance, this car performed really well and presented no major issues.  Thankfully!  As a TV ("tow vehicle" in RV parlance) we ran into issues when driving hills and mountain roads.  The transmission would overheat, even when we were towing our tiny teardrop before our current Rpod travel trailer.  And from time to time we think of upgrading to a larger trailer, so a truck capable of towing heavier trailers is necessary.  We were lucky to find a Toyota Tundra (2007) with a tow package (7 pin plug receptacle for charging the trailer's battery, wiring for the trailer electric brakes, and a towing capacity of over 10,000 lbs.)

The truck tires were rather small and worn, so Michael researched new all terrain tires and we decided on Cooper tires.  The Kia dealership where we bought the truck ordered them for us at no charge to us.  We ordered the new steel rims and delivered them to the dealership for installation.

We had a good laugh when we first discovered the truck on the lot.  The previous owner had Hello Kitty decals all around the truck's exterior!  Much happier with all of them gone!

We love this truck!  It has a smooth and comfortable ride, a second row of seats perfect for the cats, and a good sized bed for our stuff!  We had to drive to a dump station to empty our black and gray water tanks in the trailer - our first experience towing the trailer with the truck.  Both truck and trailer handled perfectly!  A real test for handling, though, happened when a car pulled out onto the roadway right in front of us and I had to brake hard to avoid hitting the car.  The brakes handled fabulously, and the trailer did not sway thanks to anti-sway bars, part of the trailer's hitch set-up.  Luck was on our side, too, this day in that an accident didn't occur.

 We ordered a tonneau cover for the bed which came in recently so we are all set!

Since Texas is our domicile, we need license plates from there which we are waiting for.  The truck passed NJ inspection, but we are looking into whether we have to return to Texas for an inspection there.  If yes, our plans to head into New England fall by the wayside.

Being with family was invaluable when a death in the family occurred.  If we were on the road at this time, the experience would have been more difficult.  What cheered us was being able to celebrate Mothers Day with our mom.  The highlight was surprising her with a hammock for the backyard! 

Michael with his mom.  And the amazing strawberry shortcake Michael made!

Planning on a visit to Wheaton Village here in southern NJ with long-time friends.  This spot is a historic center for glass making.  We're looking forward to seeing glass-blowing!