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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.

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.

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.

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!

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 crossed the Mighty Mississippi heading eastbound after almost two years of adventures in the west. We stopped for a visit with family in Louisiana and then sped towards Florida. Spent some time with close friends in north Florida over Thanksgiving and then we were back on the Space Coast for a three month stay in a townhouse.

I didn’t take a whole lot of photos during this dash. We were moving kinda fast and staying places that weren’t, for the most part, scratching my creative itch. One place we did stop that is totally worth mentioning was the Whitney Plantation. It is best described in their own words: “Whitney Plantation Museum is the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people.”┬áIt was a moving and educational experience that left us humbled and which my words can’t begin to bring to justice. Below are some photographs of just a handful of the wonderful art scattered across the grounds. I strongly encourage anyone in the Baton Rouge area to invest a few hours visiting this powerful place.

The Whitney Plantation Chapel with sculptures by artist Woodrow Nash of enslaved children. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Nash’s sculptures at Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

A view of the main house at the Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Woodrow Nash also created this memorial of the German Coast Uprising, the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

The punishment cages at Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Set up on Mobile Bay. Nice site. Mobile, AL 11/14/20

Sunset across Mobile Bay. 11/14/20

Our original plans had us wintering in Tucson with a planned field trip in the truck back to Florida for a couple of weeks to have some long overdue doctor visits. We are of an age where scheduling doctor appointments is not an option but a necessity. The on-going Covid unpleasantness prompted us to change those plans and take the RV east with us. We made arrangements to rent a condo in Cape Canaveral for a few months and we were able to store the coach in our old storage facility, so after Bryce we headed east at what was, for us, a rapid pace. Our initial goal, other than a quick stop in Albuquerque for annual maintenance for Sybil, was to stop near Baton Rouge to visit family.

So, off we went. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas fell into our rear view mirror. We saw trees that were millions of years old here, just missed getting caught in severe winter conditions in North Texas, camped with alpacas near Dallas, and rode out Election Day on a bayou in East Texas. Which is a story in its own right.

But we made it without too many mishaps. Here are a few shots from along the way. Next time: east of the Mighty Mississippi for the first time in a while!

Dinner at Wahweap Campground on Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 10/13/20

Night sky over Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 10/13/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Petrified Forest NP, 10/16/20

Alpacas are silly. Denton, TX, 10/29/20

What a goofy face. Denton, TX, 10/29/20

Early morning on the Big Cypress Bayou. Karnack, TX 11/3/20

Early morning on the Big Cypress Bayou. Karnack, TX 11/3/20

Wow, it’s been way too long (again) since I posted. We’ve been a bit busy, what with driving across the country, moving into a condo for a few months, many doctors appointments, and implementing major changes in our lifestyle. That latter item is a subject for a later post. Patience, grasshopper.

Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. Beautiful Bryce. This place is awesome and the pics you’ll see below don’t come close to actually capturing the natural wonders that make it up. It needs to be seen to be appreciated. So we went, spent a week, saw beautiful things, and left wanting more. As it should be.

We also took a couple of side trips while there, specifically to Red Canyon just outside the park, and Kodachrome Basin State Park just a short drive away. Both were well worth the time, particularly Red Canyon. It is literally directly on the way to Bryce from the west and has insane (and easy) walks straight from the parking lot. It’s a “must not miss” stop for anyone in the area. (Note from the editor: The hike at Red Canyon is one of my top five fave hikes so far.)

On an “RV’ing isn’t for sissies” note: when I was setting up at the campground, the water intake attachment on the RV blew up when I turned on the hose. This is a one way hose attachment and is, obviously, critical to our getting fresh water. I took two quick actions. One was to order the part and to have it delivered to our next stop. The second was to drive to the thriving metropolis of Tropic, UT, population 530, where there was an Ace hardware store. I bought four (4!) adapters to convert the H2O input piping to directly connect a hose. There was a small amount of dripping even with the use of plumbers tape, but it would do. The lows overnight were forecast to be about 36 degrees, so no danger of freezing. No problem.

At 3AM I got up to answer the call of nature and checked the outside temperature from my weather station. It was reporting 28 degrees. Crap. So at 3AM, this Florida boy found himself outside disconnecting an already partially frozen hose and capping the icicle-encrusted half-assed connection. Good times. Fortunately I got to it before any of our interior pipes were affected. Two lessons were learned: 1) always keep your eye on the actual temp vs. the forecast one and 2) the furnaces on our RV were able to easily keep our basement storage area (where our tanks and water lines live) nice and warm. Both of these are good to know.

Enjoy the photos and stay tuned. I hope to resume posting more regularly over the coming month to catch up with actual real-time events. Stay safe y’all.

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Kodachrome Basin SP 10/8/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20