grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Monday, December 31, 2012

14-31DEC12 - Houma, LA (how not to end the year)

Upon our return to Rebecca & Raymond’s in Houma, LA, we learned someone had stolen our satellite dish tripod from their front yard! Thankfully we hadn’t left the actual dish on it & a replacement was $75. On 15DEC we babysat grandson Jaxson thru the night so Rebecca & Raymond could celebrate their wedding anniversary.

On Wednesday, 19DEC, we celebrated our 31st anniversary by heading into New Orleans. First stop was Harrah’s Casino where Corrie did very well! Then it was off to Cochon for an excellent dinner. We discovered Cochon almost 2 years ago & highly recommend it! The power kept going on & off for some reason; but since they use wood fired ovens, not a problem.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2011/02/01-05feb11-new-orleans-la-mostly.html

The next day, 20DEC, Dan decided to make this a Xmas to remember by taking a “header” off Rebecca & Raymond’s roof to the concrete below! Thankfully Corrie was home to immediately call 911. First emergency stop was the ER at Terrebonne General. Terrebonne then decided to transfer Dan to the “neuro ward” at Ochsner in New Orleans because there were indications of internal cranial bleeding.

  

We won’t bore you with all the details of his stay at Ochsner’s, but in summary injuries included – a concussion & 6 staples to head wound; broken left clavicle; partially collapsed left lung; broken left lower back ribs; & one compressed vertebrae. The only medical intervention (other then meds) was on 28DEC, when they pumped Dan’s vertebrae up with air & filled it with cement to stabilize it (aka Kyphoplasty).

  

Not the jolliest of Xmas’s we have had; but considering the possible life changing injuries that could have occurred, pretty good to have your family with you even in a hospital! Finally after 10 days, Dan was released from Oschner on New Year’s eve! Hopefully future Xmas & New Year’s will be less eventful & more festive.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

08-13DEC12 - Biloxi, MS, & Destin, FL (more tire problems)

We decided to hit the road Saturday, 08DEC, & headed to Biloxi, MS, enroute Destin, FL, to visit our friends the Guldenschuh’s in FL. As we always do when traveling to Biloxi we stopped at the Welcome Center for any “coupons” for the Casinos in Biloxi, like we did when heading to Red Bay, AL, on 03NOV. We then headed to the Keesler AFB FamCamp; after setting up camp we headed to Jimmy Buffet’s MargaritaVille Casino, it has a nice décor but is small casino. Dinner was at McElroy’s Harbor House, which washed away during Katrina. 

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2012/11/01-15nov12-red-bay-al-mostly.html

Sunday was to be spent sightseeing in Biloxi, but Dan discovered the right rear outer tire damaged from his driving on Saturday. So he had to drive all the way back to Houma, LA, in the Toad, to pick up the tire we brought from Sharon & Tim’s back on 11OCT. After Dan returned from Houma we headed to the Beau Rivage Casino for an expensive dinner & some gambling.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2012/10/06-10oct12-kerrville-tx-via-albuquerque.html

Monday AM it was off to the to tire place recommended by a RV club, but the truck tire balancing machine was broken; they recommend Southern Tire Mart, a brand new facility & state of the art. Then it was a late start driving thru Tornado warnings to Destin, FL; we then set up camp at Destin Army Recreation Area, & had dinner at Dewey’s.

Tuesday was very cold; & limited our sightseeing to a check of local Harbor Walk Condominium waterfront development. Then we headed to the Guldenschuhs for reminiscing & going our for a BBQ dinner. We have crossed RV paths with the Guldenschuhs over the years, last time was OCT09 in NC. Wednesday, 12DEC, it was still cold outside & we headed back over to Guldenschuh’s late morning for a homecooked chili lunch & many more hours of reminiscing. 

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2009/10/23-26oct09-waynesville-nc.html

Thursday morning we headed back to Biloxi hopefully to do some sightseeing this time. After hooking up the Toad Corrie discovered a nail in left rear Toad tire; there was no real room to change tire so we drove to I-10 & changed the tire at the first rest area. End result was a late arrival back at Keesler AFB FamCamp; & we were only able to check out the Biloxi Visitor Center. This an excellent facility built with federal Hurricane Katrina monies; where you could easily spend hours! Then it was off to Keesler AFB Commissary for groceries. 

Trivia – what is Biloxi bacon? What are naval stores (think longleaf pines)? Root beer soda used to have caffeine, why not now?

Monday, December 10, 2012

01-07DEC12 - Houma, LA

  The start of the month, Saturday, 01DEC, was a “full” day of activities. First Raymond & Dan demolished the entire roof of the sun porch that had been damaged by hurricane Isaac. The roof was 90% aluminum with some plastic for sunlight. We believe the sun porch was close to 40 years old & it has leaked in many places ever since Rebecca & Raymond bought the house & it was overdue for major repair. Then it was time for Rebecca, Raymond & Dan to hang another new set of outdoor icicle lights on the outside of house. Once again the brand new lights from last year, that worked until stored last year, did not work now. 

That evening we all were invited to celebrate Tasha’s birthday with her parents & our son Joe at Osaka Japanese restaurant. We all have eaten there before & everyone wanted to order one or two of their favorite sushi rolls! End result was way too much food! Since it was Tasha’s birthday the restaurant staff came out singing a happy birthday song banging on small Japanese drums. Grandson Jaxson’s expression when he heard the drums was priceless (especially when Tasha was “forced” to dance on the chair)! Then it was off to Bing Cherry for frozen yogurt where you pay by the pound.  
Although Rebecca & Raymond had bought a Xmas tree over a week ago, on Monday we finally got around to decorating the tree. Now it is a constant succession of “NO’s” to keep Jaxson from touching & breaking ornaments. 
Tuesday & Wednesday Dan headed off to son Joe’s to help him with converting a metal “carport” into an enclosed shed/garage. As we noted in our BLOG back in 09AUG Joe now owns a house; & in the back yard is a metal carport that has a roof, partial metal sides, & both ends completely open. Since Joe does not have a garage, he has decided to finish the sides & install doors on both ends. Due to rain on Wednesday, work on the project was delayed.

As always when we return to the Houma, LA, area, a lot of our time was spent on annual medical appointments. As kids we all received many shots/vaccines as preventive health measures. As we grew older these shots decreased in number (if not stopped) & we believed we were “good to go” for the rest of our lives. Well this year we not only endured the annual flu shot, but also enjoyed a pneumonia shot & a shingles shot!

Friday, November 30, 2012

16-30NOV12 - Houma, LA



After our wonderful almost two weeks at the Tiffin RV service center in Red Bay, AL, it was back to Rebecca & Raymond’s driveway in Houma, LA. Where we spent most of the time remaining in the month preparing for Xmas; & enjoying our grandson Jaxson as he learned how much more efficient walking is compared to crawling. In addition Corrie prepared an excellent Thanksgiving dinner & it was off to the Xmas tree lot for Jaxson’s first Xmas tree. Unfortunately our son Joe was offshore most of this time, but he did make it back at the end of November & we have had nice visits with him & Tasha.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

01-15NOV12 - Red Bay, AL (mostly)

Saturday, 03NOV, after lunch we started to drive to the Tiffin RV factory in Red Bay, AL. Rather then drive straight thru we decided to overnight in Biloxi, MS, at the Keesler AFB FamCamp. As usual we stopped at the Mississippi State welcome center to see if there were any coupons for any of the casinos in Biloxi. Once again the only coupons available were for the Isle Casino just like our last visit. Using the coupons we got a two for one buffet, & $10 of free slot play. End result was that someone did good enough that we broke even.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/27-31dec10-biloxi-ms-navarre-fl-happy.html

Sunday afternoon we arrived at Tiffin RV camp & repair center where it seems every year we have repairs to be made (see below BLOG about our last visit). For the first time we had to dry camp even though they have 100 spots with full hook-ups & 20 more electric only. In fact there were another 20 RVs forced to dry camp with us! We soon learned that last week they had 160 rigs per day & there was now a 2 week back-up even if you had a confirmed appointment! We also noted that over half the RVs were from Canada, representing every Province, we even saw our first RV with a New Brunswick license; Apparently last week 20 RVs even caravanned from Quebec to get repairs done on their RVs at the Tiffin service center.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2011/01/01-06jan11-red-bay-al-via-jemison-al.html

Even though Tiffin has the number one most popular diesel pusher RV (Phaeton) & the number two most popular (Allegro Bus), & are the number one overall seller of class A rigs; they (like the rest of the RV industry) have issues with rework after delivery. In fact we have heard on more than one occasion that over 25% of the price of a new RV is to cover repairs after purchase! Over the last several years we have been surprised by the large number of new Phaetons (cost $260K-$320K) & Allegro Busses (cost $310K-$420K) we see here waiting for major repairs? Apparently others have noticed this also, & Tiffin products have started to receive negative press, even though Tiffin has won the industry quality award eleven out of the last twelve years. The negative press even led Bob Tiffin (company founder) to write a “defensive” letter in the quarterly Tiffin magazine. His letter still doesn’t change the fact that his service center is backed-up with new Phaetons & Allegro Busses needing major repairs.

Tuesday morning we finally get spot with full hook-ups. Since we have been told that it will be at least a week before we see a technician, Dan decided to set up the DISH satellite antenna since there is no local TV in Red Bay & the RV camp does not have cable. As you can see from the below BLOG we subscribed to DISH satellite back in March to have TV at the house in Sultan, WA, & to use while RV’ing. Since then we have only used it once while RV’ing, & soon discovered “aiming” the manual satellite wasn’t the easiest thing to do!

Dan spent most of Wednesday trying to “aim” the satellite dish without success. He was growing so frustrated that he asked Tiffin for a price quote on installing a fully automatic satellite dish on top of the RV ($2400!). Adding to the difficulty was the fact that in the “old days” you only needed to find one satellite; now thanks to high def TV you must find three satellites! Luckily Dan was able to “pick the brain” of the Tiffin satellite technician, who said we needed to swing the satellite dish nine degrees to the right. Wallah! As RV subscribers to DISH we even get the nearest “big city” local stations once we phone in our current location; in this case – Huntsville, AL.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2012/03/19-31mar12-sultan-wa-unpacking.html

To try & get some benefit from all the time on our hands, Dan starting buying parts at the Tiffin parts store & making some repairs on his own. One item that needed replacement was the hand crank for our TV antenna, which had snapped in half. The surprising thing was that the handle cost $8, but an entire new assembly was only $5? Needless to say we went with the entire assembly.

Friday morning, 09NOV, we finally got something fixed – the dash AC. That afternoon we headed across the street for wash & waxing of the RV at Detail Depot. Since it takes several hours per RV, the owner realizes he has a captive customer, so his shop also serves lunch (including BBQ’d Boston Butt), has a hair salon, sells hand bags & jump suits, sells fresh veggies & home made baked goods, & to Gumbo’s dismay they groom dogs.

Since there is nothing to do in Red Bay on the weekend, we spent Saturday & Sunday waxing the RV’s fiberglass roof, & doing laundry. Wednesday, 14NOV, the driverside windshield which was cracked in June was fixed in the morning. That afternoon the first attempt at fixing our leveling system was made without success. First thing Thursday a second attempt was made on the leveling system & was successful. Although we still had items left on our list for repair we decided we had all we could stand of Red Bay & hit the road back to Houma, LA.

Apparently Bob Tiffin was receiving so many complaints from all the owners “stuck” in the service center backlog, that he personally changed the entire scheduling system without notice! First, if your RV is older than two years old, you can not make an appointment at all even though your RV is still under warranty. Second, no appointments at all can be made for the months of April or October (apparently these months are historically when a lot of snowbirds stop in Red Bay without reservations). Lastly, only one appointment per owner per year. We are not sure how this will improve things, but the internet posts by current owners should be interesting.

Once again we decided not to drive straight thru, & we decided to visit some different casinos in Philadelphia, MS. We had done some research on the internet but still not clear if there were two or three casinos in the town (or more properly, as part of the Choctaw Nation). It appeared from the web that there might be three casinos there – Pearl River Resort, Silverstar, & Golden Moon located a couple miles apart? Turns out that Pearl River Resort is the overall umbrella organization for two casinos (Silverstar & Golden Moon), & both casinos are across the street from each other. When we walked into the Silverstar we were greeted by the casino staff doing the most recent internet craze - Gangnam Style. The two casinos must not be getting the customers they planned on, because the new casino (Golden Moon) is only open on weekends?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

11-31OCT12 - Houma, LA (via beaumont, tx)

 
Thursday morning, 11OCT, we hit the road for Houma, LA. We are not sure the reason but the entire length of I-10 from Kerrville to Beaumont, TX, was nothing but state troopers? We drove further than normal & stopped at Gulf Coast Resort RV outside Beaumont where we stayed during our Katrina evacuation. It is a very nice RV park & they make you waffles in the shape of Texas for breakfast.

By early Friday afternoon we were back at Rebecca & Raymond’s & set up camp in their driveway. After recovering from our drive we headed to a local festival Saturday evening called Voice of the Wetland’s (VOW), where we also met up with son Joe & girl friend, Tasha. This is a fairly new festival in Houma to raise money for wetland restoration; the music is great & free, & the food as always in south Louisiana is great (but not free). Sunday afternoon Dan, Rebecca & grandson Jaxson headed back to VOW to check out the petting zoo. The night was a great dinner at our son Joe’s prepared by him & Tasha, before he headed offshore once again for two weeks.

The rest of the month was spent not doing much other than enjoying our grandson, Jaxson J Pitre. But on 27OCT, Saturday, we did head into New Orleans for a walkabout. Unfortunately that night Corrie has a very bad case of food poisoning; & then just after midnight Rebecca had to go to emergency room with complications from a 23OCT out-patient surgery she had undergone. This left Dan to look after Jaxson; which should have been easy since Jaxson was asleep. But Jaxson who was recovering from a stomach bug, awoke at 2AM & refused to go back to sleep. Dan then had several hours of late night bonding with his grandson including technicolor vomiting. Then later Sunday morning Dan started to get symptoms of food poisoning.

Monday Rebecca was home from hospital & it appears everyone is on the mend?  Halloween day, Wednesday, we all began prepping for an impromptu Halloween party at Rebecca & Raymond's.  Since Joe had just returned from offshore, he & Tasha came by to help pass out candy & witness Jaxson's first Halloween.  Corrie & Rebecca did a great job decorating the driveway, & Joe & Tasha brought way to much candy; but by the end of the evening all the candy was gone & Jaxson appeared to have a good time!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

06-10OCT12 - Kerrville, TX (via albuquerque, nm, & pecos, tx)

Saturday morning, 06OCT, it was back on the road enroute Kerrville, TX, to visit Dan’s sister Sharon & husband Tim. If you have followed our BLOG you already know we try to visit them in the fall & spring as we travel across Texas on I-10. We made great time until Shiprock, NM, where we ran into a major traffic jam because of the Northern Navajo Nation Fair. Not only was everyone looking for parking, but the Saturday morning parade had just ended & apparently uses US 64 & US 491 as the parade route (not very good planning in our opinion!). Upon arrival in Albuquerque we find out there are no RV spots anywhere near Albuquerque because of annual hot air balloon festival. So we dry camped at the Santa Ana Star Casino, where Corrie did extremely well on the penny slots.


Sunday morning we awoke to hundreds of hot air balloons taking off & filling the Albuquerque skies! It was quite the sight, but it made driving on I-25 south hazardous as people literally stopped in the middle of the freeway to gawk. As we climbed out of the valley on I-40 east, the outside temperature dropped to 32 degrees & the RV was pretty cold until Roswell, NM.

As we entered Texas we once again saw the evidence of extensive oil/gas exploration like we witnessed in ND last June; in addition, since the Texas speed limits on two lanes are often 75mph we were almost run off the road several times by oilfield semis who are apparently paid by the load (ie the faster they drive, the more they make). We learned even the locals are fed-up with their dangerous driving. Once again we stayed in the Escapees Club RV park in Pecos, TX; its not the best RV park, but your choices are few in this part of Texas.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2011/10/06-15oct11-various-wa-or-ut-nm-tx-la.html

Monday morning we started the final leg of our drive to Dan’s sister’s, Sharon & husband Tim’s, in Kerrville, TX. During a stop for lunch Dan noticed that the right front tire was wearing excessively on the outside edge. It was obvious that the tire would not last until Houma, LA. Upon arrival in Kerrville we headed to Tim & Sharon’s for a nice visit & dinner.

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2012/03/04-10mar12-livingston-kerrville-tx.html

Tuesday, 09OCT, Dan went to the only tire dealer in town that can handle semis or RVs, to address tire issue & make an appointment. Later that evening, Sharon & Tim came by the RV for dinner & more reminiscing. First thing Wednesday morning we drove to A&A tire for an alignment & two new front tires. We are not sure why but most RVs have Michelin tires (some have Goodyear) & the tire sizes are not compatible with semi tires. We think the only reason for this is to charge more for so called “RV tires”. Dan did some internet research & found equivalent semi tires & saved $300. While the RV was at the tire dealer Dan & Gumbo hung out at Sharon & Tim’s, while Corrie headed to a mall near San Antonio. That evening after getting the RV back, we all got-together for one more dinner at a local café.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

29SEP-05OCT12 - Moab, UT (last 2 stops on the grand circle tour)

Saturday, 29SEP, it was an early drive to Moab, UT; which will be our base to explore Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park, the last two stops on our grand circle tour of National Parks in Utah. After parking the RV we headed to the Visitor Center at Arches National Park, where we viewed the park service film that covered both Arches & Canyonlands National Parks. We also found out about the free Ranger led activities for the next day. Today was a national free entry day into all National Parks, so we decided not to do any sightseeing in Arches until tomorrow, Sunday; hoping the crowds lighten-up. So we headed back to town to for groceries & to get more area info at the excellent city run tourist office in Moab.

Sunday morning we drove into Arches National Park & headed to Devils Garden at the very end of the dead end scenic road thru the middle of the park. While there we hiked a few shorts trail to view arches in the area. Then it was off to the Windows Section of the park for the 11AM Ranger led walk. These free park events are always worth the effort to attend. This time was even better than most; because our group was small (8 people), the Ranger asked if we wanted a longer tour & a little more challenging walk? Everyone said yes, so we got to hike on a trail that is not closed to the public, but is not advertised or obviously marked. Another great good deal from our National Park Service!

After the tour we headed back up the dead end scenic road to visit all the view points & to do some short hikes that we had skipped in the morning. One of the best view points was Sand Dune Arch. This is a very easy, short, hike thru a slot canyon (ie shaded from the sun) to a nice arch, where Dan could do some easy rock climbing to get on top of it.

http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Monday morning, 01OCT, we headed back to Arches National Park to do drive some of the 4-wheel roads in the park. So we took the Salt Valley Rd to view Tower Arch, but when we got to the parking area we discovered that it was over a 3 mile hike roundtrip to view the arch. So we decided to drive to the other side of the arch, where the hike was only a half mile roundtrip. Up to this point we have found that when the park maps say 4-wheel vehicle required, that the warnings were on the conservative side & we have never had any problems. This time was different, within a mile we hit a rock patch that Dan walked first & decided it far exceeded his beginner’s abilities, & our truck’s tires were more for gravel roads then steep, slippery, rocks.

So we backtracked out of the Arches National Park, stopping at a few arches we hadn’t seen the day before. We then decided to head to Canyonlands National Park rather then waiting until Tuesday, which was our original plan. Canyonlands is centered around the canyons created by the Green River, Colorado River, & their confluence. The park is divided into three distinct districts that are not connected & must be visited separately – “Island in the Sky”, “The Needles”, & “The Maze”. We drove to the closest – Island in the Sky; first stop as always was to the Visitor Center & to watch the video & get info. Since our time was now limited, the Ranger suggested we drive to Grand View Point Overlook & hike to the end of the trail. The view at the end of the hike was fantastic. But the hike finished us for the day. So it was back to the RV to recover; followed by dinner & a walkabout in Moab.

http://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm

One of the things we had on our Moab to do list (or on Dan’s to do list) was go on a Ranger led tour of the Fiery Canyon in Arches National Park. Unfortunately this $20 tour is limited to 25 people a day & is booked six weeks in advance. So we decided Dan would pay for a commercial tour & Corrie would take the day off. Very early Tuesday morning, 02OCT, Dan met up with the group (6 people) & headed to the Fiery Furnaces in Arches National Park. Although much more expensive than the park service tour, it was well worth the money! First of all the tour gets there first thing in the morning & usually you have the Fiery Furnace to yourselves for the first hour or so (he didn’t see any other groups all day). The tour is 1-1/2 hours longer, & if you are adventurous the guide will let do some “canyoneering”. Canyoneering is where you use all of your body (arms, legs, belly, butt, etc) without any climbing equipment to access portions of the rocks not accessible by any trail. Often there are no foot or hand holds & you are literally wedged between two walls of a slot canyon by the force of friction only! Rejoining Corrie at lunch time it was back to the RV for some much needed rest.


Wednesday morning it was back to the Island in the Sky “district” of Canyonlands National Park to finish the exploration we started on Monday. Note - it is called Island in the Sky because it is almost completely surrounded by canyons & can only be accessed by a forty foot wide strip of land called The Neck. Upon entering the park we drove straight to Upheaval Dome where we hiked to the overlook. Then we backtracked our route catching the overlooks we had passed on the way in. Right before reaching the park gate we turned onto the Shafer Trail Road; which immediately turned into a very serious series of switchbacks descending to the White Rim Road.

The White Rim Road circles the entire outer edge of Island in the Sky, it is 100 miles long & it is recommended you take at least 2 days to drive it! Amazingly we met a Coastie on a four day bike ride of the White Rim & stopped to talk, right in the middle of the Shafer Trail Rd. We only drove a part of the White Rim to Gooseneck Overlook, where a short hike takes you to a fantastic view of the Colorado River & canyon. Then we switched over to the Potash Rd back to Moab. The first 15 miles of the Potash took over an hour, the second 15 miles took 20 minutes. It is called the Potash Rd because in the middle of it are gigantic drying ponds producing potash. At the end we passed by DOE superfund site dealing with the radioactive mill tailings & other contaminated materials from a uranium ore processing facility.

http://www.gjem.energy.gov/moab/

First thing Thursday morning it was back to Canyonlands National Park to explore The Needles district. Even though The Needles is only 12 miles from the Island in the Sky district as the crow flies, it takes over 100 miles of driving oneway to go between the two! Even starting from Moab, it was 74 miles oneway. As always we stopped at the Visitor Center for information; & learned there was no video for this portion of the park & no Ranger led activities.

We spent the next three hours exploring the various overlooks while driving the scenic roads, & hiked the Cave Spring Trail, Pothole Point Trail & the Roadside Ruin Trail (all very easy). Two interesting sights were an abandoned “cowboy” camp on the cave spring trail & a Puebloan granary on the roadside ruin trail. Note – we did not attempt The Maze district of the park because it is only accessible by extreme 4-wheel roads, or hiking for days, or rafting down the Colorado River. That night it was dinner & gelato at Moab Brewery (supposedly Utah’s only micro-brewery), highly recommended!

http://www.themoabbrewery.com/

Our last day (Friday 05OCT) in Moab we decided to relax in the morning & not get started until almost noon. We had reservations for a half day raft trip down the Colorado River run by Canyon Voyages Adventure. There are several outfits that offer the same service, but this one provides lunch. When we made our reservation the lady told us there was no more room in the raft & we could paddle along in one of their inflatable kayaks, or take later tour without lunch. The lady also said that we would probably be able to “trade” seats with other people in the raft. Since the other tours cost the same & provided no food, we opted for the kayak & the food.

This is not a white water expedition thru level 3, 4, or 5 cataracts; but leisurely float down the river in what they call the Fisher Towers section with a couple of level 1 rapids. It was a great day & after the first one third of the trip someone did trade with us & we were in the raft the rest of the way. The only drawback to the kayak is you can’t really take pictures along the way; otherwise we would have stayed in it. In addition, lunch was pretty good; consisting of cold cuts, cheese, fresh veggies & fruits, potato salad, pasta salad, & cookies. Another commercial tour we highly recommend!

http://www.canyonvoyages.com/

Tomorrow, after an action packed week in Moab, we get back on the road heading east & south to Louisiana. We are really glad we decided to spend at least a week in Moab, but could have easily spent several weeks!