Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oklahoma City Here We Come

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Last day of 2013 and we spent the day on the road.  Left Rolla, MO around 8:30 this morning and headed southwest on I-44.  First stop was for lunch at Hardees and gas at Loves, then on our way again.  Didn’t get any good pictures of Tulsa but we tried. 

Before beginning on our trip, I had scouted out places to stay on our way out, but plans didn’t work out and at the end of the day I was not nearly as far as I thought I would be. 

I didn’t want to stay at a Walmart two days in a row so while on the road between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I jumped on the internet to find a place just east of Oklahoma City.  Found Abe’s RV and gave them a call.  Joe, the manager said they would be closing at 5:30 for New Year’s Eve, which gave me just enough time to get there.  We arrived around 5:00.



Tomorrow we head west for another day.  Have not made plans for where we are staying.  I must do that in the morning, so I will have a destination. 

See you next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

First day on the Road

Monday, December 30, 2013 

Mainmap Spending the night in the Walmart parking lot in Rolla, Missouri.  The weather for our trip today was nice and sunny but cool.


We left Bloomington, IL at around 10:30 am this morning and traveled I-55 to St. Louis and then crossed into Missouri, taking I-44 toward Joplin, Missouri.  All has gone smoothly and we had no problems and caught all the right roads through St. Louis.



Stopped for lunch In Litchfield, Missouri at a McDonalds just off the interstate.  Rested awhile and got back on the road to our current stopping point. 

Got into Rolla around 4:30 pm and checked with the Walmart management to make sure it was okay to spend the night and we are settling in for the night.


Tired so will close for the evening.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day Before

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Today is the day before we leave for Arizona.  We had been planning to go to the Big Bend National Park in South Texas before heading to Arizona, but after watching the weather, we have decided it will be at least 10 degrees warmer in Arizona this time of year, so we nixed the colder temperatures and will head straight to Southern Arizona and 70 degree temperatures.

With the cold weather, I turned on the propane furnace and it would come on but when the temperature inside was at the thermostat setting, it would go off and then never come back on.  Evan bought a circuit board thinking that was the problem but it wasn’t.  We played with the furnace and adjusted the igniter prongs to place them closer together but still no ignition. 

Yesterday, we decided that it may be the thermostat so Evan went to Menards and bought a Honeywell thermostat and today he put it in.  That seemed to do the trick.  It is now firing when the temperature drops to the low setting and heats the motorhome properly.  We are going to assume all is right with it and head west in the morning.

I have two small propane heaters and two electric heaters, so if the furnace fails we do have back-ups and hopefully it will be much warmer where we are going and we won’t need heat except at night.

It is very cold and windy out today, so packing has been an ordeal.  Almost done now, but will continue till the minute we leave I am sure.  It will be around zero when we leave in the morning and I hope it is the last one I feel for this winter.  Plan to spend the first night near Springfield, Missouri and I will provide an update tomorrow evening.

Till then.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

 image 1-20131225_183315

Got word from eTrailer.com that the hitch would not arrive till late January, so the decision has been made to leave Monday, December 30, 2013. I will have it installed after we get home.

I have a long list of things to do before we leave so Dolly and I will be busy for days to come.  I will do all the indoor list today and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday it is supposed to get above freezing so will do all the final packing to the motorhome while it is relatively warm.  Hope to have everything done on Saturday and then watch football on Sunday.

Went to Evan and Kristi’s home for Christmas dinner tonight.  Lots of good food and family fun!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Erin

Saturday, December 21, 2013
 Erin is celebrating her 8th birthday today with many of her classmates.  Her birthday is not till the 27th but with the holidays this weekend was the best time for everyone.  Her cake was beautiful and delicious.
The party took place at Artful Designs.  The instructor, lady on the left, demonstrated how everyone was going to help make a plate with Erin’s handprint and each of the others placed their name and thumbprint on the dish.  Later, it will be glazed and heated in a kiln.  Erin is in the center and Kristi, her mother is to the right.

Erin, blowing out the candles.

Today is also the first day of winter and we have had a mix of rain, freezing rain and snow.  I am not sure if we will ever get out of here.  Still waiting for a circuit board for the furnace.  The previous one we ordered was not the correct one, so Evan ordered another one.  Hopefully, it will arrive by the end of next week.  I am also still waiting for word that the hitch is on its way, but so far, nothing.

Went to work from 8-1 today.  I like these hours once or twice a week.  Gives me something different to do, but isn’t so long I get tired.  Luckily, the roads were okay, but some of those garage driveways were slick.  Getting too old to fall on concrete.

Our plans right now are to head out sometime the first week of the new year.  No later than the following week for sure.  I am glad we don’t have any deadlines for coming or going.  Takes a lot of the stress out of our plans.  I am just anxious to get started.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Football and Survivor Finale

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Somewhere in those trees is our home.


Quiet TV day.  It is cold and gray out today.  Our house looks cozy all wrapped in snow this morning.

My favorites, Chicago, Kansas City and Green Bay win.  I am going out on a limb and predict that Tyson will win Survivor tonight.  He played the best game and made the best speech.  And the winner is ….

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow Fall

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Had seven inches of snow last night so it looks like I will be throwing snow later this morning.  At least it is not too cold outside.

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1-snow2013 008

1-snow2013 001

Since I didn’t win the lotto, I think I had better get the driveway cleaned off.  I got the snow thrower started but it kept clogging up.  Couldn’t go five feet before it would stop throwing.  Very aggravating.  After trying, cleaning it out and trying it a number of times with the same results, I stopped and stewed for several hours thinking about my problem.  Finally, I started looking at it and noticed there was a wire to the lever that started the auger and there was an adjustment screw on it.  Tightened up the wire and voila, it threw snow 12 feet in the air like it should.  I am a happy bee once more.

1-snowthrower 005

Hopefully, this is the first and last time I have to do this.  It is 63 in Great Bend National Park today.  Hope I am there in a couple of weeks or at least on my way.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday the 13th

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mega Millions is over $425 million and I hopefully bought the winning ticket.  Will know after tonight’s drawing.  Now back to reality.  Need to get the snow thrower out to be ready for the snow expected tonight.  Going to be warmer today so I need to get a lot of the outdoor stuff done while I can.  Not getting warmer anytime soon.


Surprised myself and got Miss Adventure into the garage this afternoon.  Great to get that done before it got covered in snow.  And the snow thrower is sitting at the front of the garage ready to do its job , if necessary.

Went to Walmart today to do a little grocery shopping so we don’t have to go out tomorrow.  While out, I took four bags of empty aluminum cans and a ton of bags of newspapers to the recycle bins.  Dolly bought $5 of lotto tickets so I believe we have it in the bag between us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Push Here, Pop There

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thought everything was “clear for take-off” with my go-ahead nods from the doctors, but other irons in the fire are not working out. 


On the good side, Evan received the furnace circuit board and it will go in this weekend, hopefully fixing that problem.  On the bad side, I ordered a new hitch for the motorhome and it was to be here early next week.  I currently have a 3500 lb  maximum tow limit hitch that is okay.  The new one can handle a 16,000 pound load.  Reason so large is that Evan wants to use the motorhome to pull the race car with the 20 foot enclosed trailer next year, and that weighs nearly 8000 pounds. 

Got a call from eTrailer.com letting me know the hitch is on backorder and will not be here till after Christmas.  Really glad they called instead of letting me just wait and find out the hard way.  They are nice people and I enjoy doing business with them.  They are located in Missouri, so they can’t be all bad.

Now I have a dilemma!  I either go with what I have and leave as planned, or wait till it arrives and have it welded on before leaving.  Will have to make an appointment with the welding shop after it arrives and then wait for them to get it done.  Could move my leave date back a week or two depending on how things go.

Supposed to get 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow evening.  Also, it will warm up to around freezing tomorrow, so I hope to get the motorhome compartments packed while it is reasonably warm.  Be glad to mark that chore off my “To do list”.

May have a white Christmas this year if the weather continues as it has.  Below zero when I woke up this morning and that is COLD!  With the possible delay, I can use the extra time to test out my Mr. Heater propane heater and spend a couple days during a moderately cold period (20s-30s) to try out boon docking in my yard with just the batteries and no electricity plugged in.  This will test my abilities to watch TV and keep the motorhome warm with only the battery banks. 

I can make the delay be a positive thing by properly testing real travel scenarios without being in Joplin, Missouri at a walmart parking lot in 20 degree weather.  Also, anticipation and planning is a big part of the fun for me. 

Dolly ordered a 55-300 mm zoom lens for her Sony SLR digital camera.  Our old one gave out last year in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We really need a new one to get better pictures in the wide open areas we will be visiting out West.   Lately, I have just been using my cell phone camera and that just won’t do for the landscaping and wild life pictures I want to put on the blog as we travel.

My brother, Dick skyped me today to let me know that he and his wife, Paxti are heading to Nashville in the morning to visit with his two children living there.  He will also stop by to visit Dad and his wife, Faye while there.  He hasn’t seen Dad for awhile now so glad he is able to visit him.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cold and Doctor Visit

Tuesday, December, 10, 2013


I think winter wants to come early because I have plans to go South for the winter.  We are not even out of Fall and we have had the coldest weather we had all of last winter.  I am hoping to get a few days above freezing over the next two weeks so I can pack the outside compartments without freezing.

We should receive the new furnace circuit board by this weekend and if the weather does get to the low 30’s Friday and Saturday, Evan will put it in and we will test.  I also received the propane Mr. Heater today and need to test that to see if it will warm the motorhome in a fairly quick manner.  I know it won’t help too much with 18 degree temperature.  I am hoping for only lows in the high 30s and low 40s once we get to south Texas.  We will see.  Only time I will need the propane will be when we spend nights in parking lots with no electricity, otherwise, we will just use space heaters at RV parks.

As I mentioned last week, several months ago I was surprised to find the small lumps I had in my groin area are hernias.  I scheduled a doctor appointment to have them looked at and make a decision of when to have surgery to fix.  Well, today was that day.  I wasn’t sure it the doctor would recommend I delay my trip and have surgery immediately or whether I could wait till later.  The doctor said that the hernias would not “get well” and some point I would need surgery to repair the tears, but he said that it did not need to be done immediately.  He said I should go on my trip, hike, bike ride and go 4 wheeling and then take care of the problem when I got back.

Now it is clear sailing for the end of the year!  Getting a little nervous.  There are a lot of new challenges out there to replace the ones that I have just staying home.  I am excited to get the show on the road!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ben and Family

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Ben is the only one of our children that does not live in the Bloomington/Normal area.  He left here about ten years ago, transferring to Lebanon, Indiana with his employer.  The large Mitsubishi Automobile manufacturing plant near our home fell on hard times and his trucking company consolidated, sending him to Indiana.

He met Margie a number of years ago through his work.  At first, just friends, then later they became closer.  Several years ago, she moved in to his home.  The picture above includes her son, Jacob and daughter, Brie and Brie’s new son, Luke.

Margie is studying to become a medical bill coder.  Anything in the medical field is a great calling.  There is a need in this field and she should do well once she graduates.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Updates to our Upcoming Journey

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I did a final update to the RV Update Planning journal entry.  Dolly and I are ready to boon dock. 

It has been very cold (6 degrees) and it will continue to be below freezing for at least the next week.  While Evan and I were working on the inside of the motorhome putting in the new battery monitor, we turned on the furnace and a problem reared its head.


We had the same problem a month ago and Evan tore apart the furnace and put it back together and it seemed to fix the problem but it didn’t.  The problem is two-fold.  It will not fire-up when turned on.  The igniter clicks but no flame.  It will try three times and then I need to turn it off and go through the cycle again.  Eventually, it will fire-up and heat the motorhome.  However, when the room thermostat shuts it down, it will not restart.  It does not take long for a big aluminum box to turn cold.

Evan got the make (Atwood Mobile Products) and the model number (8531-IV-DCLP) and will order a new circuit board.  He believes that is the problem and research on the internet suggests the same.  Hopefully, it solves the problem.  We will definitely need heat on those cold desert mornings in Arizona.

As a back-up, I ordered a propane Mr Heater from Walmart.  Also ordered a hose that will fit a 20lb propane tank so I can refill rather than use the disposable 1lb tanks that is normally used with the heater.  I hope this will make a good substitute for the furnace when needed.  I will test it out next week when it arrives.

I somehow developed two hernias.  Didn’t know those little bumps in my groin were hernias till they started to ache and I showed to my doctor.  He said “yep, you have hernias”.  He set me up with an appointment with a specialist in this area and I have an appointment next Tuesday.  Hope he doesn’t ruin my vacation plans by telling me I need surgery now.  I am hoping I can wait till I return for the surgery.  I will know next week.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Visitors

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Dolly with her two brothers, James Nichols on her left and Jesse Nichols on her right. 

James came up from Murfreesboro, TN and Jesse and his wife, Jan came down from Troy, MI to spend a few days with us over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Nice to have Dolly’s family here.  First time they have all three been together since 1995, so it has been awhile.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kidney Update

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Both Tracie and Steve are still slowly recovering.  They are in adjoining rooms and take walks together.  Little slow going, but they need the walks to build their strength and to help keep their lungs clear. 

Dolly and I visited for a short time because they both still tire easily.  All is going well and that is the most important thing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kidney Operations

Monday, November 18, 2013

Today was a long time coming for Steve and Tracie.  This is the day that Steve gave the gift of life to his wife, Tracie.  

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They both went into surgery this morning and one of Steve’s kidneys was removed and placed into Tracie.  We waited for about four hours for Steve to be finished and moved to the recovery room and it was another two hours before Tracie was in recovery.


The surgeries went off without a hitch and both are now recovering.  Steve will be in the hospital for three days and Tracie will be there for up to ten days.  Tracie will no longer be tied to a dialysis machine anymore and that will be great. 

Here is Steve happy to be out of surgery.


It will take six weeks before Steve can go back to work and it will take Tracie much longer before she will have this surgery behind her. 

We all wish them both a full recovery.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Woke up this morning and looked out the back door to a dusting of snow and the temperature at 19 degrees.  Wish we were heading South today instead of next month.  This will be a day to stay inside.

I have most of the orders but now have to wait till this weekend when it is warmer to start the wiring of the new battery set up.

Monday, November 4, 2013

RV Update Planning

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Evan came over this morning so we could do some battery bank planning.  We turned on the furnace to warm up the motorhome and it would not stay on.  So, we were side tracked immediately.

Evan pulled out the igniter unit and moved the two igniter prongs closer together and put it back in.  The heating unit looked brand new as if the furnace had never been used.  Since it is a southern Texas motorhome, probably didn’t get much use.

Started it up and it worked fine.  Hopefully, that was the problem.  Time will tell.  Now back to planning!

The current set up allows the AC power to only work when plugged into shore power or the generator is running.  When neither of these are used, all the 120 volt (AC) outlets and appliances such as the TV have no power.

The plan is to add a Whistler Pro 3,000W Power Inverter (converts DC current to AC) near the battery bay and to replace the two house batteries.  I purchased 5 Duracell® AGM Deep Cycle Marine and RV Battery - Group Size 31DTMAGM from Sam’s Club that will supply the inverter with 12 volt power.  Total cost of $985.  Five 12 volt batteries should give us approximately 520 amp hours when connected in parallel.  That equates to approximately 50 hours at 10 amps.  Not much but hopefully enough for our needs. 

The motorhome already has a 65 watt converter (battery charger) installed and we cannot run the converter and inverter at the same time.  The shore power and generator automatically run the converter to charge the batteries so we will need to bypass the converter when using the inverter. 

The plan is to run an output electric cord from the inverter to a 30 amp plug in receptacle and place it in the same bay as the converter next to the plug in for the converter.  To keep the converter and inverter from being used at the same time it will work this way:

  1. Shore power available – Plug 30 amp shore line cable into shore power and plug in the converter.
  2. Shore power not available – Plug 30 amp shore line cable into the inverter output plug in and unplug the converter.

I ordered the inverter today from Walmart.com and hopefully soon we will start wiring it up.  Total cost $245.

Ended the day by ordering a Trimetric TM-2025-RV 12-48 Volt Battery Monitor System and a Deltec MKB-500-50, 500 Amp 50 mv Current Shunt from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun .  Total cost $194.  The monitor measures voltage, amperage used percentage of battery used.  The shunt collects the information used by the monitor.

Saturday, December 7, 2013 Update

We have finished the above updates and things seem to be working well.  It is so cold out (6 degrees) that I have not had the opportunity to test the new boon docking set up in a real environment  Evan did an excellent job of putting all the parts together. 

I hope to test the system before our venture starts at the end of the month, but may have to do it on the road.  My hope is to be able to spend a couple days without hook ups and have access to TV and heat along with keeping all our computer equipment plugged in and charged.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Indianapolis Marathon

Friday, November 2, 2013

Steve, Dolly, Fergie and I left around noon today heading for Indianapolis, Indiana in Steve’s car.  Tomorrow is the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  Steve is running the marathon, and Kristi and Nick are running the 5K run.  Kristi, Erin and Nick will join us at the Wingate Hotel on the west side of Indy later this evening.  They are coming later, after the kids get out of school.

On our way, we made a quick stop at Lowes in Champaign, IL so Steve can pick up a box of tiles.  He is having someone fix up his master bedroom bath with all new tile for the floors, walls and the bathroom walk-in shower and they didn’t have all he needed here in Bloomington.  Got that done and off to Indy.

A couple hour later and we were at the hotel.  Actually 3 hour because we lost an hour for time zone change.  There was a Sam’s Club right next door to the hotel which was great.  I have been wanting to get house batteries for the motor home and wanted to check out what kinds they had and how much.  As it turned out, they have Duracell golf cart batteries at a very reasonable price.  I may get those instead of the Advance batteries as mentioned in my previous post.  Evan and I are going to sit down next week and come up with a boondocking battery plan, so I won’t buy anything until we have a good plan put together.

Kristi and the kids got in around 8:30pm and we sat around and talked and then Kristi and the kids went down for a little swim and we called it an evening.

Saturday, November 3, 2013

We were all up and about by 6am getting ready to drive down town.  The race starts at 8am on the dot.  We found a great parking spot a couple of block from the start and we were off to the races.

Here is the race crew at the start line anxious to get started.1-011

There were thousands of people at the start line but it was a lot of fun and excitement was in the air.  Steve was off without a hitch and we would not be seeing him for about 3 hours and 15 minutes.  He has done this marathon six or seven times so he has it down to a science.1-012

Half hour later, Kristi and Nick were off for their 5K.  It would only be about a half hour for them so Dolly, Fergie and I headed off to the finish line which was only about a block away.

Kristi and Nick have a $5 bet on who comes in first.  We didn’t have to wait long before we saw Nick coming to the finish line and about two minutes later here comes Kristi dragging up the rear.1-001

Here is everybody waiting for Steve to finish up.1-008

Got a picture of Steve about a quarter mile from the finish line.1-003 Everybody is happy with their medals.

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After the race, we got out of town and headed up to Lebanon, Indiana to visit with my son Ben.  This town is about 20 miles north of Indy.  Ben is home alone today because his girlfriend, Margie’s daughter, Brie just had a baby the day before and was at the hospital.

Had a nice visit with Ben and dogs and cats and we made it home by 6pm.1-018 It was a fun couple of days!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Want solar power but…

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Solar power is a big undertaking for someone that will rarely boondock for more than a couple of days.  But I am not giving up on trying to get all the battery power I can get so when we do boondock, I don’t run out.

I want to boondock, but Dolly wants her TV.  So, I am doing some research on the subject out on the internet.  I already have two large batteries to run the RV accessories and propane to run the refrigerator, but don’t think the current batteries could run a TV and the Dish receiver for very long. I don’t want to run those batteries down and have no power to close the slides.

My current plan is to buy two deep cycle batteries from Advance Auto Parts:

Autocraft Marine / RV 12-Volt Deep Cycle Battery, Group Size 31, 675 CCAdeep cycle battery

Cost each: $105 before a 20% employee discount


Battery Type:
Lead Acid
BCI Group Size:
Cold Cranking Amps:
675 amps
Cranking Amps:
840 amps
9 7/16 in
13 in
Maintenance Free:
Reserve Capacity:
210 minutes
12 v
59 lbs
6 13/16 in


and buy a Whistler Pro-1600W 1,600 Watt Power Inverter:inverter

Cost $111 from Amazon

I will use this setup to just run the TV and see what happens.  If it works fairly well, I can add two more batteries and should get enough.

My plan is to make two battery boxes and hook the batteries in parallel which will give me twice the amps of just one battery.  I have space in the bedroom under the shelve that the dish receiver and TV will sit on.  Won’t need an extension cord, just hook the inverter to the battery bank and plug the TV and Dish receiver into the inverter and I hope to have hours of TV watching.

I will keep you posted on what happens.

Finally a roof and electricity

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Before the snow flies, we finished the roof on the motor home cover.  We (kids and me) started this shanty project way back in July, but got slowed down because we didn’t have time where we could get at least three of us together at the same time. And we got lazy after putting up the beams and roof support.  Just couldn’t put a cover over it.

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I couldn’t decide whether to go with plain shingles or go spiffy with a metal roof.  With all the time it took to get back to it, we decided to go with metal.  It is lighter and easier to put up – and it looks better, I think.  You really can’t see the top since it is 15 feet up there.

Evan ordered a 30 amp commercial electrical box awhile back and he put that in too.  He did a professional job and it works  great.  Now the motor home is plugged in to keep the batteries fully charged at all times.  20131030_09200120131030_092021

The green thing below the box is a surge guard.  It goes between the electrical receptacle and the motor home to protect the motor home from surges and also too little electricity voltage.  It also displays the voltage and amperage being used.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A visit from Dad

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Sunday, I drove to Marion, Illinois to pick up my Dad at the Cracker Barrel.  Faye and Dad came from Old Hickory, Tennessee (just east of Nashville).  Dad is visiting while Faye goes to Atlanta, Georgia to give a class.

Dad is 94 now and if it wasn’t for hip surgery earlier this year, we would be out playing golf.

Dad with Kristi, Erin, Nick and Lane.

Me, Dad, Sarah and Jim

We drove back to Marion today.  A long day!20131027_175210(0)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Princess Fergie

Sunday, September 22, 2013



 Fergie as we call her is our lovely six year old apricot colored toy poodle.  Her full name is Princess Fergie Laning. 

I was close to retirement back in May of 2007 and had plans to travel out West in my car for at least a month and thought Dolly would want company.  I looked in our local paper, the Pantagraph.  We had two small poodles previously and loved them so my eyes went to the Pet section and looked for poodles.  I looked for a Party Poodle because we had previously had a black and white one and I just loved him.  Sure enough one was listed along with several others in a litter on a farm about 25 miles north of Bloomington.

Dolly was at work so I drove up with the intention of getting the Party Poodle.  Once I got a look at them, the Party Poodle did not have the look I was looking for so I looked at the others.  There were four and they were all big little boys except for one small female runt.  She may have been small, but she was a tiger.  She kept jumping up in the box wanting me to pet her.

Initially, I was reluctant to take her because I was afraid she was too small and would be sickly or get stepped on.  But she just kept jumping up and getting knocked down by her bigger brothers until I was afraid she was in more danger in the box than in my hand.

Paid the lady $550 and off I went to surprise my wife when she got off work – and she was surprised!  The rest is history.  She is a little devil and very spoiled.  Unfortunately, over the years she has become partial to me, so now she is my baby unless it is time to eat and then Dolly is her favorite buddy.