I am 63 years old and recently retired from my position as the Assistant Dean for the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. My husband, John (retired Air Traffic Controller and Musician) and I, along with our dog, Baker, sold our condo in Poughkeepsie, bought a fifth wheel and hit the road.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Despite the ongoing muddy conditions, we extended our stay one night so we could visit Memphis
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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)
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?)
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
‘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
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.
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
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.
Florida ‘State of the Arts’ among 50 choices of license plate styles
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
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.
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.
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.
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——————–
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
This morning, John spent several hours tamping down the ruts in the lawn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 visit. 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
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.
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
Back in New York
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
John, Geoffrey, Susan and Baker – with Walmart looming in the background
We made a second stop in PA at Cabela’s in Hamburg PA where they allow overnight parking for RVs. We considered staying the night but decided to bite the bullet and drive the remaining 2 hours and 6 minutes to Falling Waters, West Virginia.
some of Cabela’s dioramas including a coyote that looks like Baker
Cabela’s is a great stop though. They are very RV friendly. They have designated spots in their ginormous parking lot to accommodate RVs of all sizes. They even have dog kennels and horse corrals to park your animals while you shop and the store is amazing.
Falling Waters, WV
We arrived at the campsite after dark, after hours and had to wait for one of the employees to come and let us in. He briefly described where our spot was located and said that it was a breeze to get into the supposed “pull thru” site. There is absolutely no way anyone could pull through this spot. Luckily our West Virginia neighbors Mark and CJ (and his golden retriever puppy Layla) helped us maneuver into the spot without hitting the trees or falling into the creek. Maybe that’s why it’s called Falling Waters.
Now it’s midnight and there is a horrific screeching noise approaching and finally arriving right outside our door. A class A (bus) RV has just pulled in across from us. The RV has been towing a car on a trailer that is completely missing one tire, with the tow plate scraping along ground – hence the horrific noise. It sounds like Jacob Marley on steroids. Yikes….and to top it all off, I went to brush my teeth- NO WATER. The water spigot isn’t working. Thank goodness we have 1/3 full fresh water tank. Tomorrow is a new day.
Yes, it is a new day, but Falling Waters really doesn’t look too much better in the daylight. It is a little more like living in a dirt parking lot than a campground. There are gigantic, round, hard balls in the trees that occasionally crash down onto the RV scaring the living beejesus (sp?) out of me. On a positive note, we are fairly close to my niece Becky’s lovely home in Keedysville, Maryland.
We had a phenomenal dinner at Becky’s house with the whole family.
Our niece Becky and her husband Michael and their two adorable children- Georgia and Ailish
My sister -in-law Cathi and brother-in-law Joe
Mike’s mom, Patricia (from Mississippi)
Joe’s brother John from Maine
Mike and his mom, Patricia whipped up an amazing spread including a moose roast. I actually ate moose and loved it. They also served homemade dumplings, apple pie and other delights.
We returned to our campground and decided that it was just too depressing to stay there so we reserved a different campground in Clarksburg, MD called Little Bennett which is part of the Montgomery County park system. It poured heavily all night and Falling Waters truly lived up to its name.
Little Bennett Campground, Clarksburg, MD
We moved on to Little Bennett Campground which is beautiful, despite the pouring rain. It is reminiscent of our experience at Moreau Lake State Park only with full hookups. The atmosphere is the complete opposite of Falling Waters.
Once we settled in, we headed over to George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, VA for trick or treating with the family. Little Georgia transformed into Uma (from Disney’s Descendents) and little Ailish dressed as an owl- the cutest owl ever. We also toured the Washington home and estate, including the slave’s quarters. Very interesting.
Took a drive over to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia where the Shenandoah intersects with the Potomac River. We walked down to the Lower Historic Village which is part of the National Park. It is set up to look like it did back in the 1800’s when George Washington chose the town to be the site of the national armory.
One hundred and fifty nine years ago, in October 1859, John Brown led a group of abolitionists on a mission to seize the armory and free the slaves. His mission ended with his capture and execution but he brought the injustices of slavery to the forefront, eventually leading to the Civil War.
In addition to the historical significance, it is an exquisite place. Our nephew, Mike noted that Harper’s Ferry is where Lewis and Clark began their journey westward to find the Northwest Passage. It is also the mid point of the Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Northern Maine.
In the evening, we joined our family for dinner at the Canal House Cafe, a new farm to table restaurant in Harper’s Ferry. I promise that I receive no advertising dollars for this— if you visit Harper’s Ferry, please stop in for a meal at this wonderful place. They make you feel like you are having a family dinner at your favorite relative’s house and the food was excellent too.
Thanks for joining me and John and Baker on our journey across the continent.
‘Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter’ — Izaak Walton
And so the adventure begins. Since it has taken me some time to actually decide to write a blog, I am going to have to start with a lengthy prologue to provide the necessary background and get everyone caught up with where we are today.
July 29, 2018 (Still living in our beautiful condo at Hudson Pointe in Poughkeepsie, NY)
The house is in contract, the deposit has been made on the fifth wheel and I am spending the first of several Sundays at Rinaldi’s flea market in Poughkeepsie, NY, selling a variety of treasures at my 20’x20′ spot in a parking lot. I am considering this to be the beginning of the adventure because I am meeting so many interesting people- people I would not ordinarily interact with in my everyday experience.
A very friendly gentleman took an interest in a framed, ripped up, black and white picture of the Marx brothers and proceeded to tell me Groucho jokes. He also told the story about Margaret Dumont, the perfect foil for Groucho and how much she was adored by the Marx brothers. What made him particularly interesting, was the fact that he was wearing women’s leggings, a blouse, a headband, dangling earrings and fake painted yellow and purple nails.
One of the other vendors named Tony visited my “booth” several times to show me pictures of the chotchkas he likes to collect- porcelain planters shaped like various parts of a woman’s body. Another customer bought a a switchplate and then handed me a little booklet about Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ, illustrated by the Dennis the Menace cartoonist (or so he claimed). Another friendly gentleman told me that he buries his money in his front yard.
Everyone has been so pleasant and it’s so encouraging to see all these people from different cultures and different socioeconomic classes enjoying a Sunday afternoon of shopping and interacting with random strangers. I imagine that this is what it will be like when we travel across the country camping alongside people from all walks of life. This type of experience highlighted to me how insular our lives have been.
We ended up netting over $200 today despite the fact that our average sale price was around $2.00. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.
This adventure actually began around two years ago when John suggested the idea of selling the condo and living full time in a RV. His idea was to visit friends and relatives around the country and simultaneously check out potential living locales following my retirement. He expected me to fall down laughing or screaming but I actually embraced the idea. Well, maybe not totally embraced, but I was definitely open to it. We started going to RV shows and local RV dealers and began planning for the future. The plan was to leave Poughkeepsie in around year’s time. Well, several life episodes got in the way – including renovations, family matters and even hospitalizations & open heart surgery. Our journey was delayed until now- the summer/fall of 2018.
Well, maybe not so fast- or maybe a bit too fast. We seem to have rapidly run out of time, although we have accomplished an amazing amount of stuff. John flew to Minneapolis to purchase our 35′ fifth wheel. The next weekend, we went out and purchased a big, beautiful, bad ass diesel truck- a Silverado 2500 HD with all the extras that we have no idea how to work.
It took a long time to get the closing date but when we finally did, we had around 10 days to pull off the amazing feat of organizing storage, packing up the house, doing another flea market, organizing bags and boxes for Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity, scheduling a visit with my brother-in-law, Joe, who took our BBQ and bed, and hiring a mover.
Everything was moving right along and then two days before the big move, on the hottest day of an already above average hot summer, our AC crapped out. Our HVAC guy came and showed us the buildup of ice on the unit. He said it would have to melt before he could tinker with it, so we packed and sweated with no AC on a day where the temperature was pushing 100 degrees. Did I mention that we were packing up a 4 story condo?
The next day, the HVAC guy (Tom), tried everything to the tune of $800 and finally said that we needed to replace 2 key components for another $1800. Even worse than that, he said he had to order the parts and hoped to have it installed on Thursday….just one day before the closing. You can’t make this stuff up.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Okay. It’s Thursday and Tom spent his third full day at our condo, running up and down the stairs, in and out of the front door and the back porch, occasionally cursing or muttering under his breath and sweating buckets. Around 3 hours into the repair job, he asked me for a fan and warned me that he might be setting off the fire alarm because he has to use a torch for awhile. AAGH! What? What about the sprinklers? Thank goodness they didn’t go off but the smoke detectors did, scaring Baker (our dog) half to death. With all this going on, I was also stressed out because I had put in the USPS forwarding order to forward our mail to the RV mail service in Florida, effective today and we hadn’t received our title yet for the RV. We need the title (which was mailed certified last week) to get our plates to bring the RV back from Indiana.
Luckily, we received mail even though it should have been forwarded and there was a slip in the mailbox indicating that we missed delivery of a certified letter. We were rushing to the Post Office, which was about to close, when we saw a mail truck several blocks away. I flagged him down, frantically waving my little brown slip of paper and sure enough, he had our letter. We had our title. We rushed to DMV and registered the RV, not realizing that we had to pay $2800 in NY sales tax on the spot. Whew! This is quite the adventure. So far, it is not what I expected from retirement.
Celebration didn’t last too long though. Returned home from DMV to again find water in the AC room. Broken again or, more accurately, never really fixed. Called Tom from Fox Air yet again and prepared myself for another 6 hour visit. I decided to escape to my neighbor’s house to borrow WiFi and an Ativan for my panic attack over the AC.
We Hit the Road
11 years come and gone
The house is completely cleaned out. The AC is working better than ever. The credit card is maxed out. If the closing gets SNAFU’d, I’m picturing financial ruin. The closing is not finalized but we are on our way to Indiana anyway to pick up the RV & visit family. John is driving the truck and I am following in the CR-V (which we will be giving to our son and daughter-in-law in Indiana). We planned to head out at noon but there was still so much to do, we didn’t hit the NYS Thruway until 3pm. Our dog doesn’t know what’s happening and has stopped eating. When we put his food out, he covers it with a towel. It’s bizarre. He takes his nose and pushes whatever cloth is nearby until it covers his food.
Grove City, PA
Another 4-5 hour drive ahead of us. Our linens and jackets are in the bed of the truck in several plastic cases but they weren’t 100% sealed. They are covered with a thick layer of morning dew and I am eating a lousy hotel breakfast with Fox News blaring from every TV. I hope this is not an indication of how my new life is going to go.
Stayed at the Super 8 in Shipshewana which was really not all that super. Since it’s been so hot and sunny out, we never checked the plastic cases containing our linens and other stuff including jackets and bags to cover them with a tarp in the bed of the truck. Of course in the middle of the night the skies opened up and we had a massive storm soak all the rest of our stuff. My Reynolds plastic wrap, for example, was floating in 3 inches of rain water. The TV in the hotel room kept freezing up due to “inclement weather” and all I could think about was whether my new home would be leaking after this storm.
KZ Durango 1500- Our new home
I met the RV for the very first time, dropping off some boxes while it was parked in the storage lot. I really like it, by the way. Today was the first time I stepped foot in it. It looks like it will be impossible to store everything we brought but we’ll see. We drove 30 minutes away to Dually’s Depot to get the hitch installed in our truck. It’s going to take 2 hours so we drove back to the RV to see if we could organize things a bit. We tried turning on the battery power and it was completely dead in the water. Absolutely nothing worked- not even the simplest things like pushing out the slides. John pulled out the manual and it is totally overwhelming – the briefing he got at the dealer two weeks before a hazy memory. I don’t know what the hell we are doing. Now we are searching for someone we can hire to show us how to do everything and work this thing. I really don’t want to go back to the Super 8.
One piece of good news came, though. The closing is finally scheduled for tomorrow at 12:30pm.
Stan, the man, whose sister married an Amish man. Hooray for Stan from KZ. Luckily the manufacturer of our Durango RV has their corporate headquarters right next door to Starfleet Trucking where our RV is stored (trucked in from the MN dealer where we bought it). John asked if they could find a technician – an expert to assist us for 2 hours at the rate of $50 an hour. They found us Stan- a true gift from God.
We returned to the Starfleet lot to meet Stan and managed to arrive in time to learn enough to get the rig out of there with only 10 minutes left before the lot closed. First, he told us where to buy a new battery so that we could have power & then showed us several of the basics John had been demo’d in MN two weeks before. Then how to hitch up after which he followed us 2 miles down the road to a local campground with an easy “pull-through” spot and all together spent 2 1/2 hours with us, teaching us how to unhitch, connect to electricity and water and many other things. The problem is, there is so much to remember, we will most definitely, inevitably forget some step along the way and damage something or other. John already snapped off the little plastic piece that holds the front door open. I can’t wait until we really know what we are doing, if that day ever comes. Even that 2 mile drive was intense as John had no time to practice in the Starfleet parking lot and he had to avoid Amish people driving their horse and buggies along the road.
We spent our first night at the Shipshewana South campground and met some nice people. It’s interesting to see that most of the folks camping in Northern Indiana are of a certain age (OLD) and a certain ethnicity (WHITE).
Spring Hill Campground, Kokomo, IN
I am writing this from the campground laundry as I try to rectify our issue of soaking wet linens. The most wonderful and amazing thing is this app called PayRange. It allows you to pay for laundry with prepaid funds from a credit card. It’s so convenient- I hope every campground uses this.
Today, we attempt to hitch up by ourselves and then head down towards Kokomo for the next adventure, introducing the rig to the grand kids. We arrived in Kokomo to our second campground, Spring Hill. Sounds lovely, but it’s pretty primitive and very strange. It hasn’t stopped raining since we arrived and it’s incredibly muddy and buggy. We originally had reservations at a much nicer place called White River Campground in Cicero, IN but they called to cancel because the river was overflowing and they were evacuating everyone. One can definitely see the advantages of living in an actual house, although you do get evacuated from them too sometimes.
So, back to Spring Hill. When we checked in at 5 pm, we were greeted by a very pleasant young man with a horrible rash all over his body. He was wearing a large wool slouch, a stretched out T-shirt and funky gym shorts. His name is Corey and he lives here full-time. He directed us to our spot and showed us the building with the toilets and showers. It is a structure that looks like it is completely rotting away and about to collapse. I went to the bathroom and it was a trip. Spider webs everywhere, rusty water in the toilets and paint chipping off every solid structure. Corey was helpful pointing out the white furry caterpillars we should avoid at all costs. They are the culprits that caused his nasty rash. Apparently, they burrow into your skin. Having fun yet?
We went to visit the kids (our son, daughter-in-law and grand kids) in civilization and took them out to dinner.
That was a great break but then we had to head to Walmart to shop for groceries and RV related supplies. We spent an hour and a half in the massive store and I can tell you that there are interesting characters there at that hour of the night- 10pm. I was just so tired, I desperately wanted to get back to my new muddy home.
The first full day in muddy paradise. We still haven’t figured out how to get the hot water heater working so I had to take a shower in that freaky, broken down building. I didn’t realize that there was a timer on the lights because I can’t see without my glasses so it was quite the shock when the lights went out while I was in the middle of my shower. Right before it went dark, I had looked up and there were enormous spider webs and maybe even webs for those nasty monster caterpillars. I had to feel my way out of the shower to get the lights working again. Thank goodness, no one else seems to take showers in this place.
We will be here until Monday and today is Saturday. There’s a flash flood warning in place because the rain is just not stopping. At it’s best, this campground might be OK. There’s usually fishing and hiking and even a little playground but the hiking trails were completely underwater. I pray to God we don’t float away.
It is now Monday and it finally stopped raining. I learned a new term today: honey pot service. We paid a mere $7.00 for the honey pot service at our campground which means they come and pump out your black and grey water for you. We will normally do that ourselves, but we wanted to see how it’s done.
Overall, this was a fun first real camping trip, even though it poured and was very run down. The kids and grand kids slept over on Saturday night and we watched our first movie in the camper- Ready Player One.
Now we are on the road again heading back to NY which will likely take several days because pulling 10,000 lbs is not that relaxing. It’s occasionally very bumpy and a little disconcerting at times.
Trip back to NY
It took 3 days and 3 stops to get back to NY where we are now camped at a lovely place in Gardiner on the Wallkill River. We will finally be able to keep the camper parked here for more than a couple of days.
The last 3 days were interesting. We got a late start pulling out of the Kokomo campground because the hitching process took a bit of time.. What else is new? Everything takes way longer than you expect. We made it to Wauseun, Ohio, which is a 2 hour and 47 minute drive from Kokomo. Because it was so late, we decided to just stay at a hotel for one night. We were able to get a much needed rest and take a nice, long, hot shower. When you have only 6 gallons of hot water, you realize how luxurious that is.
Next morning we had to contend with Fox News in the breakfast area again. John asked the staff to change the channel and they definitely seemed a bit unnerved by that but they complied. I’m sure they switched it back on as soon as we left.
Back on the road, trying to make our way out of Ohio. It seemed to take forever. We had to stop at several rest areas to take care of various things. Some of the rest areas on the Ohio Turnpike really cater to RVs. For $22.00, you can hook up and stay the night. One of the RVers parked in one of the rest stops had around 8-10 falcons or hawks sitting on posts out in the grass. The husband was actually from New Paltz (small world) and they were on their way to a show/demo with the birds.
At the second RV rest stop (we seem to require many stops), we sanitized and filled our fresh water tank–learning something new every day. We ended up driving close to 5 hours, stopping at a beautiful wooded campground called Woodland, near Clearfield, PA. It was, by far, the prettiest place we stayed so far.
Even though we never bothered to unhitch, we had to do laundry so we got another late start. That seems to be the pattern with us. It was really frustrating me but I am learning to go with the flow. It gets a bit easier each day. We almost made it to NY but just couldn’t quite do it. It was dark and very foggy so we found a RV park right off of I84 on the border between NY and PA. It was another interesting experience. We didn’t bother to unhitch and we were parked right underneath a billboard advertising the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Fishkill. You could hear the tractor trailers whipping by. When I walked Baker in the morning, I discovered that the RV park was actually right on the Delaware River and there were some beautiful spots.
So now we have finally landed at a place we can stay for an extended period and catch our breath —-
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Gardiner, NY
Settled in at our very upscale campground called Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. There are tons of kids here with lots of planned activities. It is very manicured and clean but John says it’s a bit too National Lampoonish for him. You have to wear a wristband and all guests have to register at the office and get escorted to your site. The staff drives around in golf carts enforcing the rules. I took a yoga class this morning and Yogi Bear showed up. There is a gigantic pool and water park, miniature golf, movies on the lawn, volleyball, basketball and lots more. This is quite a difference from our very rustic campground in Matamoras, PA.
At yoga, I set an intention of gaining flexbility because I am so stiff from not stretching, dancing or doing yoga for 2 straight weeks. I realized that I also need to gain flexibility in terms of this new lifestyle. I have to get comfortable with a slower pace and not try to pack too many things into a day.
Although it seems like this should have been a restful experience, we did have a bit of added stress (in a very good way) of a visit from our oldest son, Michael, who flew into JFK on 9/11 (cheap flights are available on that day) from San Diego. He visited with our relatives on Long Island for a few days and then made his way to Poughkeepsie by train on the 13th. He was in NY for a wedding which was 4 hours northwest in Alexandria Bay (north of Watertown). We originally thought we could drive up and back with Michael and perhaps camp out up there, but we realized that we just couldn’t manage that so we had the added stress of trying to figure out how to get him where he needed to go. Ultimately, it all worked out and he arranged a ride with a friend of a friend. While Michael was visiting, we had some other friends come by and we had our very first BBQ in the camper which was great fun.
We’ve been here for a full week so we had a chance to just settle in without worrying about packing up or hitching up or any other time consuming things. Michael was safely ensconced back in his Class C RV in San Diego. The weekdays here at Jellystone are very different- a huge contrast from the harried, noisy weekend. We basically have thee whole place to ourselves and the golf cart gestapo crew was nowhere in sight. We are heading out tomorrow to a new destination. We have our sites set on a state park called Moreau Lake State Park near Saratoga. If we get a spot there, it will be our first “dry camping” experience with no electric or water hook-ups. Should be an interesting adventure.
Royal Mountain Campground, Ephratah, NY
Plans are very changeable when you have no real obligations. Instead of heading straight north, we took a detour to the west and landed in the Royal Mountain Campsite in a tiny town at the foothills of the Southwestern Adirondacks. We drove only 150 miles but it took 5 hours because of various stops along the way including a lengthy shopping stop at Camping World. We were aiming for a campground outside of Utica because we have friends to visit in a small town north of Utica called Remsen. We didn’t quite make it that far and landed here near historic Johnstown, NY. The actual town is Ephratah, NY. The campsite is a pull-through surrounded by beautiful, tall evergreens. It’s very lovely and only costs $32 per night- one of the cheaper sites we have booked. Of course it’s pouring again and the cell service is terrible so I can’t even track the weather. I heard thunder a few minutes ago and am wondering how safe it is to be in this tin can during a thunderstorm. Tomorrow we will explore the quaint area and hopefully locate a grocery store within a 40 mile radius.
We like this place so much, we extended our stay for another 2 days. Such a beautiful place and so affordable. Nobody bothers you- basically nobody is around. Yesterday, we finally had a chance to go on a hike ad spend some time outdoors. Since we started this RV trip, we’ve had so much humidity or rain, we haven’t had a chance to enjoy the outdoors. The last 2-3 days have been glorious, typical September days. It is bright and sunny, around 60 degrees for a high and very brisk in the evening.
Southern Adirondacks NY
Since we had to get back in time to watch the NY Giants beat the Houston Texans, we could only tackle a short hike. We drove into Adirondack Park to the Kane Mountain trail in Shaker Mountain Wild Forest. The first trail was 0.6 miles straight up to a fire tower. At the top of the fire tower, the view was spectacular. This is an extraordinarily beautiful part of the country. We took a 1-2 mile trail back to the parking lot and managed to stay on our feet despite some steep, sometimes muddy downhill spots.
After the usual wrangling and wrestling with our primitive technology, we were able to watch the Giants. After the game, we visited one of John’s childhood friends, Craig and his wife, Darlene. They live around an hour away from here in a very rural section of Remsen, NY. They have been building a 16 sided house for the last three years by themselves. It is an amazing structure that looks circular. It is like a gigantic trigonometry problem. They are only able to work on it when the weather permits so their time is very limited. Winter is coming and they get lots of snow up there. In the meantime, they live in another self-constructed structure that is very cozy and pleasant, despite the composting toilet which Darlene describes as a human litter box.
Craig and Darlene’s 16 sided house in progress, Remsen NY
It is incredible to think about the varied lives we all live. Their neighbor down the road has lived there all his life, before the roads were even paved–and they’re barely paved now. He’s not happy with how many lots have been sold. One has to wonder if it will become another suburban development someday as humans bombard nature and encroach on all the wildlife. Many of the people buying these lots are building second homes- I imagine to escape other people. There apparently is no escape. Where people go- others follow.
Another day of pouring rain but I can’t complain because we just had several gorgeous weather days. Yesterday we took a day trip into Cooperstown and it was gorgeous. The Leatherstocking area of Central NY is breathtaking with rolling green pastures littered here and there with cows, goats, horses and sheep. I had been to Cooperstown a few years ago with my closest, nearest and dearest childhood friend, Debbi. We travel to a different B&B location every year for our birthdays- usually around early May. When we were in Cooperstown, we had a wonderful meal at the Otseago Resort Hotel. Adjacent to the hotel is the Leatherstocking Public Golf Course which is one of the most picturesque courses I have seen. I wanted John to see it and thought we could play nine holes. Unfortunately, it was just too expensive and there was a tournament going on anyway. It would have cost over $100 each to golf there. We did get to take some photos of the course and we enjoyed a nice lunch at the teeny weeny Cooperstown diner.
On the way back to our campsite, we hit a detour and ended up passing another golf course in the middle of a wide expanse of farmland….the Meadow Links Golf Course in Richfield Springs, NY. We were able to play 9 holes of par 3 golf for only $10.00….our very first golf excursion on our RV adventure.
Today is a quiet day of hibernation from the cold rain. It is lovely listening to the rain bounce off our fiberglass castle. Unfortunately, I do have to walk through several mud puddles to collect my laundry and we also have another trip to Walmart scheduled. I am so sick of Walmart though they do have surprisingly delicious potato salad.
Moreau Lake State Park, Gansevoort, NY
We have landed at Moreau Lake State Park. It’s actually not terribly far from our last stop but it still took us several hours to get here yesterday. It’s a lovely wooded area but the spots are really designed for smaller rigs- up to 30′. John is very ambitious and adventurous so he was inclined to just go for it and back into one of the spots, God bless’m. I was ready to throw up my hands and run for the nearest regular campground. As he was attempting to maneuver his very large round peg into a smaller square hole with me helping (UGH), we both lost sight of a skinny little tree off to his right side- BOOM. We have our very first battle scar on our beautiful Silverado truck. Just a couple of scrapes and a minor dent. The tree suffered no damage.
We did finally get the RV in place and unhitched and then discovered that we only had 1/3 full on our fresh water tank. We also had limited juice on our battery and there are no “hook ups” here. It is kind of fun, though- more like a “real” camping experience. We will have to be very careful with our water usage and we have been using lanterns for light. We will be here for 3 days so it should get very interesting.
Yesterday, we spent the entire day shopping for a generator because it became very apparent that we could not effectively live without one while without shore power. It took all day, lots of research and driving to various stores before we decided on the Predator 3500 from Harbor Freight Tools. We chose it based on its size, quietness and price compared to the Honda (which is the gold standard). There are only a few hours during the day that campers are permitted to run generators: 9am-11am and 5pm-10pm. We arrived home around 6 or so and took the dog on a short hike before setting up the generator. It also took some time to figure out how to get the gas out of the gas can without spilling it all over the place (It had a strange childproof spout).
In the meantime, our fresh water and battery power was running very low and I still had dinner to cook and dishes to wash. It was growing darker and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Time was running out to get everything charged up but we were finally ready to turn on that baby at around 8:30pm or so. — Unfortunately, she just wouldn’t start. We ate our dinner and tried again around 9:00….still wouldn’t start. At the same time, our battery power was cutting out which is easy to notice as the CO 2 detector starts to scream at you every 30 seconds or so. We had to disconnect the battery power completely to stop it.
So, ultimately, we went from roasting in a house with broken AC one short month ago to freezing in a trailer with no power, including no heat. It was 41 degrees up here last night. This is when our RV really begins to feel like a tent with hard sides, as John likes to joke.
There is a happy ending. This morning, in the light of day, during our wonderful 9am to 11am generator period, John got it started and we were back in business. It could run the entire RV on its own. I was even able to make a pot of coffee and siphon some fresh water into the tank. The simple joys in life- lights, heat, running water and coffee.
KOA Quechee/Pine Valley, White River Junction, VT
Every day is a new adventure, especially every “moving day”. Every time we leave a campsite and start out for another trip, it feels equivalent (almost) to moving out of a home. There are so many steps to take- securing everything inside the RV, hitching up to the truck, cleaning the campsite and now, with the addition of a large 100 lb generator, finding a secure place to store it while traveling. John thought we could store it in the bed of the truck next to the hitch (covered with a BBQ grill cover), but we discovered that the fifth wheel could just hit it. It was 1″ too high to clear the RV kingpin in a tight turn. Off the truck it went and into our bathroom. Unfortunately, it rolled a lot on the bathroom floor and leaked some oil, so that wasn’t a good solution either. John had a MacGyver moment (as he often does) and he concocted a contraption. We put the bathroom mat down, then wrapped our stepladder in a folded up heavy duty tarp and placed it on the bath mat. Then we placed the generator (let me remind you that it weighs 100lbs) on top of the tarp so that the wheels were positioned on the side on the ladder like rail tracks. We tied it all up with bow, covered it and placed couch pillows around it. WaLa! It was perfect.
So- check out from Moreau Lake State Park was at 11:00am and we woke up at 8am to be ready in time. We finally pulled out of our spot at 12:30pm. Not bad, considering the generator debacle. On the road to Vermont. We called two campgrounds that looked appealing. Both could accommodate us for 3 days but were fully booked for Columbus Day weekend. We completely forgot that it was a holiday weekend during leaf peeping season and we didn’t make any advance reservations. This is going to be interesting. At least we had options for the next three days.
We decided to try the more expensive KOA campground up near Quechee Gorge because it is such a beautiful area. The route to this campground from Moreau State Park was a bit challenging with numerous country roads winding through lush Vermont farmland and foothills. At one point, we took the wrong fork in the road and realized that there is no way to correct a wrong turn when schlepping a large fifth wheel on your ass. On a two lane winding road surrounded by farmland, there is no place to turn that sucker around, so we kept going. That wrong turn along with several lengthy stops turned our relatively short trip into a 4 hour journey but we made it to the KOA with water and electric hookups. YEAH!
We ventured out to White River Junction, Vermont to grab dinner at Big Fatties BBQ which was outrageous. Pulled pork, slaw and collard greens were just what the doctor ordered. When we pulled back into our site, there were two young Asian women in the site across from us conferring with each other around their fire ring. They approached us to ask (with limited command of English) if we could help them build a fire. John was very happy to help with his brand new hand axe and he went on over to assist. I joined him a little while later and he was clearly having such a wonderful time. These young ladies were somewhere in their 20’s or 30’s and they came from China, rented a mid-sized Class C RV in NYC. They have been traveling around Canada and the northeast for the last 2 weeks. They even drove the Class C into cities like Montreal and parked in the city. I don’t think I would have ever been brave enough to do that, even in my 20’s. I’m barely brave enough to be doing what I’m doing now.
They offered us beer, which John happily accepted and we had a lovely little party. I had just been thinking that it has been a bit weird that we hadn’t really interacted much with other campers since our time in Indiana.
The girl’s names are Rebecca and Betty, though I imagine those are their chosen Americanized names. They spoke English but not very well and they were so lovely and friendly and so excited about the fabulous fire that John build for them. I believe they said they were from Southeast China but I couldn’t make out the name of the city. They have been staying at each campground for only one night with no prior reservations. Oh to be young again.
One full day of fun in Quechee and Woodstock, VT, in between more rain storms yesterday and predicted showers tomorrow when we move on to our next destination in New Hampshire. We were finally able to find one place with a spot left for us on Columbus Day weekend.
Today we hiked the Faulkner Trail on Mount Tom in Woodstock, Vermont. It was stunning and not too difficult. The last 100 yards or so were a little trickier- steep and rocky but not too bad. Once at the summit, the views were spectacular. You could see the entire village of Woodstock with the beautiful pastures and hills surrounding it. The trail down was a bit more treacherous as we chose the Precipice Trail. It was quite apparent why it was given that name.
The early part of the trail down was quite challenging, especially after the heavy rain from yesterday. We survived the narrow, slippery, rocky, windy hike down and enjoyed lunch at the farmer’s market in the village green.
We explored the town of Woodstock and drove to Simon Pierce in Quechee to view the incredible scenery and glassblowing. Finally, our day ended at Quechee gorge- the Grand Canyon of Vermont. I can get used to this, for sure.
Quichee Gorge and VT countryside. – not yet full Autumn
Saddleback Campground, Northwood, NH
Moving day is here again and we’re off to New Hampshire to a little town called Northwood and a campground called Saddleback. We arrived in record time for us because it was such an easy trip this time. It was basically all interstate driving. We have a lovely spot that is usually occupied by a Class A for the season but they are away for two weeks. We can use their screened in picnic area with little white xmas lights strategically placed along the seams. It’s so pretty.
The campground is managed by a very sweet guy named Carl and the vibe is very laid back.
Since our policy is to eat dinner out on moving day, we ate at a local tavern called Cooper Hill Pizzeria and Sports Bar. This is New England Patriot’s country and the Patriot’s happen to be playing Thursday night football against the Colts. Despite the fact that the place was loaded with Patriot’s fans, they closed promptly at 9pm and asked everyone to wrap up and finish so that they could shut down. I can’t imagine that ever going well in a New York sports bar.
It’s a gorgeous, sunny, brisk fall day in New Hampshire. Nothing like coffee and french toast with real Vermont maple syrup (purchased at Jake’s Market in Quechee, Vermont). We are just relaxing for the most part though there seems to always be more shopping that needs to be done, especially when there is a Walmart in every town and a Camping World a few towns over.
We had our second golf excursion- a twilight round at Nippo Lake Golf and Country Club in Barrington, NH. It was an absolutely perfect late afternoon for golf and the scenery was what you would expect from New Hampshire in October. The leaves are just about at their peak and the weather is perfect for early autumn.
Golf course in NH
New Hampshire has been a place to just slow down and hang out…just what we needed. It’s time to plan the next leg of our journey but first we need to plan for our 35th wedding anniversary on the 8th.
Our anniversary is actually tomorrow but we are going to have our anniversary dinner out tonight. First a hike. We are going to try to hike at least once in each location we stop at and also play a little golf at each place, if possible. Today we hiked the Woronoco trail at Pawtuckaway State Park. As soon as we arrived at the park, it started raining which cut our hike off a bit but we still managed to enjoy a lovely pine forest hike for around an hour and a half followed by dinner at one of the only restaurants in Northwood, NH- Johnson’s Steak and Seafood.
A little more information about our experience at Saddleback as we begin our next short trip to the Riverside Campground in Wells, Maine. Even though there wasn’t that much happening in this part of New Hampshire, this was still a very enjoyable and interesting experience. When we first arrived here, the first person we met was a woman named Pam walking three dogs. At first, I thought she was a teenager, but when I got closer, I realized that she was probably in her 40’s. She was very friendly and clearly a dog lover. Two of the dogs were hers and the other dog belonged to the owner of the campground, Carl. Pam and Carl were two of the most interesting aspects of the NH experience.
Pam apparently has spent the last 2 summers at Saddleback. She had a grandmorther who lived around the area and she apparently suffered a fatal fall this summer. Pam also originally had three dogs and one passed away at Saddleback on July 4th. Her current dogs are Rubicon and Sierra and they both got along well with Baker, as did Carl’s dog, Copper. Copper is a puggle (pug and beagle mix). The amazing thing about Pam is that she owns a gigantic toy hauler trailer (at least 40′ long) and a big powerful dually truck. She hitches, unhitches and hauls that thing all by herself. It’s amazing to me. She left on Sunday and we were in awe of how she managed everything. She was heading down to Alabama for the rest of the year to live near her boyfriend.
Carl is a super sweet teddy bear of a guy. He and his husband, Skip own a couple of houses and the campground. Carl is very friendly and laid back and a man of many talents. Not only does he run the campground, but he also flies planes and is renovating a home right next door to Saddleback. His husband, Skip is a pharmacist and they have three teenaged children (although he doesn’t look old enough to have kids in that age group). Carl sees his campground tenants as family and makes you feel very welcome. Everything works on the honor system. If you do your laundry, he trusts you to put the money in the box…same with the ice and firewood. All proceeds are then donated to Make-A-Wish.
On to Wells, Maine where we will be staying for 6 whole days. The reviews from this place were not great, so I’m a bit concerned but most of the other campgrounds were already closed for the season.
Riverside Campground, Wells, Maine
Riverside Campground is actually very nice. It’s in a great location, close to Ogunquit to the south and Kennebunkport to the north. We have a great spot, particularly because it’s off season. I can see that the sites would be too close and lack privacy if it was the height of the season.
We arrived on the 9th and met our neighbors, in a small travel trailer. They are a very friendly couple from Charlton, Mass- Don and Ann. They have a very large, furry 10 year old husky named Cody. We had a lovely time with them by our campfire and learned that they just had an anniversary. It turns out that they were married on the exact same day as us and had their first two children in the same years- 1985 and 1986. We both just celebrated our 35th anniversary in New Hampshire. Then Don mentioned that he is a CIA trained chef who was in the first graduating class in the Hyde Park location. Such a small world.
Back to Wells, Maine. Yesterday, the temperature rose to 87 degrees, the skies were crystal clear and it was a glorious day. We explored Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Ogunquit Beach and Wells Beach.
The beaches were absolutely stunning and we were allowed to bring Baker onto Wells Beach where he had the time of his life chasing the birds. He chased a group of ducks, waddling in a pool of water and didn’t realize how deep it was so he inadvertently went for a swim.
Today the temperature dropped into the 50’s and it is raining all day. Good day to update this blog and plan the next leg of our adventure. Stay tuned.
Over the last several days, we have seen some spectacular scenery including Rachel Carson’s Wildlife Preserve, Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH, and York Beach in York, Maine. Rather than blog away on all of that, I am going to simply share some glorious photos because a picture is worth a thousand words.