Friday, October 11, 2013

New Jersey (July 15 - Sept 15, 2013)

NEWS FLASH!!!  No, we were not abducted by aliens.  I guess we've just been busy moving onto the next adventure.   Since last "speaking" we spent two months volunteering at the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, NJ. 

You may recall, if not I'm here to help, that our primary reason for being in NJ was to attend the wedding of  Bill and Rena's son.  More on that later.  So yes, we live beside Bill and Rena in Green Valley, AZ and yes, we followed them to NJ.  We're still honing our stalking skills! They arrived about  June 1 and we got there  July 15. Our RVs were set about 15 feet apart.  We normally worked opposite days with some exceptions.

The wildlife refuge was great! It includes 47,000 acres stretched along the NJ coast in the area of Atlantic City.  The central area of the refuge, where we were assigned, includes an 8 mile wildlife drive. This is a dynamic area for birders and the wildlife drive provides a sterling vantage point to view birds. We drove it many times trying to hone our bird identification skills.


Some very serious birders and photographers!!
Our campsite was quite acceptable and we met lots of nice people.  Debbie worked 3 days a week in the visitor's center.  I worked maintenance 2 days and 1 day in the visitor center. Our work day was 8 hours.  Work in the visitor center included some light cleaning, (that did include indoor and outdoor bathrooms but it wasn't too funky) selling refuge related stuff and park passes (the cash register was easy), meeting/greeting visitors and sharing information.

Maintenance included mowing and weed eating, lots of tree trimming and related grounds maintenance and cleaning/organizing refuge maintenance buildings.  Some of this maintenance work was done at locations outside the refuge area in Oceanville.  Bill and I would work the same days for these outings.  We trucked off together to go work, spent the day on our own, then scored a Pepsi and Tastykake the ride home.  They were fun events. Debbie and I both enjoyed the visitor center and I really had a good time with maintenance.  My immediate boss, Tom, is a great fellow.  I had a great deal of freedom in deciding how to spend my work day and he was forever telling me to stop working so hard.  I also spent a fair amount of time on a mule.  This would be four wheeled, not four legged and it's name was Kawasaki.  It was all very nice.    There were some negatives.  The biting bugs adjacent to the wetlands were HORRIBLE!!!!!!!  This included mosquitoes, gnats, no see ums, black flies, chiggers and the world famous green headed fly. 

Hate green-headed flies!!!
My outdoor working ensemble included jeans, long sleeve T-shirt, work boots, hat, gloves and sun glasses. Daily I would hose down with Off so I suspect I will die of Deet poisoning.  All this in a hot humid environment.   But you know, after spending some time taking care of a piece of property you develop a sense of ownership so I kind of hated to leave.  But our next adventure, whatever it is, always has great appeal.
So it was not all work.  The wedding was a gala event.  Debbie and I were invited to the rehearsal dinner along with Trisha and Alex, nearly lifelong friends of Bill and Rena from Alaska.  Bill, the old dog, made a great father toast that included this pearl of guidance "say you're sorry when you're wrong and say nothing when you're right".  I think that's about a quote.  Also, the food was great. 

Bill, Rena, Brian, Jen, Debbie, Duane, Trisha and Alex at Rehearsal Dinner 

Wedding day included threatening showers but the clouds parted and the outdoor wedding went as planned.  Brian and Jen are a beautiful couple, you know more Jen then Brian but you get the picture.  There were quite a few bridesmaids and groomsmen (obviously I don't know the exact number) but it was wonderfully informal.  The reception was full of love, energy, dancing, a great DJ, open bar and wonderful food.  Notice my theme?   I think all the parents were mighty pleased so it was a great success.

Craine and Yue Families


We had some other nice outings.  The four of us took a train into Philadelphia.  The train experience was pleasant.  Upon our arrival, we spent 90 minutes on a narrated tour bus.  The guide was from Philadelphia, loved his city and never stopped speaking for the entire ride.  We also spent time at some of the many historical sites.

We all enjoyed an authentic Philly Cheesesteak from a street vendor.

The four of us also went to the American Idol show when it appeared in Atlantic City.  Debbie and I have been to American Idol shows twice before in two different locations and the most obvious difference is that the productions have become huge.  They used to be a bit bare bone but not anymore.  This show was in the Trump's Taj Mahal right on the boardwalk.  As always, we had a great time.

Winner Candice Glover (from SC!)

All the girls were great this year!!!
Bill and I did a lot of cycling together.  Typically we did 20 -25 miles.  It was a good fitness activity and especially enjoyable to tour the area up close and personal.

Rena and Debbie had a unique outing together.  Rena won a door prize at our volunteer appreciation luncheon.  The prize was a 2 hour air boat ride for two with biologist Paul through the refuge.  Because Bill and Rena are such wonderful people, Bill insisted that Debbie join Rena rather then Bill.  Thanks Bill!

Debbie grew up in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area  so it was fun for her to spend some time going down memory lane.  This included multiple trips to Atlantic City which is located right across the bay from the refuge.  Maybe a 20 minute drive. We did gamble  a time or two but mostly we went to walk the boardwalk.  We try to keep up our walking and, as said, the bugs were horrible at the refuge but no bugs on the boardwalk.  So we walked and road the boardwalk.  Sometimes up to 10 miles at a time.  Occasionally, we ate health food like steak sandwiches or pizza that certainly whittled away at the benefit of our walking but it was consistently an enjoyable activity.  Lots of interesting people, ocean views and endless boardwalk stuff. 

Other outings included a couple trips to Wildwood Beach (to walk their boardwalk), a trip to Victorian Cape May

and several trips to visit Debbie's sisters, nieces, nephew and other family.  We even got to visit with Debbie's cousin Cathy and her husband.  Debbie and her cousin hadn't seen each other in about 40 years!

Debbie with sister's Heather and Chris
The last, but certainly not least outing worth mentioning is unique to our lifestyle.  Friends of ours,   Lee and Belinda, were in the area (3+ hard driving hours away in Maryland).  We (including Bill and Rena) had all met while volunteering in Spearfish, SD.  So the six of us made plans to meet at Longwood Gardens in PA to spend the afternoon together.  The gardens were beautiful but the opportunity to hook up with friends was far more special.  Thanks again, Lee and Belinda for driving all that way!!

Lee and Belinda

So we departed NJ  September 15 and headed south.  We'll share more later.


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