Pecan Plantation, Granbury, Texas (continued)

1/6/19

We have had glorious weather over the last day or so. It has been sunny and 70 during the day, dropping into the 40’s at night.  Yesterday we spent the day in Fort Worth which is a very clean, beautiful city.  We went to Sundance Square and there were hardly any people around which was strange for such a glorious, sunny Saturday.  Barbara figured out that all of Texas was probably indoors watching the Houston Texans play in the afternoon and the Cowboys play in the evening- Wild Card Weekend.

            A clean city – Ft Worth ‘Sundance Square’ with Bank of America bldg.                                                  and County Courthouse/Clock Tower (built with pink Texas Granite)

After Sundance Square, we headed over to the famous Stockyard District which is a very happening place.  I guess that’s where all the people were hanging out,  We enjoyed some drinks at Billy Bob’s and did a little browsing in the “western” shops.   I wish I had the courage to ride a mechanical bull- it would have been good fodder for this blog.

         Ft Worth  (particularly the ‘Stockyard District) is ‘Cowtown’  –                                                                      with real bull riding inside Billy Bob’s, the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk”. They also like statues.

We have extended our stay here to enjoy some more warm weather and family fun with the Johnson’s, but we also extended our stay out of necessity.  John confessed that he had been experiencing pain and tightening in his right shoulder/clavicle area for a second straight day following our most recent visit to Planet Fitness – disturbingly similar to the symptoms he had (which we also at first assumed was a muscular problem) before his stent and subsequent surgery.  Barbara is a medical professional and has worked for years at the Glen Rose Hospital.  She knows all the staff there and now works for their family clinic here in Granbury.  With that in mind, we all drove to the ER in Glen Rose and John had an EKG and lab work.  Luckily things looked good enough that he was released and advised to follow up with the cardiologist….so here we are, sticking around at the Pecan Plantation’s RV park, which happens to be a great place to be – spacious, beautiful, and not crowded this time of year.  John has an appointment for an echo on 1/10 and a cardiology follow up on 1/11.  We are reserved here until 1/13 so we are all set.

1/7/19

Since John was told to take it easy until he sees the doc, he has been going a little stir crazy.  We decided to take an overnight trip and head south to Austin, Texas.  There is an open mic jazz jam in downtown Austin at the Elephant Room every Monday night so off we go.  It is 3 hours away so we are going to stay in a hotel and tour around all day Tuesday as well.

Austin at night is a musically happening place.–‘Austin City Limits!’

We checked into the hotel in the late afternoon, rested a bit and then headed out for a fabulous dinner at the Roaring Fork, followed by the jam session at the underground Elephant Room.  It was a terrific jam session.  The guy leading it was a great emcee and a very accomplished jazz trumpet player.  The musicians were top notch and players came from all over the country including NYC, Minnesota, Illinois and even San Juan, PR.  John sat in on two tunes and was amazing.  He hasn’t lost his touch.

AustnJam 0119

Sittin in at Austin’s jazz jam at the Elephant Room

1/8/19

We toured all around Austin attempting to see the top rated must see sites according to US News and World Reports.  Several of the top attractions are located on the sprawling campus of the University of Texas, Austin.  The weather was perfect. even a little too warm in the mid-afternoon.  It actually climbed up into the 80’s- not bad for January.  We walked many miles across campus to see the LBJ Library and lo and behold, it was closed due to the government shutdown.

University of Texas at Austin, including Susan hobnobbing with LBJ outside his gigantic library (closed for Govt. shutdown), and what I thought might be a sculpture tribute to ‘LBJ’s balls’ outside the clock tower —  but was just a regular sculpture. Also the football stadium for the famous ‘Texas Longhorns’, Governor James Hogg (1895), and MLK.

Then we walked even further across campus to the clock tower hoping to get a tour up to the observation deck.  We got to the tower lobby and there was a sign indicating that tours are by appointment.  I called the number and was told that the tower is closed for winter break.  We walked all the way back across and just outside the campus and finally had success seeing the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  Of course the 45 minute IMAX film we were hoping to see was only shown in the early afternoon but we did spend a very fascinating couple of hours learning about Texas’ unique history.  I imagine this is the only state that can celebrate 2 separate independence days.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is big and interesting. Texas has a long and complicated history –  it was first Native American, then a Spanish territory, then part of Mexico, and then its own country. Finally TX became a US state –  just before joining the Confederacy, after which it was    a US state again.                                                                                                                                                                   So far, Texas and New York are tied for the most self-referencing states. The ‘Lone Star’ is ubiquitous – these are particularly large ones.

After the museum, we headed over to the gorgeous state capital building made entirely of pink Texas granite.  It is huge, – bigger than the US capital, but everything is bigger in Texas  they say.  Our final stop was Zilker Park across the river.  Unfortunately, it was already dark and there is tons of traffic in Austin during rush hour so we didn’t stay too long.  We did get to see the city skyline from the river’s edge in the park and then we headed into the insane traffic to return to Granbury.

More Austin – the TX state capitol bldg (also made from famous pink Texas granite) and its rotunda and dome – with  figures from Texas’ drive for independence: Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett

Austin6 0119

trying to get out of Austin through major traffic: Its skyline at night

1/19/19

Well, we are still on our extended stay here in Granbury.  John had his echo cardiogram and met with his Texas cardiologist Dr. Patel .  He also has a New York Dr. Patel- no joke. The results showed some overall capacity loss and of course, we were concerned until the doctor explained that it was really very close to normal. He also ordered an additional stress test and arterial ultrasound causing an additional extension here in Granbury through this weekend.  Happily, everything looks OK and the doctor recommended only that John get a checkup every six months.  He gave us the green light to get back on the road and even joked that we could find another Dr. Patel anywhere we go.  So we are back on track, and this time his symptoms actually were likely due to a muscle strain.

Leaving Granbury

It’s truly been a blessing to be in the loving care of my sister-in-law and her wonderful adult children, Jessie and Richie, (and dogs everywhere).  We’ve shared some great meals together, visited  many local sites, and were made to feel at home with family in the middle of the lone star state.

from New Years thru most of January with family in TX
A few more pix of Jessie’s tiny house ( featured on TV on ‘Tiny House Hunters”) and Richie at the archery range near the campground (with plastic targets)
Dog daze  – Baker, Duece and Penny

 

         the Acton Nature Center & Dinosaur Valley St Park – Dinosaurs courtesy of 1964 NY Worlds Fair – and actual real preserved & submerged dino tracks

Down the road from the park is the Creation Evidence Museum.  I kid you not. John went to see what it was all about and they claimed to have evidence of human life existing with the dinosaurs, as well as other exhibits related to creationism  supporting a literal view of the Bible’s book of Genesis.

1/20/19

Spent our last evening in Granbury at Barbara’s house watching football with the family.  We ended our wonderful 3 week stay by viewing the Super Blood Wolf Moon in Barbara’s backyard.  It was a totally clear night so we had an excellent view of the entire eclipse event.  It was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, the pictures didn’t reflect what we were actually seeing.  We saw a red moon with a red glow as it encased in shadow during the eclipse.

The campground and Lake Granbury at sunset, the Brazos River which surrounds the Pecan Plantation development, and Super Blood Wolf Moon in eclipse. (Native Americans called it Wolf Moon for the  hungry & howling wolves at this point in the season. Blood for the hue in eclipse – it was actually much darker and redder in person), and horses take to the field across from us.

Lake Medina RV Resort, Lakehills, Texas

1/21/19

Moved southwest and on to  Lake Medina RV Resort in Lakehills, Texas around 45 miles west of  San Antonio.  This place is truly a hidden gem and I mean hidden.  We arrived after dark and the ride up to the campground was quite hairy with a 5th wheel.  It is so far off the beaten path but so gorgeous–it’s worth the death defying drive (that really is an exaggeration).  The campground is on a large, beautiful lake and the occupants are mostly seasonal residents who come back every year.  Everyone has been super nice and it is a very active community with lots of planned activities in the clubhouse.  We got the last spot and the only reason we got in is due to a death in the family of the people who usually rent for the winter.  The people all seem to know each other but they are not at all intrusive or annoying.  The only downside to the campground is the fact that it is so remote.  You can’t run out to do much shopping without driving down several “farm to market” Texas roads, all of which have signs warning that the roads can flood.  Thank goodness it hasn’t rained.

Lake Medina TX

1/22/19                                          San Antonio

Spent a lovely day in San Antonio. John had never been there so we had to take a stroll on the Riverwalk, visit the Alamo and then eat dinner and listen to a jazz quartet in the Pearl Brewery District.

At the center of the Pearl district stands the Hotel Emma which began as a brewery founded by Otto Koehler in 1883.  The hotel is named after Otto’s wife Emma who ran the brewery after Otto’s untimely death.  There is a very interesting backstory about this family.  In 1910, Emma was hurt in an accident and Otto hired a nurse to care for her,  It just so happened that the nurse’s name was Emma.  Emma, the nurse would sometimes invite her friend, Emma #3 (nicknamed Emmi) to the Koehler home.  Both Emma’s ended up having an affair with Otto.  The story doesn’t end well for poor Otto.  Emma #2 ended up shooting and killing him in 1914.  She admitted to the murder but was acquitted by an all male jury.

The beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk, with ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue and the Briscoe Western Art Museum (with more dynamic cowboys/horses/cattle rusting statues)
The Alamo – Originally a Spanish Mission in San Antonio turned fort for the original Texians in their drive toward independence. ‘The Shrine of Texas Liberty’ was a complete defeat for the Texians to the Mexican army (15 years after the Mexicans ousted the Spanish from Mexico and its territories). However, ‘Remember the Alamo’ quickly became a rallying cry for, and was soon followed by Texas independence later in 1836. Texas was its own country until 1845 when it joined the union. In 1861 it joined the confederacy but rejoined the union at the end of the Civil War. Like we said it’s complicated.
San Antonio ‘Pearl District’ with Pearl Brewery and Emma Hotel and live jazz that night.

1/23/19

Today we drove a little over an hour to a really nice town in Texas’ hill country called Fredericksburg,  Interesting that we have visited 2 different Fredericksburgs (both very nice) and a Frederick.  Fredericksburg TX is a historic town with many original buildings from the 1800’s.  There is a bustling main street with lots of great shops and restaurants and many storefront wineries.  Apparently this is the heart of Texas wine country.  The city was settled by Germans and their heritage is definitely evident in the town with the town square called Market Platz.

Fredericksburg TX was founded in 1846 by German pioneers and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. The Vereins Kirche was built soon after in what became the ‘Market Platz’ and was first public building in the town. It served as a town hall, school, fort, and a church for all denominations. This was also the original site of the Pioneer Museum.

There is an amazing museum at the corner of main street – National Museum of the Pacific War.

The National Museum of the Pacific War has vast walls of plaques dedicated to the men, women, and ships that served in the Pacific during WW II and includes the ‘Plaza of the Presidents’.
Fredericksburg is the birthplace of the Navy’s most famous commander during the war – Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz, and the beautiful  Admiral Nimitz museum is nearby

Nimitz_Museum,_Fredericksburg,_Texas

 

In 1976, Japan gifted the museum with ‘the Japanese Garden of Peace’. It was modeled after the private garden of a Japanese Naval Commander from the 30’s that Nimitz had admired.

We took a short hike up Cross Mountain featuring a large cross at the peak.  In the mid 1800s, a German immigrant named John Durst was given a plot of land that included this hilltop.  He found the remains of the original timber cross, thought to be left by Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s.  Another cross was erected on the same hilltop.  A hundred years later, the local Catholic Church erected a new cross that still stands today- a steel cross with lights to celebrate the beautiful city of Fredericksburg.

Cross Mountain near Fredericksburg TX

After our short hike, we dined at one of the city’s famous German restaurants.  I had chicken jaeger schnitzel which brought back fond memories of the Mountain Brauhaus back home in Gardner/New Paltz.

Fort Stockton RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas

1/24/19

Today we left the hilly, green, pretty hill country in Texas and headed west on the famous (or infamous) I-10 into West Texas.  The topography in this part of the state is totally different.  As we were driving down the highway, it occurred to me that we could be in Egypt. Some of the rock shapes looked like pyramids and everything was very brown.  The speed limit on the highway in West Texas is 80 mph which is simply too fast for us but we were going 73-75 mph and it caused us to get lousy gas mileage.  We used up a full 36 gallon tank of diesel fuel way faster than usual and had to find an exit to get more gas in a very desolate part of the state.  Luckily, there was an exit with 2 gas stations so we stopped.  It was incredibly weird and desolate.  It could have been a scene in a horror movie.  The gas was super expensive but we had to get some anyway. We were desperate.  The gas station building had bars on every window and there were at least 10-15 cats hanging around the building.  As I was heading out of the car to enter the building (to use the restroom), lo and behold, there appeared a wild boar.  It was so freaking weird- just hanging out with all the cats.  The ladies inside the gas station cautioned me to stay away from it- no problem there.  Yikes- where am I?  Our apologies for failing to snap a pic of the boar.

The Fort Stockton RV Park was actually very pleasant even though it was basically a large brown parking lot with desert like vegetation and weird wildlife sounds.  When we pulled in, we heard owls hooting and coyotes howling.  It was a perfect stopover for a 1 night stay and we didn’t even unhitch.  They have a very nice little BYOB restaurant right on site and the food was actually excellent.

Last stop in TX – West Texas’ Ft Stockton. Texas is a big state.

Hacienda RV Resort and Rally, Las Cruces, New Mexico

1/25/19

Off again to our next destination in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Very nice campground with well manicured sites and a lovely office and clubhouse.  I really like Las Cruces with its southwestern architecture and rocky, craggy mountains on the horizon.  The weather is sunny and pleasant, though we will have below freezing temps both nights we are here.  There is a very old Mexican village very close by and great trails around.

1/26/19

We hiked up Turtugas Mountain which is a sacred Pueblo site and a very challenging hike.  The climb was steep with views of Las Cruces and the neighboring Organ Mountain range.

Hiking Turtugas Mountain in Las Cruces NM

For dinner, we went to the original La Posta which is one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the US.  It is a very interesting adobe building and one of the rooms in the restaurant houses multiple tropical birds.

The once upon a time roaring old west & Mexican town of Mesilla. The church and famous La Posta Restaurant de Mesilla – located where Billy the kid, Pancho Villa and the stagecoach line all met back in the day.

The restaurant has been operating in some capacity since the 1840’s.  Back in the day, Billy the Kid was jailed right across the street and Ulysses S. Grant & Kit Carson are examples of two famous folks who stopped in at La Posta.  The food was marvelous.

Desert Diamond Casino, Tucson, AZ

1/27/19

Tonight we are parked for free at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson.  They are very welcoming to RVs and it feels very safe and secure.  Of course, we had to do a bit of gambling.  Luckily John tends to compensate for my slot machine losses with his blackjack wins.

Desert Diamond Casino in Tuscon AZ. They welcome RV’s to stay and park overnight. – There’s always something to do.

Mission View RV Resort, Tucson, AZ

2/2/19

We have been staying at this over 55 mobile home/RV resort community since 1/28/19 and have been busy exploring this beautiful Tucson area.  We both really like it here due to the perfect weather (in these winter months) and gorgeous 360 degree mountain views.

Tucson is beautiful in the Winter and Spring. Mountains are visible from everywhere and sunsets can be gorgeous.

This RV park is literally right around the corner from the casino on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. We have driven all around, particularly interested in the developments around the foothills of the various mountain ranges.  You just can’t beat the scenery.  This is definitely a possible place for an annual winter stay.

Downtown Tucson with churches and Scottish Masonic Temple

We haven’t taken any long hikes because many of them aren’t dog friendly but we did walk in a very lovely park called Agua Caliente.  We also played some golf and relaxed outdoors in beautiful 70 degree weather while the rest of the country was suffering through a polar vortex.

Tucson’s craft district with restaurants and pubs. The statue is a ‘Soldado de Cuera’ – the original Spanish guards when they called the area ‘New Spain’. Their thick leather vests ‘cuera’ could repel     arrows.                                                                                                                                                                     Hummingbirds like this area. Next to El Charro Cafe was a big black and silver metal box with a yellow book beneath it – maybe something from the last century.

3rd Boondocker’s Welcome Site in Surprise, Arizona

2/5/19

We arrived at this lovely home at the foothills of the White Tank Mountains northwest of Phoenix.  Our hosts, John and Darla have a 2.5 acre property in a very rural and peaceful location.  It is a bit further from downtown Phoenix than I expected but very pleasant. One would expect it to be very warm and dry but we are actually experiencing heavy rain on and off and rather cool conditions.  John and I drove away from the mountains into downtown Surprise and Sun City for a quick bite and a game of pool and the weather was much more temperate.  When we arrived back to the trailer, it was pouring.  Never expected this in a so-called desert.

the desert suburbs become just desert northwest of Phoenix

2/6/19

Drove 50 minutes into downtown Phoenix to meet an old friend, Jill for dinner. Jill and I were co-workers and co-directors of the HR department at Darby Group Companies back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  Jill still leads the HR function in what is now Darby Dental and they have a branch office here in Chandler, AZ.  It has been around 13-14 years since we last saw each other but it felt like it was just yesterday.  We had a great time catching up and reminiscing over a fabulous meal at The Arrogant Butcher.

Phoenix is another clean city that’s beautiful in the winter. We visited Susan’s friend & co-worker Jill, who happened to have business in AZ (shown with family: Graham and kids – Olivia, Owen and Finn)    The Talking Stick Arena (and resort) is where the Phoenix Suns basketball team plays.

2/8/19

Since we are “boondocking”, we rely on battery power at night.  Well, even though we are in the so called desert, it has gone down into the 30’s at night causing the furnace to kick on frequently, causing the coach battery to discharge, causing the CO2 detector to go off  (due to low battery power), causing us to jump out of bed at 4:00am.  Well, this just won’t do so we spent a day and a half hunting for better battery power.  Our host, John suggested that we switch from hybrid RV/Marine batteries to a true deep cycle battery.  We drove all over suburban Phoenix to several stores including one called “Batteries and Bulbs”.  We ended up purchasing 2- 6 volt golf cart batteries because they are true deep cycle batteries and can be connected to run in series, providing much more in terms of amp hours.  Don’t I sound knowledgeable?

SrpsPhxAZ 0219

 

After spending the day shopping for the battery, we had to spend another half day shopping for accessories that will enable John to work his McGyver magic and find a way to vent the batteries since our old 12V vented case won’t work.

Enough of this technical jargon.  We spent the second half of our last day in Surprise at the Great Eagle Golf Course on the grounds of the “Happy Trails” community.  I kid you not.  We were paired with a lovely older couple (yes- older than us), Ruben and Kay from Minnesota.  The golf course is a green oasis in the desert and really quite beautiful.

Desert Pueblo RV Park, Bouse, AZ

2/9/19

Moving on to our stopover in western Arizona on the border of California.  We are staying 2 nights in a tiny town, Bouse, AZ with a population of just under 900 people, most of whom are from other places staying at various RV parks. This campground is basically a series of long straight dirt roads with roomy spots for large RVs. Our neighbors are from places like Idaho, California, Washington, Minnesota, Alberta Canada and Alaska.  John and I drove 30 minutes north to check out a larger town called Parker on the Colorado River separating Arizona from California.  We had a delicious lunch at a local cafe called the Crossroads and then spent a little time at the casino on the banks of the Colorado River.  John continues his blackjack winning streak and I lost a little less than usual in the slots.

                    BlueWater Resort and Casino on the Arizona side of the Colorado River                                           (looking across at California)

By the way, our drive to Parker was interesting as we passed several sites that appeared to be dilapidated shrines worshiping Donald Trump. YIKES!

2/10/19

Took a drive to Quartzite AZ, where many RVers tend to spend the winter. There are tons of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcels where RVs just pick a spot and legally dry camp usually for up to 14 days at no cost.  The scenery is spectacular and the weather is great in the winter months.  Now that we have our great 6 volt batteries, we may come back over this way after San Diego and try a week long stay on BLM land. We’ll see.

the desert town of Quartzite AZ is a crossroads for I10 in western AZ.  At their very large flea market and other stores, they sell rocks from industrial size down to fine jewelry

 

Quartzite is an old mining town where they host the largest gem and mineral show in the country and have great swap meets-flea markets.  We found some more RV supplies and some other items at the flea market but our best purchase was a beautiful piece of clear quartz for my daughter-in-law.  We found this gem at a store with a zillion rocks of all kinds.

Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ

2/11/19

Lake Havasu is a short trip from Bouse and supposed to be very pretty.  Well, it didn’t disappoint.  The ride here from Bouse was absolutely spectacular.  It is almost as stunning as the Grand Canyon.  As we were driving here, we saw the most gorgeous golf course off both sides of the road.  The holes were nestled between beautiful red rock canyons and rolling hills. The course is aptly named Emerald Canyon and the greens and fairways were a perfect emerald carpet.  Regardless of the cost, we are going to try to get in a round at that course.

on the road approaching Lake Havasu (some pix shot thru the windshield)

When we pulled into our spot at Lake Havasu State Park, we were amazed by the beauty and serenity of the site. Our spot looks out onto the crystal clear, blue/green Lake Havasu with mountains looming in the distance.  It’s a shame we are only here for 3 nights.

Lake Havasu RV park – lots of room and a beach

Tonight we are going out to dinner at a highly rated restaurant across the famous London Bridge.  Yes the actual London Bridge which was actually falling down so it was purchased by a wealthy oil man named McCulloch who created the Lake Havasu community and reconstructed the London Bridge here as a tourist attraction.

London Bridge (amazingly transplanted to AZ brick by brick). Built in 1830 and moved in 1967 – it was conceived as a great tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere, and it seems to have worked! Lake Havasu City is a fairly bustling community.

2/12/19

In case you are planning to visit Lake Havasu, I recommend Shugrue’s.  We had a great meal there and the service was excellent.  I don’t think there are too many Italians in Lake Havasu because my chicken marsala was nothing like chicken marsala but it was delicious anyway.

LkHvsu 0219

Shugrues’ next to the bridge

Today we drove back south so that we could play 9 holes at Emerald Canyon.  The golf course was amazing and we were paired with a very nice man named Bill who happened to be a CEO of several corporations.  We had a blast golfing with him and sipping bloody mary’s along the way.

She’s got great form, and can golf too! The aptly named Emerald Canyon Golf Course in the desert.

2/13/19

Today was a bit cloudy and breezy so we just hung out and relaxed until the late afternoon.  Then we got in a workout at Planet Fitness and barbecued some ribeyes.  Yum.  We are getting ready for a long travel day tomorrow into Bakersfield, CA and it is supposed to be a very stormy day which can be quite treacherous in these desert environments.

 

 – On to California, – a wedding and more! (California is a big state)

 

 

Tom Sawyer’s Campground, West Memphis, Arkansas

12/14/18

On the road again to a destination where we can store the RV for a few days while we head north to Indiana. We can’t bring the RV because the campgrounds up north are closed for the season so we will stay in a hotel for a few days.  I plan to take a 30 minute hot shower every day.  We were originally going to stay at a campground in Mississippi on the Tennessee border but we decided to book one closer to Memphis since we’ve never checked out the famous Beale Street scene.

I looked online and found a campground with excellent reviews (some of the best reviews yet) in West Memphis which is actually in Arkansas.  Tom Sawyer’s campground is on the banks of the Mississippi River and everyone raved about it.  We arrived in the afternoon on a very gray, rainy day and it looked like the surface of the moon.  The management was very pleasant but the campground is definitely not what I expected.  It was so muddy, we actually ran over the sewer without knowing it because it was under water in a muddy rut.

                                               the shores of the Mississippi across from Memphis
                                    the river can flood rapidly and lots of stuff is on stilts.                                                              The laundry room’s sign shows where the river crested in 2011.

The whole surrounding area is also very odd  As soon as you leave the campground and go over the wooded hilltops, you are in a very industrial, flat, brown area covered with gasoline tanks.  Apparently Valero has some plant there and the area smells like gas.  I’m grateful that we are just parking near there and not really hanging out.  We may try to see Beale Street when we return from Indiana but I haven’t been very impressed with the general area.  We’ll see.

La Quinta, Kokomo, Indiana

12/15/18

We spent the entire day driving from Arkansas to Indiana via Missouri and Illinois.  We arrived in Kokomo at 6:30 pm while our son Sean and our granddaughter Adilene were home in their beautiful newly purchased Victorian house.  It was built in 1870 and is in amazing condition.

                                         Sean & Christine’s ‘new’ home in Indiana, built in 1870!

The house is so interesting with so much character and grandeur.  Our daughter-in-law, Christine is away but will be coming home tomorrow night and we will celebrate Christmas with her and Sean and grandkids Adilene and Aiden on Monday.

                             Happy Christmas! & Happy Christmas with Buddha and with Adilene!

Baker had a blast playing with their 3 month old yellow lab puppy, Layla.

                                                                   Layla and Baker, Adilene and Sean

12/16/18

Christine was due home around 8 pm but her flight was delayed so we took Adilene back to our hotel for a fun evening of swimming and Monopoly.IndyAdSsn1 1218IndyAdl1 1218

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/17/18

Sean and Christine picked Adilene up in the early AM for school but we had our family Xmas dinner with Sean, Christine, Adilene and Aiden after school and then opened gifts.

It was a short visit but wonderful.

IndyFam1 1218

Everyone holds still for a moment: Aiden, Susan, John, Christine, Sean, Baker, Adilene, & Layla

 

                       with the kids & dogs, and one with Christine’s mom Dawn (Grandma Dawn!)

Back to Tom Sawyer’s Campground

12/19/18

Despite the ongoing muddy conditions, we extended our stay one night so we could  visit   Memphis

.tmSwyer 1218

Still no sunshine in West Memphis, Arkansas but it is a very quick, convenient drive across the river to Memphis proper and the campground does offer a very modern, well-equipped laundry that is totally free.  I’ve never seen that before and probably won’t ever see it again.  After washing everything I could, we drove to Memphis to see Beale Street and then onto a tour of Graceland.

                                                        Beale St and BB King Blvd by day

 

                                                                        Elvis’s Graceland –

After Graceland, we went back to the city for a great BBQ dinner at the world famous Rendevouz.  We capped off the evening with a night cap at the gorgeous Peabody Hotel.

             BBQ at Rendezvous among lots of memorabilia (Eli & Peyton with owner) & Peabody Hotel

 

                                                                Some more Memphis at night –

 

 

Lake Catherine State Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas

12/20/18

On our way again.  I’m not sorry to leave West Memphis, Arkansas, though Memphis was a lot of fun.  On to Hot Springs, Arkansas and beautiful Lake Catherine State Park.  This is an entirely different part of Arkansas.  There are stately pine trees everywhere and we are in a semi-secluded, yet highly civilized site on the banks of the glistening, clear blue Lake Catherine with views of the the Ouachita (Wa Sha Ta) mountains on the horizon.  This is one of my favorite spots on the trip so far.  The park is very clean, peaceful and private. I may even consider passing through Arkansas again someday.

               Lake Catherine AR. The lake gets 3′ higher in the summer when they open the dam.                                    The power plant across the lake became a lit-up palace at night

12/21/18

We took a ride into the city of Hot Springs this afternoon which is the childhood home of Bill Clinton.  It is a great place with a vibrant downtown strip filled with historic bathhouses and bars frequented by famous gangsters and baseball players in the early 1900’s.  They would come to Hot Springs to soak in the thermal baths after filling up on whiskey and other delights along historic Central Avenue.  The downtown was lit up for Christmas and Hot Spring’s Eastern and Western mountains surround the town.

                                   Historic bathhouses and gin-mills in Hot Springs AR at Christmas

If there were a yarn store in town, this place would be perfect for our annual bed and breakfast weekend with my BFF Debbi.

12/27/18

We were supposed to check out of Lake Catherine State Park on Christmas Eve but we like it so much, we decided to spend Christmas here.  Then we were going to check out on 12/26 but there was a high wind advisory for the route we would have been taking so we stayed another extra day.  During the extra days in Hot Springs, we managed to fit in a round of golf, take 2 beautiful hikes, visit the local Planet Fitness and see the # 1 attraction in our area- Garvin Woodland Park, an arboretum managed by the landscape design department of the University of Arkansas.  During the holiday season, the park opens late in the day for their special “Holiday Lights” extravaganza.  The pictures will tell the story.  It was amazing.

   Garvan Woodland Gardens and U of A (Arkansas) put together a Christmas light show                                                                      each  year that goes on and on

KOA Shreveport-Bossier, Shreveport, Louisiana

12/28/18

We have a short stopover in Shreveport.  The KOA campground is very pleasant and well maintained.  We only have one full day to explore the area so we settled on three things to do.

#1- Walk along the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City along the Red River.  It’s basically an outdoor shopping mall with a walking path that winds along the river that separates Shreveport from Bossier City.

                                                     Shreveport LA waterfront boardwalk & mall

#2- Eat lunch at the famous Herby K’s restaurant.  Herby K’s is truly a hole in the wall, down and dirty, Louisiana Cajun style restaurant around two miles away from the downtown area of Shreveport.  It is a family owned dive with great Southern style cooking that has been operating since 1936.  The surrounding neighborhood, however,  looks like a bomb hit it.  It is reminiscent of the South Bronx in the 1970’s.  The restaurant is the only open establishment in the entire neighborhood.  I had their famous fried shrimp buster and John had delicious gumbo and a fried catfish sandwich.

                 What’s more amazing than Herbie K’s since 1936 is ………the neighborhood it’s in:
                                                       the First National Bank (Avenue Branch)

#3- Gamble at one of their riverside casinos.  We went to Horseshoes Casino in Bossier City and had a great time breaking even in blackjack (John) and losing some money in the slots (Me).  It was worth every penny.

                                  Making our contribution to the wall of money (10,000 $100 bills)

Pecan Plantation- Granbury, Texas

12/29/18

Moved on to the Pecan Plantation Campground in my sister-in-law Barbara’s community.  We have a great site in this private, small campground with everything we need.  Unfortunately the weather forecast is a bit disconcerting  because it is forecast to fall below freezing several nights during our stay….not at all what I would have expected from Texas.

Happy New Year in the Pecan Plantation

1/2/19

Despite the cold weather (and some frigid rain/ice), we’ve been having a great visit with Barbara and her adult children, our niece and nephew- Jessie and Richie, respectively.  Barbara joined us in the RV for dinner our first night here and then we had dinner at her lovely home the next two nights.  We visited Jessie’s tiny home which is such a cool space.  On New Year’s Eve, we went to the movies.  Barbara and I saw Mary Poppins and John and Richie saw Aquaman.

                       Jessie’s tiny house and Barbara, Ritchie and Jess from their recent CO outing

The weather is horrible today, but we are going to venture out tonight for dinner.  The weather is supposed to finally warm up later in the week so we will likely extend our stay a bit so that we can enjoy the nice weather and visit both Dallas and Fort Worth.

Today was a Planet Fitness day which would be unremarkable and not worth mentioning if it weren’t for the adventure we had on our return trip from Cleburne, Texas where the gym is located.  It’s about 20 mile away from Granbury and, apparently there aren’t many major roads around because the Google maps GPS lady took us on a crazy route home on a variety of country roads.  It had been freezing and raining steadily all day and one of the roads we were on was completely flooded and I mean FLOODED,  There was a raging river surging across the road right in front of us.  It was so scary.  Luckily, John is a very intelligent person so he didn’t attempt to plow ahead.  We backed up our monster truck and turned around as the GPS lady was screaming at us to “PROCEED TO THE ROUTE”.  We took another road trying to get to a main route and we approached a small bridge that wasn’t yet flooded but the creek underneath it was right up to the level of the road and running pretty forcefully.  We gingerly crossed over and finally made it to a main road.  It was quite the adventure.  I was so traumatized from that journey, we scrapped our plans for dinner in town but had a terrific meal at the Pecan Plantation clubhouse.

             no available photos of rivers overflowing roads and bridges in Cleburne TX                                                  ——-1st 2 pix are artist renderings:

———————apologies for any excessive delays in publishing

Granbury & plenty more to be continued if and when adequate wifi/cellular connections ever become available again.

 

 

 

Camp Lake Jasper RV Resort- Hardeeville, SC

11/12/18

We are off to Hardeeville, SC, camped at Camp Lake Jasper RV Resort on the Georgia border.  We have the best spot in the entire campground, nestled in front of Lake Jasper with woods on one side of us.  It is an immaculately maintained campground with beautiful clean patios and brand new picnic tables.  There is a heated pool and very nicely equipped facilities.  I’m so happy to be here for 7 full days.  It’s great to just settle in for awhile.

                                              Camp Lake Jasper, Hardeeville SC  (no alligators)

AllgtrsSn 1218

11/13/18

It was pouring again and expected to continue raining for the next several days.  Rainy season seems to be following us wherever we go.  This is a perfect day for Planet Fitness so we drove into Savannah and spent time working out.  Then we drove around the city and had a fabulous meal at a very hip, southern restaurant near the river–Treylor Park.  Despite the spelling of Treylor, they had pictures of campers all around the place….very appropriate.  Savannah is a very beautiful place, despite the torrential rain.

                             Savannah, GA waterfront with Georgia Queen & Treylor Park (get it?)

11/14/18

We looked up the top three attractions in Hardeeville, SC. # 1 is the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.  There is a four mile drive through the refuge where they promise excellent opportunities to see the wildlife including various birds and alligators.  Based on the write up, we expected to see at least 20 alligators but alas, we didn’t see any.  Perhaps this is a good thing.

                                                        Savannah Wildlife Refuge – no alligators

#3 on the list of attractions is Thelma and Louise- a pair of random elephant statues in a parking lot of a fireworks store.  That gives you an idea about Hardeeville’s attractions. I never saw so many firework’s stores in one location, yet I never heard any fireworks. If you are curious about #2 on the list of attractions, it is an indoor shooting range.  I decided to skip that one.

                                           Hardeeville’s #3 attraction plus Red Dam Church, SC

11/18/18

Had a very nice visit with my sister and her husband, Jules.  They live in a rural area about an hour away from our campground on a very large property. We actually could have parked the RV on their property but we had already booked the campsite for the week.  So- we packed overnight bags and spent the night in the “cook house” where Jules prepares his meals after hunting. He is a master hunter and the cook house was covered with his various hunting trophies–deer heads, bear skins, antlers, snake skins, turkey, squirrel, wild boar, etc.  We had a wonderful time, despite the fact that their political views are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s a wonder I didn’t have any nightmares sleeping under the Trump/Pence poster.

                        Ellen & Jules & a few of many hunting trophies in cook house, Islandton, SC

On Saturday, I accompanied my sister to her job at the vet’s office because she had to geld a donkey.  I tried to watch because they did it in the parking lot next to the Dollar General (I kid you not), but just couldn’t bear it.  I have to hand it to her. There is no way that I could do what she does everyday.

That evening, Jules cooked up an amazing seafood pasta. On Sunday, Ellen visited our camper for a campfire BBQ.

                                    Jules special seafood pasta & cookout with Ellen at Lake Jasper

 

Whirlwind Tour of Florida Begins :

Today, we begin our journey to Florida where we anticipate the most hectic visiting schedule of the year.  Coming from NY, one expects to have lots of friends and family to see in Southern New York (aka- Florida). We first tried to arrange an extra stop somewhere near Orlando, hoping to connect with John’s cousin Jimmy and his family who were just arriving at Disney World!

                                      Old picture of Cousin Jim, Yvette, Cara, & young Kellianne.–                                           —– we just couldn’t fit in an  Orlando detour the day they arrived in Disney World

Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make the logistics work out: securing a campground close enough, shortened daylight & travel time – and trying to make southeast FLA to visit my mother, our son Michael, and John’s brother Michael in time for Thanksgiving. Like Jimmy said ‘Florida is a big state’.  – Ain’t it the truth!?

One night stay: NOVA Family Campground, Port Orange, Fl

11/19/18

This campground is very odd.  The people who run it are very friendly and accommodating but it is very crowded with trailers of all sizes, shapes, ages and quality.  It was fine for a one night stay, but anything longer would become depressing.  We didn’t bother unhitching so we took a 2 mile walk (round trip) to a local Mexican restaurant.

In the morning, we packed up and looked forward to moving on—to the tune of a young man talking on his cell phone so loud, you could hear every obnoxious word.  At one point, he yelled across to a neighbor in a small camper, asking her about her recent doctor’s visit.  She screamed back, “I’m fine.  It was only my emphysema.”  What? ONLY EPHYSEMA? Yikes.  Trailer park life?

John Easterlin Park, Oakland Park, Fl

11/20/18

                                                      lakeside campsite Easterlin Park FLA

We arrived at John Easterlin Park in Oakland Park, Florida in the broad daylight without rain.  What a difference!  It was such a pleasure.  This is a beautiful little secluded park that is nestled in a very urban commercial area near Fort Lauderdale.  Our site is gorgeous, our neighbors are wonderful and the weather is ideal.  Unfortunately, we will be victim to the famous “Easterlin Shuffle”.  This park is apparently famous for shuffling campers around.  We have this spot for 5 days and then we have to move to a different spot which isn’t quite as nice but still fine.

Thanksgiving at Mr. Chen’s Hunan Palace

11/22/18

Thanksgiving Day.  Spent the day visiting my mom who lives in Kings Point in Delray Beach and my aunt in her long term care facility.  We planned a BBQ because our actual Thanksgiving dinner will be on Saturday when my brother-in-law Michael flies in from his trip to Seattle visiting our nephew, Derek and his wife Olga along with our niece Elyse.   Our son Michael also flies in from San Diego on the morning after Thanksgiving.  The weather has been gorgeous (sorry to all my friends in the Northeast) but we had a lot of rain in the late afternoon so we decided to  go out for Chinese food and do the BBQ tomorrow night.  I’ve always wanted to eat Chinese food on Thanksgiving.  It’s like the  Christmas Story movie and the food was fabulous.

11/28/18

A lot has happened over the last few days.  It has been a whirlwind of activity visiting family and friends.  The day after Thanksgiving, my son Michael arrived from San Diego in the wee hours of the morning.  John had to wake up at 3:30am and pick him up from Fort Lauderdale airport.  Late in the afternoon, I picked my mother up and brought her back to the RV for a BBQ/campfire–our signature event.  She is 85 years old and in great shape so she had no difficulty hopping up into the truck and climbing in and out of the RV.  My mom and I took an Uber back to her house so the boys could have some time to hang out.

                           BBQ with Marian & son Michael, then campfire with both Michaels

A Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving

Saturday was our actual Thanksgiving celebration.  I picked up a heat and serve Thanksgiving dinner from Cracker Barrel- enough for 12 people.  It really was wonderful.  Even if you are not a fan of Cracker Barrel, you would love this meal.  Kudos to Cracker Barrel.  The turkey was super tender and the sides were amazing.  They package everything very conveniently and provide excellent, clear heating instructions. So- we had 5 people and enough food for 12.  Six days later, we are still enjoying some of the leftovers.  On Sunday, Michael and John slept over Uncle Michael’s house in Coral Springs and I spend another night with my mom.

     Saturday Thanksgiving at Marian’s home in Delray Beach – Big Michael back from Seattle

Before we went off our separate ways, we had to pack up and move our entire operation to the spot next door (Easterlin Shuffle).  It sounds easy but it is still a big move.  Again, John did an extraordinary job backing into a difficult spot but as he was doing it, I noticed that one of the trailer tires looked very low.  We had our very first tire issue.  I checked the pressure and the tire was at 20 PSI instead 80.  Not good.  I guess this was bound to happen at some point.  We do have a spare tire, but we don’t have a hydraulic jack, which we would need in order to change the tire ourselves.  Luckily, we have roadside assistance through FMCA and made arrangements to have the tire changed.  I hope they actually show up and know what they are doing.  It also appears that an iguana pooped all over one of our trailer windows.  Shit happens, I guess.

                                                                 Iguanas in the trees – leapin lizards?

Back to our hectic week.  On Monday, I picked up Michael and John and drove back to my mother’s house so that we could all visit Aunt Eunice again.  We spent a couple of hours with her and then headed back to the trailer for a BBQ.  Uncle Michael came over and joined us.

Eunic,M,M,S,J 1118

                        visiting Aunt Eunice at her new assisted living facility near Delray

On Tuesday, we met up with one of my buddies from high school, Sue Candreva and her husband, Bob.  They live in Port St. Lucie but we met for a wonderful lunch at Guanabanna’s in Jupiter. Later that evening, we went back to my mother’s and had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Delray- 3Gs.  It’s a great Jewish deli.  There is another deli called 2Js but I prefer 3Gs.  It has been a Thanksgiving week eating frenzy.

                Sue and Bob in Jupiter, FL (he golfs twice a week in Port St Lucie even in winter)

Tomorrow, we move off the east coast and begin our crazy schedule on the west coast.  Stay tuned.

11/29/18

There is something about this camp site that seems to be cursed.  Time to pack up and batten down the hatches but we had so many complications to deal with.  We had to take the spare tire off and put the repaired tire back on-we had to secure the spare tire and then we had a minor catastrophe with water overflowing in the RV when we were flushing the tank. Luckily, it was clean water but we had to use every available towel in the camper to clean up the spill.  Although it ate up a lot of time, it was sort of a positive thing as it basically forced me to wash our floors.

                     flat tires, signal lights and water fiascoes all before setting out for west coast

Finally, one of the final steps on our moving day checklist is checking the lights on the trailer.  We always make sure the brake lights and turning signals are working.  Well, the right signal wasn’t working.  It really was like we were jinxed.  Luckily, it started working after we jiggled it a bit.

Off to Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida – the West (Gulf Coast).

Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero, Florida

11/29/18

John showed off his skills backing into spots and we successfully parked in a narrow, but fairly private site.  We arrived just as the sun was going down and we spent the evening getting settled and washing all of our towels.  It’s unusual for a state park to have laundry facilities so this was a very nice surprise.

11/30/18

We spent a lovely day today with old friends from NY, Candie and Fred.  They live in a beautiful home in Estero and they toured us around the town and Sanibel Island.  They also took us out to lunch at a fabulous Greek restaurant.  Frd,Cnd,S,J 1218

                                               Fred and Candie Frankel at home in Estero, FL

On Sanibel, we walked along the shoreline of Bowman Beach which was littered with millions of seashells.  The water was sparkling clean and a stunning blue-green.  The sun was setting and the weather was perfect.

                                              Bowman Beach on Sanibel Island with Candie and Fred

Candie and Fred filled us in on the history behind the Koreshan State Historic Site which used to be the site of a cult in the late 1800’s, established by a man named Cyrus Teed who believed that the earth was actually a hollow sphere with the sun (an electromagnetic battery) revolving in the center.  He changed his named to Koresh (which translates to shepherd) and formed this “utopian commune” where the members practiced Koreshanity.  They started a self-contained community in Estero that lasted for decades, but declined after Koresh’s death.

                                                             Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero FLA

They believed in their founder’s imminent reincarnation so when Cyrus Teed died, his followers kept his body in the bathtub waiting for his reincarnation to occur.  After a certain period of time went by, the authorities made them dispose of the body.  Crazy stuff.  It’s a very nice park but tomorrow we move up the west coast to Bradenton, Florida.  Onward and upward.

Horseshoe Cove RV Resort, Bradenton, Florida

12/1/18

Checked in to Horseshoe Cove just north of Sarasota.  This is a very large community comprised of mostly permanent mobile homes.  It is our first experience with a 55+ resort community.  The grounds and facilities are very well maintained and the people have been very friendly.  They have a great clubhouse with a large outdoor pool, fitness center and loads of other amenities/activities….all for a remarkably reasonable price.   The only negative is the fact that the sites are fairly close together but there are some beautiful and private spots along the grounds including a private island that we can access by foot or bicycle.

                                     Horseshoe Cove island off RV park, Bradenton (Sarasota) FLA

The island is surrounded by the Braden River and there is a lagoon that is supposedly home to several manatees (though we haven’t spotted any yet).  Our neighbor is from Massachusetts and told us that it only costs $500 if you stay for a month.  This may be a good place to stay for the winter months next year (if we are still on the road).

12/2/18

John worked out in the fitness center and swam a few laps in the pool.  We took a bike ride with Baker and walked to a nearby cafe for a delicious and very inexpensive restaurant.  A cup of coffee with refills is $.25.

Then we spent the rest of the day with old friends from John’s air traffic control days.

Mk,Db,Ar,An,S,J 1218

                    Mike (Maz), Debbie, Arianna, and Anthony near Siesta Key/Sasasota (Bradenton)

Mike was a controller with John in both the Washington and NY Air Traffic Control Centers.  He and his wife, Debbie have a place in Siesta Key.  They have been babysitting two of their grandchildren, Arianna (5 years old) and Anthony (3 years old).  The kids are adorable and we had a great day with them.  We visited an enormous, beautiful mall in Sarasota, had some lunch and then a pina colada at a Tiki bar on Siesta Key.

                                                      Siesta Key and Famous Siesta Beach

12/5/18

We’ve enjoyed the last few days at Horseshoe Cove especially the little island on the Braden River where we did finally see our manatees.  One of them actually seemed to be performing for us.  He was very close and kept poking his head up and rolling all around.

                                                                           a Manatee?

We didn’t have a lot of free time but we did get to see the pearl white sand of Siesta Beach.  Unfortunately the red tide put a bit of a damper on it, but you could still experience the beauty.  The sand is super soft, always cool and totally white. The water looked gorgeous but there were some dead fish washing up from the red tide and it impacts breathing.  I could immediately feel it in my throat so we didn’t stay long.

We were also able to tour St. Petersburg, visit Fort DeSoto Beach, get in a round of Par 3 golf and squeeze in another visit with Mike, Debbie, Arianna and Anthony.  Next stop- Ocala and Silver Springs State Park.

St Pete ‘Sunshine Skyway Bridge’, harbor Christmas lights, and the ‘James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art’ – with the sculpture ‘Man Catches Eagle’ outside

Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs (Ocala), Fl.

12/6/18

This is another oasis in the middle of a busy, commercial section of Ocala.  The park is very serene and we have a private large site.  This was probably the easiest site to back into yet.  You could fit 3 RVs in here.  It’s a shame that we only have one day here and what a full day!

We had to wake up very early (5:45 AM) to get to our friend’s, Frank and Micki’s house in a lovely Ocala community around 40 minutes away. Frank was an air traffic controller in NY Center with John and always such a gregarious, fun person.  He hasn’t changed a bit and Micki is just as delightful as ever. Micki was hosting us for breakfast and the guys had an 8:30 am tee time on their gorgeous, perfectly manicured golf course.

FfnkMki2 1218FrnkMki1 1218Frnk2 1218Frnk1 1218

        ‘Frankie’ and Micki Mueller home with ‘Ruby’, and Frank’s Ocala buds

Micki and I walked our dogs around the grounds and then took a yoga class and visited a farmer’s market.  We met up with John and Frank and had a New Orlean’s style lunch in town.  Then back to Frank and Micki’s to hang out and enjoy their company.  Micki made us a delicious dinner so we were there from 7:30am until 9:30pm and enjoyed every minute of their company.

                                                  downtown Ocala FLA Christmas lights

Big Tree RV Park, Jacksonville, FL

12/7/18

We moved on, yet again, to Jacksonville, Fl to the Big Tree RV Resort which is not quite as lovely or private as our last site  but the man who runs the campground is very nice and it’s fine for a short stay.  We are visiting another air traffic controller friend, Dale and his wife Michelle from way back in the Washington Center days.

12/8/18

Spent the day with Dale, Michelle and their 21 year old son, Shane.  They live in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island.  The area is so lovely with tall, mature trees and stately homes. We had lunch in town at Amelia Tavern and Shane even joined us.  It was so refreshing to meet a 21 year old guy who, not only was eager to hang out with old codgers like us, but he was super friendly and engaging.  I’m not crazy about Jacksonville, because it is just too crowded and urban for my taste, but I could see myself living on Amelia Island for sure.

        Dale and Michelle Peterman and son Shane holding his niece Jaycee ———-sorry no pix of cool downtown Amelia Island fest…………….wuda, cuda, shuda —I forgot

Our time was short with Dale and Michelle because we have to get ready for our move tomorrow to Crestview.  The forecast is pouring rain (yet again), so we want to pack everything up tonight.

Eagle’s Landing RV Resort, Holt, Fl

12/10/18

Our whirlwind tour of Florida is almost over.  We arrived yesterday to our campground in Holt which is 15 miles away from our mail service in Crestview.  I’m actually very excited to pick up my bundle of mail today.  Holt and Crestview are in the western portion of the panhandle on the border of Alabama, not far from Mississippi and Louisiana.  The campground is Eagle’s Landing RV park right off I-10 and it is very quiet and clean.  We’re a very long way from our first long stay in Oakland Park.  We’re even in a different time zone.  We’ve certainly covered a lot of ground in Florida.

        Blackwater River State Park in FLA panhadle, and Destin Beach on the Gulf of Mexico

Today we officially left New York behind and became Florida residents.  We went to the Tax Collector’s Office in Crestview , got our Florida drivers licenses, registered our vehicles and registered to vote.  It was very easy.  We actually had the sweetest young lady in the whole place helping us.

FLA Trck 1218

                                  Florida ‘State of the Arts’ among 50 choices of license plate styles

 

SsnsRstrnt 1218

 

12/11/18

Today we took a breath and slowed down a bit.   We had planned to go to the only restaurant in Holt (Susan’s Restaurant) to have a country style breakfast.  They opened at 10:30am which was a little suspect but they definitely had breakfast items on their website menu.  Well- they only serve breakfast on Saturdays.  As NYers, we just expect to find pancakes and eggs available anytime, anywhere.  Luckily, there is a Cracker Barrel in Crestview around 10 miles away.  As my son Michael would say, “This is a first world problem”.

 

Patricia Calloway’s house in Mississippi

12/12/18

We mapped out our trip to our friend Patricia’s house (Michael C’s mom & our niece Becky’s mother-in-law) in Mississippi and the route looked a bit ominous for a 35′ RV so John decided to rebel against the GPS lady and go via I-10. It was a bit less direct but easier for RVing. Unfortunately, there were 2 major traffic jams on I-10 in Pensacola Fl due to 2 separate nasty motor vehicle accidents.  We tried to go around the accident and found ourselves in some difficult situations adding on an hour or so the drive.

TIP: Do not try to stop for Dunkin Donuts coffee while towing a 35′ fifth wheel.  That’s all I’m going to say.

We finally arrived at Patricia’s lovely house in a very rural area of Mississippi after dark and had a minor incident with one of her trees.  Battle scar # 2- a tree ripped our awning.  Another first world problem.

12/13/18

Patricia has a beautiful A frame house in the woods on a river.  It’s gorgeous.

                                                      Patricia Calloway’s house in Brooksville MS

We had an incredible dinner last night with Patricia’s famous home baked desserts to die for.  This morning, she cooked up (from scratch) some biscuits, sausage and eggs.  Then she drove us to Columbus, MS (birthplace of Tennessee Williams) where we had a Southern style lunch.  I had southern fried chicken which would knock Colonel Sanders right out of his boots.

                                   Columbus MS sights including lock system on Tom Bigbee river

After lunch, Patricia treated us to a tour of a beautiful Antebellum house called the Waverly Plantation.  The tour guide was amazing and the house’s rich history was fascinating.

                         Waverly Plantation antebellum mansion from 1852 & 250 yr old Magnolia tree

After the tour, we had dinner at Ruben’s known for their fried catfish.  Southern cooking at its best.  John and I have definitely gained weight on this trip but it was worth every calorie.

Postscript:  We are a bit behind so stay tuned for Memphis, TN, Pre-Christmas in Indiana, hot times in Hot Springs, Arkansas and much more to come.

Shenandoah National Park, Big Meadows Campground

11/2/18

Happy November.  We’ve been very busy over the last several days while staying in MD at Little Bennett county park campground –  visiting family and  friends in Virginia and Maryland and the DC metro area where we used to live.  We also were able to add some enhancements to our truck including step up/running boards  and a retractable bed cover.

truck1 1118

                                                       Snazzy new step-ups and truck-bed cover

We stayed overnight at a friend’s house in Fredericksburg, VA.  My friend Wendy moved there from Long Island in 2016 with her husband Matt, who recently passed away.  She lives in a beautiful new house and we had a wonderful time hiking to the nearby Rappahannock River —————-

                                                 Wendy, Susan, and the historic Rappahannock river

and out to happy hour in downtown Fredericksburg——————–

 

                                                                                    Fredericksburg, VA

Wendy and I have known each other for many years.  We started out as colleagues in vocational rehabilitation and became close friends.  I also worked for Matt when he was the Director of Phoenix Houses of Long Island.

The next day, we met Claude, a very old friend from our Virginia/DC days.  Claude was John’s roommate in Oklahoma City when he was in training to be a Washington Center air traffic controller. We were very good friends with Claude and his wife Noy (from Laos) during the years we lived in Northern Virginia, and of course knew their now adult children – Cressida, Nicholas, and Bobby. Our son Michael was also born during those years (5 weeks premature and 4 1/2 lbs. – now 6’2″ with size 12 shoes)  – in DC’s Columbia Hospital for Women. We had seen each other sporadically over the years but it had been a long time since we got together.

Claude 1118
with old pal Claude at Claude & Noy’s beautiful home in Northern VA

Today, we moved out of Little Bennett and are headed to our first National Park camping experience.  We are driving on the incredible Skyline Drive heading to Big Meadows Campground in the park.

                                                                             Skyline Drive the next day

11/3/18

The 20 mile drive up Skyline Drive was interesting, to say the least.  It started pouring (what else is new?) around 1/2 mile up and never stopped.  At times, it was so foggy, you could only see a few feet ahead and the road curves all the time.

I’ve never seen a road curve so much, so often.  There are numerous overlooks along the way because the scenery is breathtaking but we didn’t dare stop to look.  It poured like nobody’s business all night long.  We were soaked through and through by the time we leveled our RV and unhitched.

CampFog 1118

John had to get the generator running during the downpour, which he managed to do without electrocuting himself.  The weather was so awful, we didn’t even go out to the Big Meadows Lodge for dinner, as we had planned.  I made a pot of beef stew instead and it was very cozy.

 

                                                             Rain & fog at Big Meadows campground, Shenandoah National Park

Today, the sun is out, there is a very brisk breeze and we should be able to enjoy the beauty of this national park.  Interesting factoid about Shenandoah National Park — they have the largest population of black bears in the nation, and they are very diligent about warning campers how to stay safe – particularly concerning the handling of food and cooking.  The ranger told us that in the late summer they had to hike the campground’s perimeter blowing fog horns to move them away – we are ready with our bear spray, just in case.

                                                                         View at Big Meadows Lodge

We learned a very important lesson this morning– don’t turn off the generator before unplugging it from the RV’s AC power cord.  Unfortunately RV’ers tend to learn lessons like these the hard way.  As soon as the generator was switched off, we lost all power to the RV – AC and DC.  Normally, the fully charged RV battery takes over and you can run your refrigerator, furnace, lights, etc.  Well – we were dead in the water and couldn’t figure out why.  When we turned the generator back on, everything worked, but generator hours were now over and it was to be the coldest night we have experienced thus far.  We were perched atop  a beautiful mountain where the temperature drops to the freezing point and the winds relentlessly scare the living crap out of you.  A Class C RV parked nearby lost their awning in a wind gust.  With no furnace, we had to sleep in multiple layers with three blankets til early AM generator hours resumed.  It’s a blessing that Baker is a husky mix. We couldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves though, since there were multiple hardy souls staying the night in just tents!

So instead of enjoying the splendor of the park, we spent the next day out in search of a solution to our problem.  We had joined FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) and subscribed to emergency roadside assistance.  They have mobile tech support and helped diagnose our problem, though we had to drive miles on Skyline Drive just to get cell coverage. He thought it was most likely a certain unique circuit breaker near the battery but behind a screwed panel – and totally hidden from view, of course. For $4.99 and a 45 min drive to a town with an auto parts store (thankfully they had one left) we were back in business.

That day wasn’t a total loss as we drove into Charlottesville, VA and tooled around the town.  We toured the pedestrian mall and walked up the street recently named for Heather Heyer – the woman killed during the infamous Charlottesville protests.

                                                                Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall

We returned to our campsite after dark, fixed the circuit breaker and extended our stay for one more night.

11/4/18

Everything is working in the RV so today we plan to hike a bit, but first, more shopping.  We now know the importance of having a reliable battery back up, so we spent several hours visiting auto parts stores.  It took several hours because nothing is really close by.  Every trip we make requires a lengthy ride around the mountain.  We had breakfast at a little local diner called C&S in a very small rural town, Elkton, VA.  The food was great but it sure was different from a NY diner.  There were biblical passages throughout the menu and a daily prayer book on the tank of the toilet in the restroom.  Interesting mix of food and religion to digest.

Midway Campground Resort, Cool Springs, North Carolina

11/5/18

We drove several hours to Cool Springs, NC – not far from Winston-Salem and Charlotte.  We arrived after dark to a lovely spot.  Inevitably, it started raining and we had to drive several miles in a fog advisory zone.  Thank goodness, John has great eyesight.

Our spot is really lovely, with a view of the pond and our very own concrete patio.  If we didn’t have the patio, we’d be encased in mud.  It is very private and quiet and we have full hook-ups which is a great luxury after several days of dry camping.  The weather is also 30 degrees warmer than our mountain top site.

Our view at Midway near Charlotte NC

11/8/18

We are still in our beautiful spot in NC.  We really will be sad to leave because we don’t think we will ever have such a serene and private location with our own concrete patio and pond view.  Luckily, the day after we leave, the temperature is dropping down to 29 degrees at night.  It should be above freezing in SC where we head next.

Yesterday, we went to the Lazy 5 Ranch which is a drive through safari in the middle of NC.  It was a blast.  The very first animal that stuck his massive head in John’s window was a huge African cow.  It basically rampaged our little feed bucket and was inches from John’s face.  I was rolling.  There were many different animals, all very used to being fed from random vehicles so not shy at all.  I will let the photos speak for themselves.

                                                                  Lazy 5 Ranch North Carolina

Today we will explore Charlotte and then we are meeting some NY Center air traffic controller buddies who happen to now live 30 minutes away from our campground.  It has probably been a decade since I have seen them because John retired a decade ago- but here they are.  We will be heading over to their house for dinner tonight.

                                                                  Freedom Park in Charlotte, NC

 

IMG_0416

              Wonderful times with ATC buds Larry and Paula Milillo in Cornelius, NC near Charlotte

Tomorrow, we pack up and move on.  We have been at this for 2 months and have been through 13 states so far.  We have stayed at county, state and national parks and many different types of campgrounds.  Not bad for 2 months.

 Boondocker’s Welcome Boondoggle                                        ————-Winnsboro, SC

11/9/18

We headed two hours south to Winnsboro, SC for our second Boondocker’s Welcome experience.  Of course our moving day was again hampered by pouring rain.  It was supposed to just be occasional showers, but the skies opened up early in the AM and never stopped.  We were soaked through and through when we finally got on the road.  We even stopped on our way down, at a Cabela’s, to open the camper and change into dry clothes.

We were hoping that the rain wouldn’t follow us down south, but it did.  We arrived a little before dark to Brooks Farm to meet our host, Rene.  The property consisted of several granite homes with several very long, narrow driveways.  At the entrance, there was a beautiful, carefully constructed stone fence hugging the longest driveway.  I walked up to find Rene to determine where we should park because it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to back up that driveway towards the 2nd granite house, where she lives.

She toured us around the beautiful property but it became very apparent that she didn’t own it- she rented.  The landlord lived in the first granite house.  I thought this was a bit strange, but whatever.

Rene showed us the grassy shaded area where the RVs usually park and pointed out some tire tracks left by the last “boondocker” who was driving a 48,000 lb Class A (bus).  Since we are less than half that weight, we figured we could park in a similar spot, driving between those tire tracks.  I was walking the property with Rene while John was trying to pull around into our spot.  When he pulled up onto the grass, he immediately sunk into the muddy lawn. The more he tried to get out, the more he sunk.

Rene handled the situation with amazing calm and grace.  She pulled her F250 truck around, grabbed a tow rope and pulled us off the lawn (after several attempts) and onto the driveway.  John had to pull forward to straighten out which caused us to go under a low hanging pine tree that could damage our roof or AC units.

We did finally get onto the driveway so that we could get level, unhitch and get out to see my sister-in-law, Cathi who lives 30 minutes away near Columbia.  Unfortunately, we left massive, muddy ruts in the lawn and we had no way to turn the RV around so we knew we would have to back down the mile long narrow driveway at some point.  To top it all off, Rene pointed out the various piles of fire ants surrounding our camper along the driveway.

Rene was heading out in the morning for a weekend trip, so she wasn’t going to be around.  We decided we would have dinner with Cathi and then go right to sleep and leave the next day for a campground.  Of course, we had to contend with fog when we ventured out for dinner.

Sesquicentennial State Park, Columbia, SC

11/10/18

This morning, John spent several hours tamping down the ruts in the lawn.

IMG_0417

                                                     Trying to fix giant ruts in the lawn

 

He was doing an excellent job when the landlord came over to talk to him and see what was going on.  He was pleasant enough, but definitely seemed annoyed with Rene and the whole situation.  We just wanted to get the hell out of there, which we managed to do successfully.  John backed the RV all the way down and through that beautiful stone gate. It was amazing.

11/10- 11/11/18

We secured a lovely spot at Sesquicentennial State Park which was much better.  Cathi came over for a campfire BBQ and spent the night.  The site was really uneven so we were kind of high up off the ground.  I had to stand on a ladder to cook the bacon for our camping breakfast.

                                    Sesquicentenial Park, lake. and campground near Columbia SC
                                                John’s sister Cathi and cooking bacon on a stepladder

 

After breakfast, we ventured into Columbia to tool around the city and see the sites.

                                                                                Columbia from the car

Tomorrow it’s off to the SC/GA border to visit my sister Ellen & husband Jules in the woods of SC, as well as jaunts to the beautiful city of Savannah.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Boondocker’s Welcome-Pelham, Massachusetts

10/15/18

IMG_1924.JPG
Chris and Lyn’s property

This is very cool.  We are staying on a perfect stranger’s property for the next three nights thanks to this fantastic organization called boondocker’s welcome. For a mere $30 per year, you can search hosts with property large enough to accommodate RVs and willing to do so.  It’s like an Airbnb for RVs with one gigantic difference.  It’s totally free.  This lovely home is in Pelham, MA, right near UMass Amherst on lovely, very wooded Butterhill Road.  Apparently, there is a ton of wildlife including moose, bear, bobcats, mountain lions and even wolves.  We are parked on a perfect concrete slab next to the property owner’s three car garage/barn and he has even provided electric and water.  All for free!

According to his profile, he and his wife recently purchased a 35′ Class A and have started travelling a bit with it when they can get away.  They aren’t retired yet so they aren’t able to get away all the time.  When they are home, he allows folks to camp on this spot.  From what I have heard, this is a very popular option that many folks use especially as you head south and west.  Since our next stop in NY is a very pricey KOA (the only place available), these 3 free days will help even out our costs.  I really I hope I see a moose while I’m here.  At least I think that might be fun.

10/16/18

Lovely day here in Central Massachusetts.  It’s brisk with a healthy cool breeze.  Perfect day for a round of golf.  We explored Amherst and Northampton with a stop at “America’s Yarn Store”- Webs. IMG_0323

 

 

 

 

 

We also took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens at Smith College.  Then 9 holes of golf at Cherry Hill golf course which was very picturesque.

   Botanical and Japanese gardens (with St. Francis of Assisi) at Smith College in Amherst MA     
                                                                                         Cherry Hill Golf

When we arrived back to our trailer, our host, Chris and his wife Lyn stopped by for a img_19691.jpgvisit.  They are such nice people and we had a great conversation.  Chris was in construction for many years and build this house and the structure you see next to our rig.  He is currently the building commissioner for his town and a part-time police officer.  Lyn works in the Bursar’s Office at UMass.  She handles some of the non-traditional students so we had a lot to talk about- a lot in common.  They invited us (including Baker) to dinner at their house tomorrow.  Their generosity is truly amazing.

 

       Boondockers Welcome hosts Chris and Lyn in our RV

10/17/18

Another beautiful sunny day but it is chilly. Perfect day for a hike.  After looking up the numerous possibilities in this area, we chose to hike the Mt. Norwottuck trail to the horse caves and back down from the summit on the Robert Frost trail.  It was a total of close to 4 miles with the first half completely uphill.  It was the most strenuous hike we have taken thus far and a lot of fun.  The horse caves are an outcropping of gigantic rocks forming ledges and caves.  When we arrived there, the skies opened up and it poured despite the fact that there was no rain in the forecast.  Luckily, we were able to stand under the rock ledges until the rain simmered down a bit.  We had packed lunch and had a little picnic up on the mountain before the rain came.

In the evening, we had dinner with our hosts in their gorgeous home.  They served us lasagna, caesar salad and garlic bread.  We had such a nice time with them.  The boondocker’s welcome thing is really the best.  Hopefully our future experiences with it will be just as pleasant.

10/18/18

Off to the KOA NYC/Newburgh which is not in NYC, nor is it in Newburgh.  It is in Plattekill, not far from the last NY campground we stayed in (which is now closed for the season)  We will be there for a week, hopefully finishing up our storage consolidation while also visiting our friends in the area.

KOA- New York City/Newburgh, Plattekill, NY

IMG_0362 (1).JPG
Back in New York

10/23/18

We’ve been so busy visiting with loved ones, I haven’t had a chance to update.  This KOA NYC/Newburgh campsite has certainly offered us a very different perspective of the camping lifestyle.  Similar to Jellystone in the resort atmosphere but much more raucous.  During the week it’s nice and quiet and even eerily empty.  On the weekend, all hell breaks loose and it is transformed into a massive tailgate party.  This past “holiday” weekend (note the date 10/20 and 10/21- the milking of Halloween) was insane.

IMG_0369.JPG
RV decorated for Halloween

There were cars and trucks lined up all over the place in no particular order.  There were throngs of children riding go carts, electric cars, bicycles and scooters.  At one point, Baker started barking at a 6 foot tall orange kangaroo walking by the campsite (one of many Halloween costumes).  The adults gathered together around a massive campfire and played country music while getting increasingly intoxicated.  Luckily, it started pouring at around 10:45pm on Saturday night, which quieted the revelers somewhat.

Despite the noise and raucous atmosphere, its been great to be back in NY.  John was able to go to Long Island to see his buddies, while my LI buds came to me and got a taste of camping life.

img_0365-1.jpg

Debbi came on Saturday and we continued our annual tradition of hunting for yarn at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbi braving the top bunk with Baker on guard

 

IMG_0363
Sheep and Wool festival

On Sunday, my dear friend Patty came for an overnight visit and we hiked around Lake Minnewaska, followed by lunch at the Gilded Otter in New Paltz.  Of course, both Debbi and Patty enjoyed the camping experience of a nightly campfire and BBQ.

IMG_0360IMG_0349

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strolling around Lake Minnewaska and Patty by the campfire

Today I visited my friends at Marist College including the talented young woman who has stepped into my role as assistant dean.  You’re going to do a great job, Dede : ).  Marist will always be near and dear to my heart.

While all this was going on, John was also working diligently on consolidating our storage units. He did find time to have a get-together jam with his pals ‘Crazy Feet’ Pete,  Alan – ‘Alien H’ ,  and ‘yeah man’ Dave.

This evening, we went to Mahoney’s for the Poughkeepsie Jazz Project’s weekly jazz jam –  cofounded over 6 years ago by John, Ben, & Kesai and now an institution – still run by Ben Basile.  There were so many wonderful, talented artists there including Audrey and Neil- members with John of the band ‘mondoRAJ’.  Our friends (and now ex-neighbors) Anne and Hank were also there and we had a terrific time.

10/24/18

This was a very productive day.  We woke up early, went to storage unit #1 and piled a ton of junk into the truck bed for a dump run.  John dropped me off at my wonderful hair dresser’s salon (LaTanya Salon in Poughkeepsie- I highly recommend Jenn)  Love you Jenn.  While John was unloading our stuff a the dump, Jenn was working her magic.

We returned to the storage unit and ridded ourselves of one of our large units.  That is a huge milestone. Tomorrow we begin our trip southward. Southward ho.

10/25/18 – Southward Ho

An exhausting day of travel.  I don’t do any of the driving, yet I feel completely drained at the conclusion of our “moving day”.  We traveled 300 miles today from Plattekill to West Virginia with a lovely stop in New Jersey to have lunch with our cousin Geoffrey.