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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

Well, it’s certainly been too long between posts, but that will probably be changing. A lot has happened in a short amount of time and we have big news, but first some backstory. Warning: this will be a long post.

For several years now, Patti and I have been generating and researching our plans for retirement. The overall plan is to travel, travel, travel. The implementation we decided upon was to buy an RV, get rid of most of our possessions, sell the house, and hit the road full time. We’d like to travel here in the U.S. for 9 months or so each year and then store the RV and head overseas for a few months. Rinse, repeat. In order to get ready for this, we have been doing a lot of research into both the lifestyle and the various RVs out there to determine what will fit our requirements. After lots of online research and many trips to dealers and RV shows, we decided on some basic requirements, desires, and nice-to-haves:

  • Diesel rather than gas. This is more expensive but more comfortable, capable of larger cargo and towing capacities, and safer going up and, most importantly, down steep grades. We plan on spending lots of time west of the Mississippi.
  • 37-41 feet long. Any smaller and we felt we’d be tripping over each other. Any larger is just too much.
  • King bed. We’ve grown accustomed to our sleeping space.
  • Light and airy inside. We looked at many large coaches that seemed claustrophobic due to layout and lack of windows. We need light for sanity purposes.

A couple of years ago, we found a floorplan that checked all of our boxes and more, the Winnebago Journey 38P. Its biggest feature for us — huge windows. We couldn’t afford a new one, but when the time came to actually pull the trigger and buy one (between Labor Day 2017 and Memorial Day 2018) we hoped we could find a used one in our range. Unfortunately, Winnebago only made that model for a few months before halting production. Apparently this floorplan wasn’t selling.

Fast forward to late May of this year. Patti started having doubts about the RV plan. We talked it out and agreed to consider alternatives, specifically just bouncing around the world from Airbnb to Airbnb. Looked like it would be lots of fun, but very different from our long standing plan. Still, we considered it.

And then the Universe stepped in and played its hand. Patti found a (very) used coach that was a good deal, met many of our needs, and was affordable. Downside: it was in Michigan. Upside: one just like it was on a lot in Tampa. We scheduled an appointment for the following Saturday to take a look.

Then, a day or two later, I get an email from Patti with the Subject “OMG!” A dealer up I-95 had a new 38P that had obviously been sitting on the lot for quite awhile and they wanted to move it. It was just under 40 percent off MSRP. We scheduled an appointment for Sunday. It was going to be a long weekend of driving to look at coaches.

The used coach made for an easy data point: we didn’t want to buy an old one and fix it up. Too much hassle to install the technology gains of the last decade on top of all of the upgrades needed after 12 years of ownership. Sunday we went and looked at the 38P and fell in love. We came back and I asked Patti one question: was she comfortable with the RV plan? She said she was. We decided, given that fact, that we would be fools to pass on our “perfect” RV. We looked at the numbers, decided we could afford it and bought the sucker.

_JP17923It needed some repairs and prep work, so we took the time to sell our travel trailer. While showing it to one gentleman, he asked why we were selling it. I told him of our plan and casually asked him if he wanted to buy a house. He did.

We now have in our possession a new 40′ RV and a signed contract on our house. Holy crap, things got surreal pretty quick. We are 4 to 10 months ahead of schedule on the RV and 18 to 20 months on the house!

But we’re executing “The Plan.” Stay tuned for our break-in stories. We’ve already had some misadventures, but that’s for next time.

 

(BTW: we’re brainstorming names for our new ride. Feel free to provide us with suggestions.)

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Hall_Wedding_Jeanne2 - Version 2Several weeks ago we had the great good fortune to rendezvous in Annapolis, Md. for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Stop and think about that: in the time since Jeanne was born, we have gone from mankind just learning to fly to walking on the moon. From the age of steam to splitting the atom. From the normal problems of the day consisting of distributing ice and removing horse droppings (for want of a better term) to supplying the device in your pocket that can access the world’s knowledge in seconds with power. The rate of change in the world’s knowledge and capabilities has accelerated to an unfathomable degree, and she has been watching the craziness her entire life. And she’s still going strong.

It was a pretty special weekend. Family and friends came in from Utah, Montana, Florida, California, Arizona and New York. For the first time since I joined this family, all four of her children were in the same place at the same time. We shared meals, sat outside on a cool August day (and let me tell you, just having a cool day in August in that part of the world is special; there’s a reason Congress adjourns in August), and talked talked talked. We also ate ate ate! It was quite the whirlwind of activity and Jeanne was going strong the entire time. In her own words, she was “floating on air.”

During her birthday lunch, we went around the table, each of us telling a story or two and thanking Jeanne for this and that. A couple of common themes, mentioned several times, struck a chord with me. Her love of travel, which was passed to her children, was one. Another was her love of reading. Both of these are passions of Patti and mine, and it was wonderful to acknowledge to her the results of the seeds she nourished. Having the opportunity to let her know how we felt was a moment that many of us don’t get to share with our loved ones, to the detriment of us all.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

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