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Merced, California: I know a birthday in Bakersfield is hard to top, but we decided to continue three hours north to Merced where the DT's brothers were gathering. Brother Billy's band, The BOBtones, are having their annual reunion concert tomorrow night and tonight was the rehearsal (in Billy's garage) and Bill & Ginger were cooking up some scrumptious tacos for everyone to enjoy before the music started.

I ran for the first time in six days.

Then I iced my shin for the 304th time in six days. Not only are my shins hurting, my right calf is constantly trying to cramp and my left hammy wants to join-in on the fun. My advice? Don't run. Just walk. Swim. Bike. Dance. Running is for knuckleheads.

PS: Yes. My calves are really that big.

Our drive to Merced was uneventful. No wind to blow our awning covers up. Just horrid California highways to jar us out of our seats every few minutes. We came across a pothole so large, I'm pretty sure there was a VW Bug down there. Come on, California - step it up and get some asphalt! We checked into our usual campsite, Castle Air Museum RV Park, and then took the car into town for dinner at Brother Bill & Ginger's.

Ginger has quite the green thumb. Her roses are gorgeous!

Fabulous colors.

We have another new nephew - Buddy! Ginger found Buddy on the side of the road on her way home from work about four months ago. He had been hit by a car. Ginger took the (then) 5 month old puppy to her vet and had him put back together. No one ever claimed the mutt, so Ginger brought him home. (I think she should have named him Lucky.) Buddy is very sweet, but for some reason, he was absolutely terrified of my camera. He snarled and barked every time I brought the camera up to my face. Strangest thing. What has happened to this dog in his past that he is afraid of a digital SLR?

Bill & Ginger prepared chicken and pork tacos with all the works - plus a big pot of beans. Chips, guacamole and grilled sweet potato tacos for the vegetarians. A fabulous feast.

Desert was (finally) DT's birthday cheesecake. I bake a very different cheesecake. It isn't very sweet and the filling is dense, yet still light. One day, maybe I should post the recipe? It pairs well with a fresh fruit topping, but tonight we had it plain.

After dinner, the band went out to the garage and started practicing for their big show tomorrow night at a night club in downtown Merced.

The band is back together!

Steve Johnson is in from New York City

Adoring relatives & friends fans enjoying the music

Our niece (Bill & Ginger's daughter) Meghan (left) and her friend, Hannah at the show

Meanwhile, back in Florida, Little Leo is experiencing a hotel crib situation.

Photo by Lisa

Looks like Bubbe needs to bake Leo a cake with a file inside? Little Guy is finally cutting a tooth!

My other travelers, Mary & Cory, are still in Rome enjoying all-things Papal and today they visited the Coliseum.

Cory in Rome

One other little bit of news: Oregon running-back LaMichael James was chosen in the second round today by the San Francisco 49ers

Until my next update, I remain, your Merced correspondent.

SLOGGER REPORT:  Embarrassed to say it - two miles. Not really worth getting into all the exercise gear for only two miles... not a successful run. Still painful shins. There is a great route here on the air base I will attempt tomorrow, hopefully with better results.

RV PARK:  Castle Air Museum Family RV Park (or something like that). On the now-closed Castle Air Force Base between Merced & Atwater. Full-service sites, but no amenities. No bathhouse, laundry, clubhouse. Nothing but a quiet, safe place to park. 6 sites. $25.