Betsy robs our bank account! -Gaffney, SC

Comments 38 Standard
Cummins ISL and Allison Transmission

[Posted by Steve, Mona Liza got the day off]

This was our second journey to Gaffney, SC for Betsy’s annual chassis maintenance at the Freightliner facility.  Last year it was pretty much on our route as we headed north, and I was able to have the maintenance done while Mona Liza was in the Philippines visiting family.  This year we went quite a ways off our desired path, simply because the Freightliner Oasis Service and Training Center is so outstanding.  We don’t know what we’ll do next year when we’re out west and the maintenance comes due 😦

Gaffney Oasis Service Center

Oasis Service Centers are tailored to the needs of motorhome owners with Freightliner chassis and are generally considered to be a cut above the rest

Freightliner Service Center

This unassuming garage is considered by many to be one of the best Freightliner Service Centers in the country

How did Betsy rob our bank account?  Well, in addition to a full chassis maintenance it was also time for her to get new shoes – that’s right, 6 new tires!  After following John and Pam’s (Oh, the Places They Go!) experience getting tires here, we agreed it would be best to have the experts at Gaffney take care of it while we were “in the mood.” And when I checked our bank accounts a few days later, the money was gone!  Of course, folks reading this who own motorhomes and have replaced tires have experienced this same crime.  We all know it’s gonna happen, but WOW it hurts when it finally does!

I think all of us motorhome owners change our tires due to age, rather than mileage.  Our tires were pushing 7 years, and we’re not going to take any chances.  But, I have to say that seeing our old tire “carcasses” laying behind the Freightliner garage with all that good tread left on them just about made me cry.  Those “old” tires were 14-ply Michelin XZE’s, while the new ones are 16-ply XZE2’s, and Betsy is running down the road quite nicely now.

Another service we had done at Gaffney was a 4-corner weighing of the coach.  This is actually the third time we’ve had Betsy weighed, as we constantly try to pare down our weight.  But at the same time, new items and improvements have to go into the “heavier” column.  We’ve never been overweight, and this time we found that we have even more of a safety cushion due to the new 16-ply tires.  Mona Liza was so thrilled that she can now add some more clothes to her wardrobe – without me scaring her with stories that doing so could make all of the tires explode.  Drat, I can’t win!

Once again the guys at Freightliner in Gaffney did an excellent job in record time.  They assigned two mechanics to us, and completed the full chassis maintenance, tire balancing/mounting and weighing in one long day!

When I was here last year I attended Camp Freightliner.  I found it to be excellent, and apparently a lot of other folks agree, as it fills up many months in advance.  During the class, the instructor takes the students out back to drool over a complete chassis from the factory.  The one I saw last year was a bit dated, but while staying here this time I walked out back to discover a brand new, tag-axle chassis from the factory.  Well, I was blown away and ended up getting a sunburn by the time I finished looking at this piece of art!

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A thing of beauty – a one month-old tag-axle chassis straight out of the factory just down the highway

Cummins engine and Allison transmission

A brand-new turbocharged Cummins ISL and Allison 3000 transmission – truly a thing of beauty!

Cummins engine and Allison transmission

I stood here like this for a long time, stunned by the mechanical wonders

We were able to spend a weekend in the Service Center parking lot with free 50-amp power, which helped to offset some of the pain from that robbery that Betsy had just pulled off.

RV parking at Gaffney Service Center

The lot behind the Service Center – free 50-amp power for customers, with fresh water and a dump station nearby

Things to do around Gaffney

While we were homeless during maintenance day, and then over the weekend, we checked out the area a bit.  We took the Freightliner Chassis Factory tour, which we found fascinating (this was my second time).  It’s a free tour that walks you right down the busy assembly lines and shows RV, school bus and UPS truck chassis being built from the very first frame rail to driving off the other end.  It’s hard to find information about it on the internet, but basically you show up at 10:15 on a weekday and they will take you on the tour after a brief safety video.  Cameras aren’t allowed – if they were you would see a lot of photos right here.  It’s well worth the stop, even if you don’t own an RV.

We also went to the nearby Cowpens National Battlefield park, mostly to get some walking exercise, but also to see the displays in the park.  It was originally pasture land, but is now preserved to tell the story of the 1781 Revolutionary War.  History buffs should try to catch this if in the area.

Mona Liza was able to enjoy some quality “outlet mall time” at the Gaffney Premium Outlets, happy in the knowledge that she could safely add a few more pounds of clothes to Betsy’s chassis!

Finally, if you have time and want to check out a cool vegetable/fruit stand in the area, Strawberry Hill USA is just a few miles up Hwy 11 from the Service Center.  It is part of the Cooley Farms and is open mid-April until the beginning of November.  We realize strawberries are only in season part of the year, but we must have hit it right because they were plentiful, along with other veggies and homemade canned goods. They also have a little cafe and ice cream shop right across the highway.

Strawberry Hill USA

We came at just the right time to see a major harvest in progress

Strawberry Hill USA

Strawberry fields forever!

We must mention a restaurant that Pam suggested we check out while here.  It’s called the Carolina Cafe, and it’s a small restaurant a few miles north of the Service Center.  One of our “parking lot neighbors” told us she had just enjoyed one of the best steaks of her life at this place.  I was a bit skeptical about that, but we had no dinner plans that night so we went.  I’ll tell you what, we both agreed this was indeed one of the best steaks we’ve ever had.  Who would know this little place in Gaffney could be so excellent?  We recommend that you arrive at least 20 minutes before they open.  There will already be a line, but you’ll get right in.  If you wait any longer you’ll be waiting an hour or more – it’s that good!

 

Next up:  Back on the road in travel mode!



 

Exploring historic Charleston, SC

Comments 18 Standard
Charleston Piazza

First, on behalf of my kababayan I wish to thank you – my dear readers, followers and the world – for the kindness and outpouring of support and generous help you have extended to the typhoon Haiyan-affected areas in the Philippines.  I am also grateful that families of my nieces and nephews are all accounted for and have left the devastated area.  Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. 

Charleston Visitor Center

Inside the Charleston visitor center

As for us, we nomads are continuing to inch our way southward – with our next stop being Charleston, South Carolina.  As first-timers in the city, we made our usual initial stop at the visitor center. The center itself resides within a restored 1856 railroad freight depot.  We were given several choices of ways to explore the city, and we chose the Historic City Tour with the Fort Sumpter ferry cruise.  We thought it would be a good way to learn about the historic city via land and sea.

Estate Homes along the Battery,  Charleston

Estate homes along the Battery, Historic Charleston

The tour guide began by telling us that the entire Charleston Historic District is a National Historic Landmark.  This is a city where you can explore fine examples of American architecture and decorative arts.  Along the way she pointed out some uniquely Charleston building styles and other interesting things.  A “Charleston single house” is the dominant residential building here – it can be small or large, as shown in the images below:

She also pointed out the piazzas.  Unlike the piazzas of Italy, which are open city squares, the piazzas of Charleston are the tiered, covered porches (or verandas) that grace so many of the lovely homes throughout the historic district.

Poyas-Mordecai House

Charleston piazza-Poyas-Mordecai House

After  suffering extensive damage during the 7.2 earthquake in 1886, many homes and buildings had been reinforced with earthquake rods.  The rods were inserted into and through the walls, then anchored on the outside of the structure with iron bolts and plates. The basic plates are usually disc shaped; however, many home and building owners spruced up the plain appearance of the exterior plates with decorative cast iron pieces in various shapes.

Charleston is nicknamed “The Holy City” because of its more than 100 houses of worship and a skyline specked with steeples.

Several preserved homes are well marked while some have historic plaques.

We continued on to our 30-minute ferry ride to Fort Sumter, a National Monument.  As we departed, we were entertained by the maneuvering of a massive cargo ship coming into port to be loaded with BMW’s manufactured in Spartanburg, SC and shipping to Germany.  Funny how the world works nowadays!

Bishu Highway

A lot of BMWs will fit in that thing!

Last summer in Montgomery, Alabama, one of the plaques we read about the Civil War indicated that the first shot signaling the beginning of the war was fired at Fort Sumter in 1860.  Well, despite having been to many forts, here we are visiting yet another one.  And after listening to a brief history talk by the ranger, we explored what is left of it. 

Fort Sumter in 1860

Fort Sumter in 1860

Fort Sumter today

Fort Sumter today

Since there are so many sights to see in Charleston, we tried to do as much as possible during our limited stay.  After the guided tour we explored the city and surrounding areas on our own several times.  We crossed the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge – hailed as one of the longest cable stayed bridges in North America – to visit Patriot’s Point, home of the USS Yorktown.

Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

We toured the Yorktown, an aircraft carrier turned naval museum.  Also docked here and available for self-guided tour is the USS CLAMAGORE, a 322-foot diesel powered submarine.  Our morning was spent touring both, gawking at displays and exhibits that told the stories of men, women and families who sacrificed to preserve our freedom.  This was our first time on an aircraft carrier, and we were amazed at its enormity as we followed six self-guided tours.  It is definitely worth a look If you are into naval history.

Patriots Point Naval Museum

Patriot’s Point: USS Yorktown, USS Clamagore and the destroyer USS Laffey

 

Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, as seen from the bridge of the Yorktown

USS CLAMAGORE

USS Clamagore

Despite the chilly wind that day, we checked out but did not stay long at Sullivan’s Island’s Beach to view its lighthouse.  Then it was back to “headquarters”, the Oak Plantation Campground where we stayed during this stop (Steve’s review is here).

While we were checking out a historic home, a car pulled up and the driver asked Steve if he was from Alabama, because of the shirt he was wearing.  It turned out the guy was a real estate agent, but also a very friendly person.  He told us briefly about the history of the cobblestones that we were strolling on.  According to him these stones were used as ballast on ships that came into port clear back in 1670.  Before loading the ships with cotton they had to get rid of the stones, so the city made good use of them on the streets.  Unfortunately, we did not have an extra $3-7 million dollars in our pockets to buy one of the homes he was selling.

Cobblestones Street

One of the many centuries old  cobblestone streets

There was still much to do, but we must move on.  But wait, here are more snapshots of this charming city:

Seawall at HighBattery

Strolling along seawall at HighBattery

Wandering around the city gave us a taste of what it was like in its heyday, when it was considered the wealthiest city during colonial times.  Although Charleston is a large city, we thought its vast inventory of historically significant architecture made it an interesting and charming place to visit.

Next up:  Back to nature at Savannah, Georgia

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Party time at North Myrtle Beach, SC

Comments 26 Standard
Lewis

Isn’t Lewis cute?  This guy enjoys posing for pics!

What do bloggers do when they meet? Well, they eat, drink, talk and have a ball – especially when they happen to land at the same RV park!  And that’s exactly what we have been doing here.  Heading toward North Myrtle Beach, we learned that Dave and Sue of Beluga’s Excellent Adventures were already settled in at Briarcliff RV Campground.  Then we discovered that John and Pam of Oh the Places would be arriving at the same campground the day after we got there.  None of us planned it that way, it just happened!  Following each other’s blogs helped us to track our movements, and – viola! – we all ended up here at the same time.  Now, how cool is that?

Oh the Places they go

Happy Hour at John and Pam’s site (John and Pam on the right).

This was our first time meeting Dave and Sue, and their very well-behaved black beauties, Lewis and Sasha.  We had met John and Pam earlier this summer at Lake Erie, NY.  Both couples have been on the road longer than us and had lots of stories to tell and experiences to share.  There were a lot of laughs as we got caught up on our adventures.

Briarcliffe RV Resort

Happy Hour #2 at Dave and Sue’s

Good times with good friends was the main affair here.  Happy hour in the afternoon…

Briarcliff RV Resort

Happy Hour #3 at the Lowe’s

…and dinner in the evening at the excellent restaurants that were just a short walk away.  All we needed were hungry tummies and the gate combination – “lower, middle, top”, according to Dave.  We had themed dinners – seafood night first, then Italian and finally pizza.  I forgot to bring my camera to our unexpected family-style Italian dinner.  That doesn’t happen very often!

Joe's Crab Pot

Seafood night at Joe’s Crab Shack

California Pizza

Pizza night, and we were happy to have leftovers of this pizza!

Each night, Steve and I arrived home with full tummies – oink, oink!  We don’t normally go out for dinner so often, but we had a blast enjoying good meals with our friends at these excellent restaurants.

Hungry Warriors

Hungry travel warriors heading out for pizza – don’t get in our way!

Just like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Myrtle Beach is pretty quiet this time of the year.  And to quote one of the servers we talked with, “it’s boring here now”.  Wasn’t a problem for us!  Unlike at the OBX, we had to drive just over a mile to access the beach here.  But parking wasn’t an issue, and it was free.  So, we made the most of our time, hanging out at the beach whenever the weather permitted.

North Myrtle Beach

Looks like someone’s ball left behind from busier times

Myrtle Beach

Each stop on our way south is getting a little warmer – in about 500 miles we should be down to shorts and tank tops every day – yay!

North Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach, SC

These guys seem to be enjoying the quiet times

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have asked about my family in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated my country.  Mom and the rest of  my family in Cebu are safe and out of danger.  However, as of this post we are still unable to contact my nieces and nephews who live in the province of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the powerful storm.  We’re praying for them as we wait for communications to come back up.

Update: As of today Nov 11, the fourth day after the storm we finally heard from my nieces and nephews. They are all alive, safe but are now homeless. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Next up:  Charleston, here we come!

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About Camp Freightliner – Gaffney, SC

Comments 6 Standard

Several folks have asked us to comment about the Camp Freightliner chassis class I attended recently, either because they have signed up for a future class or just out of curiosity.  Since Mona Liza was 9,000 miles away during the class, I’m probably the logical one to write about it.

As you may know, this is a two-day “boot camp” that really gets into the major systems and maintenance items pertaining to your chassis – air brakes and suspension, engine, transmission and other miscellaneous systems.  It is an EXCELLENT class taught by Mike Cody, who used to work on the assembly line and didn’t get a question he couldn’t answer while I was there.  The class is very inexpensive for what you get – two days of intense study, two lunches and dinner after the first night’s class.  The price is $175 for one person, $225 for couples.  I was told the price basically covers materials and meals, and they aren’t really in it for profit.

If your Freightliner chassis is due for maintenance, having it done during the class works out great since the class and service facility are in the same building in Gaffney, SC.  I don’t know if the other “offsite” class locations have the same setup.  Since I was hanging around Gaffney for a while waiting for my honey to get back from her travels, I scheduled my maintenance for a few days after the class which also worked well.  Owners can park their coach behind the facility for free the night before service.  There is 30-amp electric only, but a dump station and water are right next to the lot.  They even let me stay Friday night after my service, and I could have stayed the whole weekend if I had wanted to.  There is also a fairly nice KOA campground with full hookups about 7 miles away.  You will get a discount there if you tell them you are with Camp Freightliner.

I would recommend reserving a spot in the class you want, and/or maintenance, well in advance.  This is a highly-rated “Freightliner Oasis” facility which is known for doing excellent work at a reasonable price.  While you are there don’t miss the free Freightliner factory tour, where they build these beautiful chassis.  It begins at 10:15 every weekday.  The factory is only 5 miles from the service center and the tour is excellent.

To see the rest of the 2013 schedule for Camp Freightliner, and to get further information, go to:

http://freightlinerchassis.com/Owner-Information/camp-freightliner/menu-id-98.html

~Steve

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You never know who you’ll meet at the Laundromat! -Powdersville, SC

Comments 7 Standard
Lt Col K.C. Thompson

A few days before my departure to the Philippines, I had to do several loads of laundry which had been piling up for a while.  Since Ivy Acres RV Park does not have laundry facilities, we ran over to nearby Powdersville, SC to do it.  While I was folding, an elderly man who was waiting for his wash cycle started a conversation with me.  The usual question I get asked is if I am from the Philippines and that sort of thing.  I was initially busy folding so I just replied briefly to his queries, not paying much attention.  When I completed my folding  I sat down next to him and we continued with our conversation while waiting for Steve to pick me up.

And then he said, “I was stationed in Arizona in the Air Force”.

After telling him about all of the things we did while in Arizona, including a visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, his eyes perked up and I discovered that I was talking with none other than retired USAF Lt. Colonel Kermit C. Thompson, commander of the missile silo all those many years ago.  Steve arrived soon after, and we were enthralled by Mr. Thompson’s stories about life in the missile silo.  He was excited to meet folks who had actually toured the silo, which he fondly called “his baby.”

He and Steve also talked about their time at the Pentagon, which is where Steve was stationed while in the Air Force.  Mr. Thompson went on to become a school principal for seventeen years in Hawaii, and he has written several books which are available at Amazon under K. Cardell Thompson.  We had a very interesting conversation, and before you know it his wash cycle was completed!  Who knew that doing laundry could be so interesting?

Lt Col K.C. Thompson

Talking with Lt. Col. Kermit C Thompson


BMW Zentrum- Spartanburg, SC

Comments 9 Standard
BMW Zentrum

While in the Greenville area, I remembered that John and Pam of Oh the Places they go wrote a story about a BMW factory tour they took in Spartanburg.  It turns out that the BMW Zentrum Museum and “Plant Spartanburg” were just 25 miles from our campground, and I just knew Steve would love the tour – I was right!  The plant, where the X3, X5 and X6 models are built, is the only BMW manufacturing facility in North America.

BMW Zentrum

BMW Zentrum museum and manufacturing plant

This place is HUGE!  There are 7,000 employees working at this plant, and it has been under almost constant expansion since it opened in 1994.  They already have over 4 million square feet of factory space completed, and it will be around 7 million when the current expansion is finished.

We were extremely fortunate to get on this tour.  We had reserved about a week ahead, and only got into their Thursday tour because of a cancellation.  Then we found out that the next day would be their last tour for many months, since they had to re-tool the factory for the expansion and full production of the new X4.  Whew, that was close!  The museum will remain open, of course, but it was the vehicle assembly tour that we really wanted to see.

This was a great tour.  Our guide took us from the point where the bare, painted body enters the assembly plant to where the completed vehicle is driven out the door.  We would have liked to see some of the actual construction of the steel body prior to painting, but it was not part of this tour.  We did learn that once the body is painted – with the doors attached – the first thing they do is remove the doors and send them via conveyor to another part of the factory that does just door assembly.  We were told that door assembly is one of the most complex parts of building the vehicle.  Once the doors are completed, they are put back on the conveyor and sent over to meet the vehicle they belong to near the end of the assembly line.  The inventory control, scheduling, robotics and other complex machines were fascinating to watch.

We can’t compare this tour to other manufacturers, since it was our first, but it was very impressive.  The non-union workforce seems to really take pride in their work, and the job benefits available to them are good.  The assemblers work 4 10-hour shifts per week, and each of them is trained to do 4 different tasks on the line.  During their shift, they are rotated every 2.5 hours to another one of their task specialties, which reduces the chance of repetitive injuries and boredom.

Unfortunately, cameras were strictly prohibited so we have no photos to share with you.  This is a must-see if you are in the Spartanburg, SC area.  But you must make reservations well in advance!  We tried to reserve a tour at the Hyundai factory near Montgomery, AL while we were there and found it was booked for a whole month in advance.  Apparently we aren’t the only ones who like factory tours!

Photography was allowed at the Zentrum museum and here are a few images.

James Bond first BMW

BMW Z3, the one James Bond drove in the movie “Golden Eye”

We stayed at the Ivy Acres RV Park near Greensville during this stopover.  Steve’s review of the park is here.  We loved this quiet park with a view of a beautiful green meadow.

Ivy Acres RV Park

Wide open space at Ivy Acres RV Park

We both enjoyed downtown Greenville a lot – it has many miles of walking/biking trails, and sort of an old-town feel, even though it has a population of about 70,000.  There are many excellent restaurants and other stores too, and parking is readily available.

Falls Park on the Reedy

Falls Park on the Reedy

Liberty Bridge, Greenville

Liberty Bridge

We spent two days walking both directions on the 17-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, and the images below are what we saw along the way while eating yummy food.  We would definitely come back here again!

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At the Michelin store

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Main St, Greenville

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Children’s Park along the trail

Major Rudolf Anderson Memorial

Major Anderson from Greenville was the only casualty during the 14-day Cuban Missile Crisis

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Leaving on a jet plane…

Comments 11 Standard
Baggages

Some of you who have been following our travels may have noticed we ‘ve been putting on the miles since we left Arizona and headed east in late January.  One of the reasons is that I’ll be visiting family in the Philippines for a month and for various reasons we had planned my departure from Charlotte, NC.  In fact, by the time this is published I’ll be soaring high over the Pacific Ocean.

While I’m bonding with family, Steve will be attending a Freightliner chassis class in Gaffney, South Carolina.  He also has a long “Betsy list” of maintenance items to take care of, with the slide/leak issue at the very top.  By the time I get back Betsy should be in tip-top shape and Steve will have upgraded his knowledge of our complicated land yacht.

Even though The Lowes Adventures is taking some time out from traveling, we have a few unpublished (and hopefully interesting) stories lined up.  Steve will be publishing them periodically while I’m gone, so you won’t miss me too much 🙂

Betsy and Steve will be hanging out at Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina until I return.  Then, onward to the great northeastern states!

Kings Mountain State Park

Betsy will be at Kings Mountain State Park for a whole month, that’s our longest stop ever!

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Silvers and Golds

Comments 16 Standard
American Goldfinch

A year ago this month, we formally announced the launch of our blog site, The Lowe’s RV Adventures. This was our vehicle to tell tales of our adventures while on the road hitting the 49 states.  What initially was meant for family and friends to keep them abreast of where we are and what we have been up to has blossomed into a bigger circle of new friends.  As rookies in this world of RV fulltiming we really didn’t know what to expect when meeting folks on the road or in RV Parks.  But blogging has been a great instrument in connecting us to wonderful people – people with similar interests and a lust for adventure, some of them living on the road and experiencing the beauty of the countryside as we have.

Along the way we met fellow bloggers, by chance and/or through planned rendezvous.  There are still several fellow bloggers whom we would like to meet someday, somewhere along the way.  We know our paths will cross.  What’s exciting and interesting is that since we’re all heading in different directions, going into different places and doing different things, our experiences are diverse.  The exchange of stories, sharing of ideas and information is just amazing.  We learn from each other, sharing our mishaps as well as our good fortunes.

Grabbing a line from a  Girl Scout song, it goes,

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is Silver and the other Gold…”

To celebrate our blog site anniversary, here’s a toast to our Silvers and Golds … met or to be met … to our avid followers, readers and lurkers — Cheers!

RV friends we met while in Alaska:

 Chuck and Ayn of Roadlife

The first blogger we met Chuck and Ayn of Roadlife

Joe and Judy

Joe and Judy in Talkeetna, and we’ll meet again soon in North Carolina!

Friends we met in Arizona:

Live Laugh RV

Al and Ingrid at Cave Creek – Live Laugh RV

Wheeling It

At Yuma we finally met Paul and Nina – Wheeling It

http://metamorphosisroad.blogspot.com

At Casa Grande we met Hans and Lisa – Metamorphis Road

Larry and Nance snowbirders from Montana

At Cave Creek and Patagonia State Park we met up with Larry and Nancy, snowbirders from Montana

We have no photograph of  Maureen and Eric of TwoScamps.  We met them at Catalina State Park, AZ.

In Texas:

Bob and Sue

Bob and Sue, our personal tour guides in San Antonio –Travelbug 

Then on our way out of the park I visited with Debbie of Great Escape from NJ but forgot my camera so no photograph of us.

And very recently at Piedmont, SC, we met Steve and Sue from Texas who had been full timing for 20 years, now there’s a lot of experience to pick on!

Wow, we really did meet a lot of great people during our first year of adventures.

Cheers again!