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After New York, we quickly moved west in order to meet a family obligation later in the summer. Quick stops in Ohio, Indiana, southern Illinois, and near Chicago had us suddenly in Wisconsin. A quick word in how we generally travel. We choose destinations to explore (think Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon) and then fill in the blanks with stops in locations that are appropriate travel durations apart. We sort of choose these based on campground reviews that point us to decent places. Somewhat random. Which is how we found ourselves staying at the Wisconsin Dells for several days. The Dells, as it turns out, is the “Water Park Capitol of the Upper Midwest.” It is very touristy. It is also incredibly pretty. We took a boat ride into the Dells proper and were surprised at the gorgeous scenery. It really was something to see and was somewhere that, had we been vacationers, we would never have stayed.

This happens to us all the time. We choose many stops strictly because they’re on our way and the right distance and, because we pretty much always stay multiple nights and can explore, we find cool things to do and sights to see. Everywhere we go. See here. Or here. Or here. It’s the payoff we’re looking for and we love it. And as long as we keep having such success, we’ll keep at it.

After the Shenandoah, we headed to Gettysburg for two weeks. This post is not about the battle itself, which was horrific, or the private horseback tour we took, which was an experience we’ll remember for an awfully long time. Rather, it’s about my personal connection to those events.

One of my great-grandfathers was Orlando Porter. On August 22, 1861 he enlisted in Company I of the 7th Regiment, Michigan Infantry on the day it was formed. The 7th Michigan got around quite a bit during the war, fighting at most of the significant battles in the Eastern Theatre, including Gettysburg. Today at Gettysburg, there are monuments to virtually every unit, northern and southern, that was present during those three days. While we were there, we found the monument to the 7th Michigan and I, of course, took some photos.

Orlando went on to have an interesting time. He was eventually made a sergeant and acting sergeant major in another Regiment. And on August 22, 1864 (three years to the day of his enlistment) he shot a private of the 11th Maine Artillery dead. The shooting took place on a train platform in Beltsville, MD and occurred in the line of duty while defending soldiers and civilians from the rowdy, and possibly drunk, private. He was incarcerated in the Central Guardhouse in Washington, DC, and eventually exonerated of all charges. He mustered out of the service on December 20, 1864 at the age of 32 when his enlistment expired..

My family has a bunch of documentation, including 5 witness statements, his acquittal letter, a letter of recommendation from the Commandant of the prison, and various other documents from his life but unfortunately no photos of him are in my possession. Reading these documents provide a strong link for me to the historic events that took place so long ago.

If you get a chance, visit Gettysburg. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful spot for long walks on cool spring days. And a beautiful spot to remember awful events.

Our travel style is such that we look for a destination, for example, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and then work our way there with random stops along the way. Often we don’t research those intermediate stops but rather plan them based upon travel time. We’re retired so we generally aren’t in a hurry. Therefore we base our stops on making our travel days comfortable, meaning a 3-4 hour drive. When you throw in the time to tear down and set up our site this makes for a pleasant journey. And since we’re not in a hurry, we stay at least several days in each location.

A by-product of this strategy is that we look for cool things to do in places that would normally not be, at least for us, a “destination” location. This is one of the great things about traveling as we do; we have always found interesting things to see and do, interesting people to meet. Our recent stop near Newberry, SC was a typical example. We discovered that a Revolutionary War battle, The Battle of Musgrove Mill, took place nearby. Fun fact: there were more Revolutionary War battles fought in South Carolina than in the surrounding states combined. Who knew? Anyway, we checked it out and it was informative as well as a nice walk on a cold blustery day. We also took a field trip to Greenville, SC. Nice little city with an awesome downtown area. We would never have seen either of these had we not been moving slowly.

Just a few pictures this time. Prepare for a bunch more since we leave this area to spend 2 weeks nestled against the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Life can be rough.

After our brief run-in with the medical establishment and a bit of cardiac plumbing maintenance, we finally headed up the road. Prior to leaving, we got up before the crack of dawn and drove over to the FEMA vaccination site in Orlando. They were advertising the availability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and no wait times. I had only become Florida eligible a few days before and the J&J vaccine was very attractive since being on the road presents difficulties obtaining the second shot so off we went. Got there as they were opening and discovered they did not receive the shipment of the J&J vaccine. Home we went.

Our first stop was in Brunswick, GA just for a few nights. While there we tried getting me vaccinated again. Jacksonville had a FEMA site so off we went, again at the crack-o-dawn. Same result: no Johnson & Johnson. This time, after a bit of googling, we decided to go with the “bird in the hand” school of thought and I got the Pfizer first shot. Since I already had the antibodies and it seems I have at least 12 weeks to get the second shot it seemed like the thing to do.

From Brunswick, we moved up to a lovely park in Hardeevile, SC. We were close to Savannah, Hilton Head, and several old, quaint South Carolina small waterfront towns. We hit up those spots as well as Hunting Island State Park. It was great to be getting back into the swing of things by taking walks, taking pictures, and even enjoying a socially responsible lunch on a deck overlooking the water in Beaufort, SC. Wow, a small return to normalcy!

We also took a tour of the Hilton Head Margaritaville retirement community. It was…interesting. Nice floorplans, excellent workout facilities, very nice pool, and an acceptable bar/restaurant. You never know.

And so up the road we go, looking forward to seeing national parks, walking in mountains and across historic battlefields, seeing friends and family, and perhaps enjoying a good meal or two along the way. You know, just another season on the highway.

So here we are, back where we started. Since we made the decision to return to Florida late in the season, we had to put the RV into storage and rent a townhouse owned by a former co-worker of mine. We spent three months just a 10-minute walk from the beach in Cape Canaveral. Nice. It was very strange being back in a sticks-and-bricks house here on the Space Coast. We didn’t have to worry about if our tanks are filling up, there were hundreds of stations on the TV, peacocks were roaming around everywhere, and we once again watched rockets lifting off. The first time we watched a liftoff just a few days after we arrived we turned to each other when the roar hit us and said it was the sound of home.

And, of course, we saw friends and family. It was nice catching up with everyone, but very odd after the isolation of the previous year. Fortunately all were healthy and thriving. That’s not a given in this day and age. We also saw all of our doctors over the course of the visit and, for the most part, we confirmed that we are healthy and still kicking. More on that later.

The biggest change was that we sold our F150 and our 40′ Class A motorhome for a RAM 3500 dually and a 41′ 5th wheel. We had several reasons for this, among them ease of driving and more interior space. After several years in the motorhome we were on the top of the learning curve and were very confident in our skills in dealing with the day to day issues (and there are many) that pop up along the way. Now we’re back at the bottom of the curve looking up. I used to be able to back up the coach like a pro. I still have issues backing up the new trailer. But we’ll get there.

We were all set to start this new season of adventure (Smokies, Shenandoah, Gettysburg and Finger Lakes just to start) when the proverbial wrench hit the works. Because it’s been 9 years since I had the heart bypass, I took a stress test a couple of weeks ago to make sure the plumbing was still in good order. So instead of getting back on the road last week as planned, I went to the hospital for a stent. Crap. Since it’s impossible to find suitable campsites at the last minute in the Florida springtime, we stashed the RV back into storage and took a hotel room for 10 days. (I love overnight stays in the hospital, particularly since the last time I came home from one I brought COVID with me.) I’m healing nicely, we’re on track to leave next week, and we only had to make some minor tweaks to the schedule. This lifestyle isn’t for sissies, but it sure is worth it.

Stay tuned for our upcoming adventures.

The Beast

Our new rig. Now if I could only back it up. 2/15/21

SpaceX Booster returning to port. Cape Canaveral, FL 12/9/20

One of the neighbors. Cape Canaveral, FL 2/11/21

Cape Canaveral, FL 1/8/21

Cape Canaveral, FL 2/16/21

The strangest things wash ashore. A sea turtle corpse … the paint indicates that it has been identified for removal. Cape Canaveral, FL 1/26/21

We have a motto for when we are out and about having a good time. “No ER, No Bail” which means no matter how much fun we’re having we WILL NOT end up in the ER or jail. Our status on that is now 50 percent successful. <sigh> More on this subject later.

Our first stop after leaving Spearfish was Sheridan, WY. Sheridan is a nice little city sitting beneath the Bighorn Mountains. A really nice city center with lots of sculpture, great parks and recreation, and large enough to support decent groceries and shopping which we have learned to appreciate. We really liked it and will stop by again if we are ever in the neighborhood.

The major thing we did while here was visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. We really enjoyed the visit. The area is beautiful and the presentation of the events was interesting and well balanced between both sides of the events that took place. As a history buff I really enjoyed seeing the terrain. We walked the area of the “last stand” and drove the loop road that covers the overall territory. Fascinating. The Federal lands are actually in two areas connected by that road crossing Indian land which is used for grazing horses. Lots of horses. At one point a herd was crossing the road. What was apparently the alpha male blocked traffic (with help from one of his paramours) until everybody got across, then human and horse each went about their business. My horse-loving wife was thrilled.

When we checked into the campground, the nice gentleman recommended a loop drive through the mountains. It was only “90 miles” and would just take a “couple of hours”. Cool. We set out one day to give it a shot. 90 minutes, 60 miles, and a couple thousand feet of elevation later we came across a road sign that explicitly defined our path. We still had another 180 miles to go. Having been doing a lot of driving recently we noped right out of that, went home, and curled up with our books. That’s what I get for not doing due diligence. Google later told me it was just under a 5 hour drive. As an aside: the part we did do was very pretty.

Back to my lead in: one morning I was roused from sleep by major back pain that I, unfortunately, recognized. Kidney stones, and it was the worst I have ever experienced. That’s how we found ourselves in the Sheridan ER at 6:30 AM on a Saturday. We had an excellent experience, if I can say that considering the circumstances. Everybody was very supportive and helpful, although you know you’re in trouble when experienced nurses are looking at you with pity in their eyes. After judicious applications of opiates and various other drugs they sent me on my way, happy and relaxed. Apparently while I was drugged and numb I passed the stone, since I’ve been fine ever since. Cross the ER experience off of our checklist.

We left Sheridan and moved on to the thriving town of Reed Point, MT, population 185. Nice little town with a very funky saloon. We attempted to drive the Beartooth Highway but turned around due to weather. We enjoyed a nice lunch in Red Lodge instead. There was also a lovely walk to the Natural Bridge Falls, a trip to a real grocery store and some downtime. A good time was, once again, had by all.

Locations of fallen Native Americans, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 6/9/19

Locations of fallen soldiers, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 6/9/19

Native American Memorial, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 6/9/19

Reed Point, MT 6/15/19

Natural Bridge Falls 6/13/19

Natural Bridge Falls 6/13/19

8/23/25 – 6/11/19

March 17th: Leave rented house, move on to Sybil.

March 29th: Turn over rental keys, Sybil is now our “official” home.

April 18th: Drive out of Florida.

Florida had been my home for 37 years, Patti’s for more than 25, and a lot has obviously happened in that time, including an entire career doing something meaningful. Now I’m retired from that career and we’re not looking back. Crossing that Florida-Georgia line (huh, catchy) was a major step in our new lifestyle. We’re really doing it. (gulp)

White Oak Creek CG, 4/18/19

We stayed at a Corps of Engineer (COE) campground just south of Eufaula, Alabama (pronounced “you-falla”) called White Oak (Creek) Campground. (Why “Creek” is in parentheses is a mystery.) This is our second COE campground and we just love them. By definition, they are almost always on water. And they are cheap. With our America The Beautiful Pass, we paid $12/night for a water view. Seriously, Patti and I stood in front of our picture window just staring at the view many times during our four nights here. This is a big reason why we’re doing this.

We had a milestone while staying here. Overnight on our first night a significant weather event took place that affected much of the southeast. One of those strong fronts came by. Just like much of our history with hurricanes, it passed during the wee hours of the night. Also just like the many tropical storms and hurricanes we went through, the wind drove us crazy. Unlike those previous storms, the RV was rocking pretty good. Our house tended to not move too much during the storms. It would vibrate, but not roll. (BTW: a concrete block house vibrating like a tuning fork does not instill a sense of well being.) After all was said and done, we came through without a hitch, although we were a bit sleep deprived the next day.

On Friday, the place filled up and lots of the campers brought their boats … either fishing or pontoon party boats. Many of the campsites, including the one right next to us, could handle an RV/trailer, tow vehicle, boat, and it’s tow vehicle. All on one site. People would put their boat in the water and then just tie it off on the beach next to their site. Crazy.

What else was crazy was the balance of our time here. We took a nice walk through Eufaula and had a great lunch. We also spent time just sitting outside by the lake, watching the world (and geese) go by. It’s rough doing this RV thing. And we took a field trip that was awesome enough to justify its own post. Stay tuned for that! What a great campground.

Our best view (so far), White Oak Creek CG, 4/18/19

Lady Sybil, White Oak Creek CG, 4/18/19

A visiting family, White Oak Creek CG, 4/21/19

Nora’s evening walk, White Oak Creek CG, 4/18/19

A peanut processing plant, still in operation, Eufaula, AL, 4/20/19

A portion of the Creek Indian Trail, Eufaula, AL, 4/20/19

To complete our exit from Florida, we spent a few nights at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park along the banks of the Suwannee River. We have stayed here before and it’s a great, mellow park with some good walking along the river. We didn’t do much here, mostly walked and did some chores. A major chore was to run over to Green Cove Springs, FL to visit our mail service and pick up some important items in person. Getting mail while living on the road needs to be planned and physically receiving it can be difficult. Most of the time we have them scan and then shred our mail, but we had received a debit card and decided to just go by and pick it up ourselves. We made a day of it and took a nice drive across NE Florida.

Otherwise we just enjoyed the beautiful weather. I took a couple of walks along the Florida Trail but didn’t get any biking in. I tried to get some photos of the Spanish Moss in the campground but the only evening I was free at the appropriate time (for that good evening light) it was very overcast. Maybe next time.

We have found that three days at a location is just not enough when you need to actually live your normal life at the same time. Groceries, banking, and all of the other “normal” activities take up time. We are currently heading to an appointment in Iowa but once we clear that we’ll be slowing down. There’s a lot of roses out there to smell and we plan on taking the time to do so.

Almost that good light. Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

Backwoods campsite, Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

It’s nice to be walking real trails again. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Spotted on the trail. It was still so cool that he didn’t move as I approached, knelt down, took the photo, and walked away. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Nora is adjusting well. That’s her seat. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

 

The 1st of our many new homes, Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/18/19

Yesterday we finished up packing the RV, pulled it out of storage, and set it up at our site in Wickham Park, our home for the next 3 weeks.

We are now full-time RV’ers.

Holy crap.

We’ve been considering doing this for almost 8 years, planning it for 6, and, since my retirement almost a year ago, implementing the plan. We’ve been busy scanning a lifetime of photos and documents, giving away or selling most of our belongings, and trying to figure out how we will fit the 10 lbs of our stuff (clothes, kitchen, gear) into the 5 lbs of available space on Sybil. We seem to have succeeded, but only time will truly tell. Now it’s time to execute the plan.

Waxing philosophic for a moment, this is obviously a huge change and challenge for us. It wasn’t easy disposing of a lifetime worth of stuff but the difficult decisions have been made. It was easier than we thought. Now we face the reality of living in (very) close quarters with each other pretty much 24/7. The reality of not being quite sure where we’ll be next week/month/year. The reality of needing to find a place to stay when we do decide where to go. The reality of closely monitoring the weather in case we need to run away or hunker down. The reality of dealing with significant obstacles while on the road. It will be a lot more work than simply hanging around the house. We understand all of this and believe we’re ready to embrace the new lifestyle we are throwing ourselves into. Again, time will tell.

On the other hand, we anticipate great rewards as a result of this choice. Beautiful scenery. Interesting people. Adventure. Swashbuckling.

OK, maybe not that last one.

We are pretty excited to be heading out finally. We will miss our most excellent friends and family, but it’s never been easier to stay in touch and have them share our journey. Some of them we may run into out there on the highway. Others not until we swing by wherever they may be. We’re never farther than a cell call or internet reach out away.

In the immortal words of the great scholar and author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel: “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”.

The view from our home. Thanks to the Bradys for the gift that keeps on giving…quality rum. Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/17/19