Hitting Trails In and Around Qualicum Beach, BC

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After watching Orcas play in the water and hitching a ride on a floatplane mail run, we shifted gears back to our usual activities.  Our stop at Qualicum Beach was the midpoint of our island adventures, and a good place to do unavoidable mundane household chores and stock up the fridge.  Steve also had to do a little more maintenance on our aging Betsy:

He had to re-epoxy a panel under the windshield after our recent drives rattled it loose, obviously a high-tech procedure

What we liked about this area was that everything we needed was only minutes away, with little traffic and the locals living on “island time”. Continue reading

Some Excellent Mountain Hiking – Prescott, AZ

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Prescott and Prescott Valley are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, complete with granite mountains.  We tackled three hikes while here; Granite Mountain Trail #261, Granite Mountain Hotshots Trail and Woodchute Trail. Continue reading

Westward Ho, Here We Go! – West Texas

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NOTE:  We’ve replaced our “Where We’ve Been” widget with an “Upcoming Planned Stops” widget (see it in the left column?).  After several recent “near misses” and surprise meet-ups with other travelers, we decided to display a section of our reservation spreadsheet that shows upcoming planned stops.  We hope this will help us meet up with more of y’all down the road!

From Fredericksburg to the western state border in El Paso is about 590 miles, and because we didn’t want to rush our way through Texas we selected five stops before leaving the state.  On these layovers we explored a cavern, hiked a mountain at a National Park, had a total surprise meet up with new friends, and enjoyed an unplanned visit to El Paso that changed our initial impression of the city. Continue reading

It’s all about the birds – Patagonia, AZ

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Northern Cardinal

Well, hello there, Steve and MonaLiza, welcome

My interest in birds started in January 2013, when we first camped at Patagonia Lake State Park.  During that visit, I joined a guided bird walk and soon became a bird enthusiast.  Now I search for new birds on my own, an activity I find very relaxing.  It’s often a challenge to identify them, but I enjoy trying after photographing them in their environment.

The small town of Patagonia is home to the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Paton Center for Hummingbirds, and just a few miles from Patagonia Lake State Park.  The area is known for its diversity of birds and other wildlife, so I was full of anticipation when we decided to revisit the area.

Birding is a major draw for visitors at Patagonia Lake, which also attracts lovers of water sports, fishing, hiking and more.  We had reserved a site for a week and a half, but we cut it short due to noise and dust coming from a construction project directly across the street from our site.  Also, the place is just too crowded and noisy these days, nothing like we remember it being on our first visit.

Our dining area window gave us a front-row seat for the construction project

But before we bailed out we explored the area, hiked at the Sonoita Creek National Preserve and of course I enjoyed some birding time.  I was hoping to see the elusive Elegant Trogon, but was disappointed to learn that the last sighting of it was over a year ago.  Seeing the bird would have been the highlight of our stay.  I was initially bummed, but happy that I was fortunate enough to see it during our first visit (here is a photo).

Patagonia Lake

Steel and wood pedestrian bridge over Patagonia Lake

During a stop at the visitor center I heard a twittering outside and hurried out to see two Rufous Hummingbirds chasing each other around.  This tiny brilliant orange bird is extremely territorial, attacking any other hummingbirds approaching “his” feeder.  He makes one of the longest migratory journeys known for a bird his size, from Alaska to Mexico!

Rufous Hummingbird

Isn’t he handsome!

After that excitement and getting our permit to hike at Sonoita Creek Preserve, we drove to the trailhead.  The highlight of our hike was a 360º view of the surrounding mountains during a 2-mile trek along the permanent flow of Sonoita Creek and the floodplains adjacent to the stream.  It was a quiet and scenic hike interspersed with many chirping birds – our kind of outing!

 Patagonia Lake

Overlooking Patagonia Lake

Looking southwest toward Nogales

Mesquite Bosque prevailed along this part of the hike

Sonoita Creek

Permanently flowing Sonoita Creek

Betsy’s site was near the park’s birding trail, and every day we saw dozens of birders with their binoculars and photographers with their long and huge cameras walking by.  I had easy access to the trail and went during quiet times.

These guys were used to all of the birders and mostly ignored them

The birding trail at Patagonia Lake SP

A good spot to wait and see which birds will appear

One of the things I love about birding is the surprise factor – I never know what’s around the next bend or hiding in nearby bushes.  I always get excited and grab my camera when I hear a tweet, a chirp, a whistle or a song.  And correctly identifying my “target” is an added bonus.  Although I don’t keep a “bird list”, I do have a collection of photos from all of the states we’ve visited.  This post contains just a few of the small birds I sighted in this area; my complete bird photo collection is here.

Black-throated Warbler

Black-throated Warbler

Mexican Jay

Mexican Jay

I heard a tap-tap-tap and almost overlooked this Brown-backed Arizona Woodpecker

Another place in this area to enjoy a wonderland of birds is the Paton Center for Hummingbirds.  A camera, binoculars and patience are all you need to experience many birds unique to southern Arizona, both locals and migrants.  It was here that I sighted several new and beautiful hummers.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

This tiny handsome guy, a Broad-billed Hummingbird, was eyeing me intently

Distinguished by its violet-colored cap, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird is the center of attraction at the Paton Center

After a week of enjoying all of these beautiful little birds, we moved on to De Anza RV Park in Amado.  That made it easy to revisit Madera Canyon and the artsy town of Tubac (here is my post on our previous visit).

Madera Canyon is another well-known birding spot, and the Elegant Trogon had been sighted here recently.  Once again my hopes were high as we headed out early one morning for a good 6+ mile hike and the chance to see this beautiful birdie.

Revisiting another trail on a chilly morning

Steve and I kept our ears and eyes open as we hiked, but although we saw several birds we did not spot the Elegant Trogon.  After the hike we stopped at Santa Rita Lodge, another birding hotspot in the canyon.  There were many birds entertaining the crowd there, but not the one we were hoping to see.  Instead, another hummer zoomed up to me and stopped for a quick pose before zipping away.

Magnificent Hummingbird

A not-so-good photo of a big hummer – a Magnificent Hummingbird – also known as the Rivoli Hummingbird

Yellow-eyed Junco

The fierce look of a Yellow-eyed Junco

Overall I was a happy photographer, with lots of treasured shots of native and migrating species of birds in Patagonia and Madera Canyon!

As we prepared to head back to Tucson, a brief winter storm dumped snow in the nearby mountains, and also some sleet and snow flurries at our campground.  It was beautiful to see, but not no safe to drive in so we requested and got permission to stay a couple of extra hours until it moved on.

We woke up to sleet and snow flurries

Driving along Hwy 19 we could see surrounding mountains covered in snow, what a beautiful morning it was!

The Santa Cruz mountains where we had hiked the day before


Next up:  Last days with the Saguaros


Healing and fun continue in New Mexico

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Note: Once again I’m slacking off on my blogging, but I have good reasons.  We just got back from a wonderful trip to central Europe, and now we’re on our way to Tucson for Steve’s follow-up appointments.  I have a lot of writing to catch up on, as well as reading the current status of fellow bloggers.

For now, let me take you back two months to our time in New Mexico where Steve continued his recovery.  After a post-treatment follow-up with his oncologist, we were OK’d to finally get out of overheated Tucson.  Steve wasn’t yet in top shape to drive Betsy, but we just had to move on. The city life with blaring sirens, traffic, train horns, dust, and impossible heat was getting old.  We had to hit the road! Continue reading

A rendezvous in the desert – Tucson, AZ

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Humming Bird

“Welcome to Tucson”, the Saguaro seems to say as it bows

So here we remain, at our “winter headquarters” for this year – Tucson.  The population of over a half million seems to be spread out enough that it usually doesn’t feel too overcrowded, although we do try hard to avoid commute hour traffic when possible.

We love that this city is ringed by mountain ranges offering endless hiking opportunities, especially when combined with the many miles of desert trails in the immediate area.  And we also happen to love the Sonoran Desert!  We’ve stayed in three distinct areas during our visits here, and have always enjoyed the many nearby points of interest.

Tucson, Arizona

Downtown Tucson viewed from Robles Park, with the Catalina Mountains as the backdrop

In January, 2013 we camped at Catalina State Park in northern Tucson (our tales of that stay are here and here).  Returning in January of 2016, we hung out for a month at the Lazy Daze/KOA in southern Tucson (the activities we enjoyed during that stay are detailed here).

 Mission San Xavier del Bac

Looking south toward the Santa Rita Mountains, the “White Dove of the Desert” – Mission San Xavier del Bac – takes center stage

Saguaro National Park

After the movie at the Saguaro National Park visitor center, the theater curtains open to reveal the giants of the Sonoran Desert – the Saguaros

Tucson Mountain Park

Looking down at the Western side of Tucson


The sprawling city of Tucson

So far this year we’ve stayed on the western side of Tucson, one month at Western Way RV Resort and we’re currently residing for a second month at Desert Trails RV Park just up the road.  The choice of these campgrounds was based mainly on their excellent access to the many great hiking trails in Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park and Robles Park. We wasted no time getting started on those hikes to burn off the mega calories we packed on while partying in Puerto Peñasco.

Saguaro National Park

We always enjoy our treks with serious hikers like Hans and Lisa, this time on the Hugh Norris Trail

Sweetwater Preserve

Investigating a downed Saguaro at Sweetwater Preserve

Brown Mountain Trail

We like nearby Brown Mountain Trail, and have hiked it a couple of times so far


Some Saguaros gave us the finger…


…this one gave us many fingers!


This one could be hundreds of years old

saguaro skeleton

This dead Saguaro looks like a desert scarecrow

Yetman Trail

An early morning hike on the Yetman Trail via Tucson Estates

Tucson Mountains

Tucson Mountains as seen from the Wasson Peak Trail

Crested saguaro

Goofing off with one of Pam’s friends – a crested Saguaro – on the Flight Path Trail

We’ve been here for several weeks now, plenty of time to repeat trails we followed last year and to discover new ones.  For the first time we’ll be staying long enough to catch the colors of spring in the Sonoran Desert, which we’ve missed previously in our haste to head north.

The Ocotillo blossoms provide a splash of red all over the desert, just beautiful!

Crimson red Ocotillo blooms – don’t they look like mini lipsticks?

Creosote bush

Creosote bush swaths the desert a golden hue

A closer look at a creosote bloom


On the desert floor, area sidewalks and vacant lots was a profusion of dainty vibrant wildflowers.  I can’t help but stop, take a picture and admire them:

The birds are also enjoying the blooms, sucking sweet nectar from the flowers and whistling at us as we stroll by:

Of course, mild winters here are the main draw for us and thousands of other “snowbirds”. It’s a place where we congregate to meet up with old friends and make new ones.  I think of our meet-up here as a renewal of our friendships, and it’s always a joy to see those folks to exchange travel stories and the adventures we’ve had on the road during the past year.

Kathie and Mike of Life Rebooted.  We met them last year at Bryce Canyon after following their blog for several months

At the big gathering below, we met Paul and Marsha of Where’s Weaver for the first time. Everyone else were folks we’ve forged relationships with over the years through our blog sites – Hans and Lisa of Metamorphosis Road, John and Pam of Oh the Places They Go and Dave and Sue of Belugas Excellent Adventure.

John, David, Sue, Marsha, Paul, Steve, me, Lisa, Hans and Pam

Me with John and Pam, and “serious Jeep pilots” Joe and Gay of Good Times Rolling

Infected humanoid – stay away!

We’re always excited to meet new friends, but we were sorry we missed out on meeting up with Jim and Barb of Jim and Barb’s RV Adventure.  I was recovering from a flu bug and wasn’t about to risk infecting them.

We spent this happy hour huddled inside Betsy as gusty winds spoiled our outdoor venue

New friends Jim and Nancy of Running Down our Dreams (behind us) and good buddies John and Sharon of On the Road of Retirement

Just before Hans and Lisa left we had an alcohol-free happy hour at their coach (well, it WAS in the morning), followed by a mini-tour of Desert Trails RV Park.  They showed us around so we could note the best sites to request for our upcoming stay.  Two weeks later we got one of the most-desired sites (M28), and we are enjoying the afternoon shade here.  It’s nice to have friends to help us gather good intel!

A healthy and happy start to the day with Hans and Lisa

As we remain here enjoying all the trails and spring blooms, our friends have all moved on. We hope to see them here again, at our favorite rendezvous spot in the desert!

A post from the southwest would be incomplete without a Sonoran Desert sunset!


Next up:  More fun things to do around Tucson


Celebrating Milestones- Coeur d’Alene, ID

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We did it!

We had several reasons to be excited as we crossed the U.S border into Idaho, although the weather gods weren’t as enthusiastic.  We hunkered down overnight at a small RV park 4 miles from the border until the heavy rain passed.  The following day we ventured on to our next destination at Coeur d’Alene, where we took a break to do some chores and re-stock the cupboards.

First we shook the grit and grime we had carried from Canada off Betsy, giving her a good wash.  We also had to replace the rice that had been confiscated at the border, as we were informed since it was no longer in its original packaging they could not determine if it had come from a prohibited country.  I guess we should have known that after 25 border crossings!


Finally we were ready to celebrate a milestone.  Idaho capped our goal of visiting all of the 49 states, and our USA map is finally covered!  Yes, after over four and a half years of running around the country we have accomplished one of our main retirement goals.  It was quite a ride, and in doing so we also visited 8 picturesque Canadian Provinces; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia), plus 1 Canadian Territory, the Yukon.  An unexpected bonus was our foray into Sonora, Mexico when we joined a caravan to Puerto Penasco in February.

We’ll post highlights and statistics covering our entire adventure once we arrive back at our starting point in northern California.  At that time we’ll consider our RV adventure completed and figure out what to do next.  We’ll continue fulltime RV’ing, of course, but probably in a more “traditional” and spontaneous way without the need to visit particular states.  We don’t know yet, and that’s the fun of it!

For now we’re elated, excited and happy that our main goal has been reached with no major problems.


Cheers to the Lowe’s RV Adventures!

Coeur d’Alene

Sparkling Coeur d’Alene Lake was the backdrop for another celebration, our 11th wedding anniversary.  Living in Betsy’s close quarters 24/7 for the past several years was an accomplishment of its own, and we’re very happy that we’re still the best of friends, with only a few lover’s spats thrown in to make it interesting.


We had a beerlicious anniversary, as the city’s annual Oktoberfest happened to be scheduled for that very day.  Along with hundreds of others, we partied and strolled the streets to sample several craft beers.  Strangely, no streets were closed for the event, and most of the beers were dispensed from within local shops.  It was definitely nothing like the major party that shut down Brekenridge for their celebration last year.

We strolled through town and stumbled onto what is called the “world’s longest floating boardwalk” by folks hereabouts.  Completed in 1985, it’s 3,300′ long and 12′ wide.  We thought it was pretty cool walking on the lake over the 16,000 cedar logs it took to build the thing.

Coeur d' Alene Resort

The floating boardwalk, complete with picnic tables overlooking the lake



Bridge on the boardwalk


Slip Marina –  Steve loves all the blue in this shot!

We were aching for a hike, and just across from our campground (Steve’s review here) was access to the 23-mile long Centennial Trail that extends to the Idaho/Washington border. We walked a section of it and learned the difference between a hobo, a tramp and a bum – the last sentence on this plaque enlightened us:



There’s Betsy across Spokane River

We also took on the Tubbs Hill and Mineral Ridge trails, recommended by Andy who sent me a message thru RVillage.  It was a nice surprise to get recommendations from strangers who know the area through this site.

Tubbs Hill Trail

Viewing Coeur d’Alene lake from Tubbs Hill Trail

Mineral Ridge Trail

The leaves had turned along the Mineral Ridge trail

View of Coeur d’Alene Lake from 2,724′

The last celebration was Steve joining the smartphone crowd after holding off for several years.  I just hope he won’t be playing Pokémon Go during our hikes!

Mineral Ridge

Monitoring our hike and elevation with his new toy.  I’d better be nice – I’m getting mine soon!

Cheers to our milestones celebrations!


Next up:  Steve hooks up our new propane fire pit


Oh so famous Lake Louise – Alberta, Canada

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Our final stop in the Canadian Rockies was ever-popular and very crowded Lake Louise.  Located in Banff National Park, it’s one of the best known lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Even a little girl we met in Montana gushed with excitement when she overheard me mentioning it to her parents.

Lake Louise

A distant view of Lake Louise framed by Mount Victoria

If you’ve missed our previous Canadian Rockies tales, click on the posts below for a catch up:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Banff National Park

-Sightseeing in Calgary

-Visiting friends in Edmonton

-Wonderful Jasper National Park

-Captivating Icefields Parkway

We didn’t waste time once Betsy was set up at the campground.  We hadn’t seen a single bear during our past few Canadian stops, and we hoped we might catch a glimpse of a grizzly while riding the Lake Louise Gondola.  But no such luck during our 14-minute cruise up to 6,850′.  Happily we were rewarded with some pretty spectacular scenery instead:

Lake Louise Gondola

Some areas beneath the gondola make up a prime wildlife corridor where no hiking is permitted

Grizzly bear sightings happen here, hence the area is known as the Home of the Grizzly Bear.  Huge amounts of money have obviously been spent on fencing to keep the bears and humans separated:

Lake Gondola

Touch the blue bar only to go through the gate for your hike (at your own risk).  Thanks, but we’ll look elsewhere!

No red chair but a wooden one with a view

No red chairs here, but this nice wooden one provided views just as good!

Bow Valle

We reached the top to enjoy a fabulous panorama of Bow Valley and its surrounding mountain range

After taking in the views and with no bear in sight, we rode back down on an open chairlift, breathing in fresh mountain air as we relaxed.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Lake Louise Ski Resort

After the ride we swung by Lake Louise and did a quick “recon” just to see what was in store for us over the next few days:

Lake Louise


Hordes of people congregated along the lakeshore taking all manner of selfies and posed shots:

Lake Louise

Who can blame them, this lake is gorgeous!

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Trail

Judging from the tour busses and overflowing parked cars throughout the area, we knew an early start for our hike the next morning was mandatory.  Despite the 29º morning chill, we bundled up in layers (for the first time I wore two pair of pants) and followed the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.  Several tourists were already strolling along the shore trail before 8:00am, but we left the majority of them behind as we started more serious climbing.

Lake Louise

A still Lake Louise on a cold morning.  The backdrop of Mount Victoria and hanging Mount Victoria Glacier make this place a stunner

The 6.8-mile trail is a moderate hike, and we added an extra mile to Abbots Pass while gaining 1,215′.  We traveled counter-clockwise via Mirror Lake in the shadow of Beehive Mountain.

Beehive Mountain

Yep, looks like a beehive

We meandered along streams, waterfalls and forested areas until the landscape eventually became more rocky and barren.  It revealed fully the valley below the mountains, long ago carved out by the glaciers that gave this trail its name.

Lake Louise

From previous experience, we knew that sunlight reflecting off the “rock flour” in the water is what gives lakes here their spectacular turquoise color


While taking pictures of the lake, this curious grouse seemed to sort of materialize from out of the bushes

Plain of Six Glaciers

Taking a break after hiking the first ridge line – from here on it was a steady hike up

For most hikers the tea house is the end of the trail.  The original tea house was built in 1924 by Swiss guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  It’s still in operation, and the staff rotates out each week, hiking back out as the new staff comes in to take their place. Food and supplies are replenished via helicopter.

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House

Hikers resting and/or sipping tea at the tea house

We continued on an extra round-trip mile along a lateral moraine to the Abbots Pass viewpoint:

Abbots Pass Viewpoint

The path continued along a narrow ridge, with a drop off to the glacier below

Abbots Pass Viewpoint

At the end of the lateral moraine we could barely see Abbot’s Hut.  To the left is Mount Lefroy and to the right is Mount Victoria

Abbots Hut, originally built in 1922 by Swiss guides working for the Canadian Alpine Association, is a staging point for serious climbers in the area.  It was named after an American named Philip Abbot who fell to his death in 1896 on Mount Lefroy.  Apparently he was North America’s first recorded climbing accident.  Today supplies are flown in, and ambitious climbers can access it via British Columbia or from Lake Louise.

Abbot Pass Hut

That speck at the top of the glacier is Abbots Pass hut, Canada’s highest national historic site

After being blown away by the enormity of the mountains (11,000′ and higher) and glaciers, we began our long slog back to Lake Louise.  The return offered a different perspective of the impressive mountain features surrounding the lake.

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Heading back to Lake Louise along the plains of the six glaciers (although I failed to identify them)


I finally saw a pika busily gathering his winter stash


Melt water cascading down from the glaciers carries the glacial silt (rock flour) with it.  At this point the agitated water is off-white

Lake Louise

Looking back at lower Victoria Glacier where we were just a few hours ago

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau across Lake Louise

Arriving back at our campground, Dave and Faye had settled in next to us and we were thrilled to see them again.  They had just arrived from their 61-day Alaska Caravan, and we were excited to hear all about their adventures and activities.  It seemed they had brought the sun with them, as it remained sunny during the whole time we hung out together.

Betsy parked side by side with Solitude

Moraine Lake

During dinner we agreed that we had to be at Moraine Lake early the next morning to beat the crowds.  This lake is as popular as its cousin just a few miles away, with tour busses a-plenty.  And for the second day in a row the temps were in the high 20’s when we headed out.

Morraine Lake

The ready foursome – Dave, Faye, myself and Steve

The best way to appreciate the beauty of this famous alpine lake is to follow a flat, easy trail that weaves through its shoreline trees.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake encircled by the Ten Peaks, all of which top out over 10,000′


For another view of the lake we hiked up “the rock pile” just as a busload of tourists arrived.


The rock pile behind us was the result of an avalanche


The view from the top of that rock pile was one for the books!  Gorgeous, fabulous, stunning.  The iconic image of Moraine Lake and the Valley Of The Ten Peaks was used on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill between 1969 and 1979.  The beautiful deep blue water with a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains is one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies, and possibly in all of Canada.

Moraine Lake

The twenty dollar view from the rock pile

Our walk along the shoreline and on the rock pile was short, and we were pumped up for a few additional miles.  So we decided to tackle another trail that lead to Consolation Lake.

This lake is a key area for grizzly bears in Banff National Park, and it’s where we saw a sign requiring hiking in groups.  The area encompasses critical bear habitat where a concentration of female grizzlies live and raise their cubs, hence visitor access is managed to protect visitors and minimize disturbance to bears.


The 4-mile round-trip trail to Consolation Lake got a bit tedious at the lake, because we had to climb over large boulders and rubble fields to reach our destination.  But our reward was yet another crystal clear lake.



Goofing off between boulders

Consolation Lake

Crystal clear Consolation Lake

Later on, the four of us had a wonderful time comparing stories of our Alaskan Adventures, and there were hints of returning there together.  Dave and Faye shared smoked salmon and halibut they brought back, and I cooked Pancit and Lumpia. Between fun hiking, good food and great happy hours we had a ball at Lake Louise.  For sure we’ll meet up again down the road.

Bow River

Goofing off again by Bow River

Finally, it was time for our 26th border crossing as we re-entered the U.S. on a cold and rainy day.  It’s great to be home!

Crossing border

At the border on a soggy day – you never know what to expect here.   They took away our rice!


That wraps up our magical time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  Our almost 5-week stay gave us experiences far beyond our expectations.  The jaw-dropping landscape and postcard-perfect scenery kept my cameras humming.  We think we came at the right time to avoid the worst crowds, the penalty being some chillier than expected weather.  But we’ll never forget this part of our adventure!


Next up:  We’ve done it!