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Last summer we took a break from our permanent vacation to go to Orcas Island in Washington for a week with friends and family. It was my first time in this part of the world and I loved it. The week was filled with fun…hanging on the porch watching the light on the water and islands, visiting with one of Patti’s friends from back in the day who happened to live within walking distance of our rental, eating well, walking, and going to view whales. Spoiler alert: we didn’t see any and I still believe they are mythical creatures. We must be the only people in the world to have spent time in not one but two prime whale watching areas (French Polynesia and the Pacific Northwest) and never saw so much as a fluke. Maybe next time.

So, here’s a handful from that trip. It was awfully nice.

Hello. Anyone there? Yeah, it’s been awhile. Sorry. The writer decided to take a break. Artists. We’re about to come out of winter hiatus so I thought I’d step in to catch this up before starting a new season of travel. 

The last post is from Wisconsin. We were there in June of last year. There are a lot of miles (and time) between then and now so here’s a list of where we’ve been since.

  • Wabasha, MN (for July 4th; lovely little town)
  • Sioux Falls, SD (another ER trip)
  • Belvidere, SD (overnighter)
  • Spearfish, SD (like this town a lot)
  • Sheridan, WY (rodeo and polo)
  • Garryowen, MT (next to Little Bighorn)
  • Reed Point, MT (took a road trip to drive a bit of the Beartooth Highway)
  • Bozeman, MT (almost like home now)
  • Orcas Island, WA (left the trailer in Bozeman and spent a week here with family and friends in a beautiful house with a stunning view)
  • Livingston, MT (more family time)
  • Billings, MT (overnighter)
  • Cody, WY (Buffalo Bill Museum)
  • Casper, WY 
  • Cheyenne, WY (feeding bison!)
  • Longmont, CO (Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park)
  • Woodland Park, CO (Garden of the Gods)
  • Alamosa, CO (Great Sand Dune Nat’l Park)
  • Santa Fe, NM (Georgia O’Keefe Museum)
  • Tucumcari, NM (fighting bulls)
  • Shamrock, TX (nuthin’ much)
  • Shawnee, OK (horses)
  • Sallisaw, OK (Fort Smith)
  • Hot Springs, AK (hot springs)
  • Memphis, TN (MLK and Blues Hall of Fame)
  • Starkville, MS (overnighter)
  • Tuscaloosa, AL (beautiful COE)
  • Auburn, AL (nice little college town)
  • Bainbridge, GA (nice COE)
  • Mayo, FL 
  • Melbourne, FL aka winter quarters

We’ve been in Florida since the end of October with a 4-week interlude in January/February. We spent a couple of days in Myrtle Beach, SC, then 10 days in Hatteras, NC with family. Followed by 2 weeks on the west side of Florida for more family time.

We are about to pull up stakes again, starting with a trip to France. The trailer will go into storage while we’re overseas. When we return, we hook up and hit the road for some more adventures. Stay tuned!

(Well, I think that about sums it up. Over the next few days I will post some random photos from those travels prior to our trip overseas. Hopefully I will be able to post from there, also.)

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.

As you can tell, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted. No special reason … just busy traveling and having fun. I’ll try to do better for the rest of the year.

No, really.

Since we left Gettysburg, we’ve been busy: north to Watkins Glen, west to Bozeman (and then the San Juan Islands without the RV), down through Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and now heading east towards Florida in a meandering sort of way. We’ve had a great time, as you will see in future posts.

Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes in New York were beautiful. I wish that I had taken advantage of the area when I lived in Baltimore, but better late than never. The biggest attraction was Watkins Gorge. I had no idea that this was here. Wow.

From there, we hunkered down in western NY state for Memorial Day. Yes, that’s how far behind we are. While there, we got another surprise by visiting Letchworth State Park. More fantastic beauty. Man, we really love state parks.

Having survived Memorial Day, and a power related failure on the Friday evening of that holiday weekend, we ran west. I won’t go into the details since we were essentially just moving across the country, but we did stop in the Chicago area so that I could show Patti where I grew up in small town America. Oh, and we bought a couple of eBikes which have proven to be lots of fun. Here are a few representative photos.

I’ll try to get more posts out in a timely manner. I have lots of cool photos from our summer in the smoke out west. Stay tuned.

Next big stop: Luray, VA and a bit of the Shenandoah National Park. I have spent a lot of time in the park over the years and even a couple of visits to the town of Luray. One of my closest friends lives very near there so we booked this spot so that we could walk the park, hit the famous Luray Caverns, and visit people we haven’t seen in too long. Mission accomplished on all counts.

We spent 10 nights at the Luray KOA. We chose it based upon two criteria: it was close to my buddy’s house and it had good ratings. It blew us away. One side of the RV faced a farmer’s field where a grain crop was just coming in. It was a beautiful shade of green, particularly in the morning and evening light. The other side faced a huge, open lawn. Very nice indeed. The park has several nice walks and drives, always enjoyable. Surprisingly, this was my first visit to Luray Caverns and all I’ll say is that it was worth the trip.

So, a good time was had by all. We visited with our fully vaccinated friends (no masks! hugs all around!) and actually had dinner out (no masks! food we didn’t cook!). Jeez, normalcy (at least a version of it) seems to be lurking just around the corner!

After a week in Cherokee, we moved to the other side of the mountains immediately outside the park in Townsend, Tennessee. We were right against the park; so close that while walking a trail inside the park I could look down and see our trailer. Nice. We enjoyed a week of hiking, driving in Cades Cove, and simply experiencing the park in the spring. The weather was nice and we had a good time. We saw a couple of bears and had the pleasure of identifying bear scat which was about 15′ from our RV. And fresh. Good thing we don’t need to walk to the bath house in the middle of the night. Turns out the bear is a regular every year and this was his first appearance of the season. His name is Pedro.

I sure do like the Smokies and it was lots of fun showing Patti my favorite spots. The campground was perfect and we will be back.

Prior to my 2012 heart attack, I would head off to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a week or so of solo camping and hiking. (See here and here, for example) Since my cardiac adventure, we deemed it unwise for solo trips of that kind, so I haven’t been back since 2011. Until now.

We have four “destination” stops planned for our spring tour and the GSMNP is our initial one. Our first week here was spent on the North Carolina side of the mountains. The goods news was that the crowds weren’t too bad for the GSMNP, which can get quite crowded. The not as good news was that our campground, which was large, was packed to the gills with families due to spring break. It was crowded and noisy during the daytime. It was nice to see all these kids running around, though, since we got the impression that these families come back year after year and these kids were being with their “annual” friends.

We did lots of hiking, saw Bryson City, bagged a bunch of waterfalls, and did lots more hiking. Spring was just kicking in and the trees really greened up while we were here. It was interesting to experience the park this early since the views are obviously different without leaves. It was also interesting to watch the whole area get greener every day. It was nice.

Here are just a few shots that don’t do the park justice. It needs to be experienced for that.

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