Sunday, December 31, 2017

'17 Review / '18 Outlook

This is our eleventh year of retirement and living on the road. Many friends ask when we are going to settle down as we have been in every state and province so we have seen it all. This year sure proved that wrong as we visited over 35 places we have never been that included adding nine state capitols to our been there list. Of course seeing friends and family in various places of the country is still the greatest thing about our lifestyle. To accomplish all this we put 8,309 miles on Opus and 10,417 on the CRV. We traveled from the shore of the Pacific across the Southwest, north through the Rockies, across the Great Plains and the Midwest to WashPA and then south along the Atlantic coast ending in South Florida. Our average trip was 173 miles, as we stayed in 48 places at an average cost of $21.08 per day. While the cost of RV parks has risen the last couple years, we had 25 nights where we stayed at no cost. The average cost of fuel was $2.62 a gallon, the highest in the last three years, but still lower than the days when it was near $4.00. Opus is now a teenager so we continue to do updates and replace things that have worn out over the eleven years of fulltiming.

We started the year in Yuma where we had the first of a few RV projects done, peeling clear coat on Opus repainted. We are happy we got to see our old friends Dick and Joan as Joan passed away soon after our visit. 2017 was the first year in a while that we did not make it to Betty's RV Park, but we did get to see many of the friends we have met there along the way. In Yuma we had a Betty's West happy hour with Rick, Barb, Dan, Merlene, Dan, Peggy, Tom, Ann, Clay and Christy. A grand time was had by all. Our next stop was San Diego where Bernie and Dodo were in the same RV park and Paul and Trudy were in the one next door. We got together with them several times. Mike and Sherri flew out for a week so it was a fun month with old and new friends exploring SoCal. We went to the Coronado, Balboa Park, a whale watching cruise, the zoo, a trip to LA. Bernie and Dodo joined us when we marched in the January 20th woman's protest against you know who.

In the middle of February we moved to Tucson for six weeks. This was the first time we have stayed there, so we had plenty of new things to do and see. During the first month we went to the Desert Museum, Biosphere 2, Tubac, Titan Missile Museum, Mt. Lemmon, a pastel art show, Mission San Xavier and a one man play about Fredrick Douglass. We also got to spend time with Alan, Sharon, Carl, Vickie, John and Sharon. We had a great evening when Don and Sharon invited us to their place in Benson. We had dinner and got caught up with all our travels. We later learned they bought a house in Benson and will be traveling less after 20 plus years on the road. The last two weeks in Tucson we moved to the fairgrounds for the Escapade. We were on staff so it was a very busy, but fun week. It was great seeing many of our Class of 07 mates; Howie, Norah, Sal, Bobbie, Bob, Molly, Jim, Bobbie, John, Lora, Rick, Terri, Sandy, Mike, Mike, Trish, Ron, Linda, Dave and Kathy, who all started fulltiming the same year we did. We later learned that Ron, Linda, Dave and Kathy are settling down. Gary, Anita, Bill, Jan, George and Nan, who we met at Betty's, where also there. At every Escapade we look forward to seeing Mark, Daune, Jean, Lanny, Lois, Dave, Brenda and many other SKP friends. Betty's and the Escapees are the two greatest sources of new friends we have made on the road.

From Tucson we headed to Deming, NM for a few days to recover from the Escapade. While there we discovered a great off the beaten path restaurant Adobe Deli, visited the Luna Mimbres Museum and did a day trip to Mexico to have lunch at the Pink Store. We moved on to Socorro to check two very different things off our list. We visited the Trinity Site in White Sands Missile Range where the first atomic bomb was exploded in July 1945. Trinity is only open the first Saturday of April and September. The next day we toured the Very Large Array National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the huge radio telescope on the high plains of New Mexico. Our next stop was Albuquerque for two weeks. We left Opus there and flew to DC to visit Nanc's sister Michelle and her husband Keith. We were celebrating Michelle's birthday so her sister Judy came in from Marietta, Ohio and her brother Dave and his grandson Braedon flew in from Lacey, Washington. We had a great time with family and exploring a bit of the DC area. Back in Albuquerque we had our friends Larry and Amy for dinner.

We then went to Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a place that was the home of native Americans who farmed along the fertile river valley. This is one of the most beautiful places we have seen. It was then on to Monument Valley, oh wait, this is one of the most beautiful places we have seen. We have seen Monument Valley in so many old Westerns we felt like we had been there before. We also drove to Moki Dugway, a great twisting turning gravel road that leads to the Bears Ears National Monument. Little did we know that the president would soon be reducing the size of this beautiful, natural and cultural wonder. Next was a week in Cortez with a stop at Four Corners along the way. While in Cortez we toured Mesa Verde National Park with its beautifully preserved and restored Puebloan cliff dwellings. We also visited the Anasazi Heritage Center, did a day trip to Durango and I won at the local casino. Our luck changed the day we were leaving Cortez when Opus would not start after we fueled up. After a long delay we were towed 75 miles to Farmington, NM where our luck changed again as the repair was only a new fuel filter.

We moved on to Salt Lake City to add the state capitol to our visited list and toured Temple Square. From SLC we drove across the salt flats to Lamole, NV where we spent a few days parked in the yard at Joe and Kathy's beautiful log home. They live in ranch country and we had another first when we watched calves being rounded up and branded. They were great hosts showing us around there neck of the woods. Next stop was Boise to tour the Idaho capitol and then almost 600 miles to Helena where we toured the capitol and state history museum. From Helena we had a short travel day to White Sulpher Springs where we checked out the 2 Bassets Brewery and soaked our bones in the hot springs. We drove two lane Highway 12 across Montana staying one night on the banks of the Yellowstone River before a stop in Medora, ND to pick-up mail and visit the Teddy Roosevelt National Park – North Unit that we did not visited on our previous stay.

Next stop was Bismarck where we toured the capitol, one of three that is a skyscraper. It was then south to Pierre to add the South Dakota capitol to our list. We had a great RV site on the banks of the Missouri River near where a plaque proclaiming the land was French territory was buried in 1743. It was this land that was part of the Louisiana Purchase and explored by Lewis and Clark. The plaque was unearthed by local teens in 1913. Of course all this land was the homeland of Native Americans. In Mitchell we toured the Corn Palace and the McGovern Center. Our last stop in the Dakotas was Sioux Falls where we visited my cousin Grace and her friend Marlene. It's always great seeing friends and family on the road.

An issue with the slide rollers in Opus changed our plans and we headed to Omaha for a week. We failed to get the repair done there but found Omaha to be a great city. We took a day trip to Lincoln and added the last of the three skyscraper capitols to our list. We visited the Durham Museum in the old Union Station, took in a College World Series game, visited a park service Lewis and Clark site but failed to meet Warren Buffet. We did have our closest encounter with bad weather since being on the road with a tornado that missed the RV park by only a couple miles. We had heavy rain and wind but escaped any damage.

Our next stop was Des Moines where we added the Iowa state capitol to our list and went to a nice arts festival in the city. We met up with JC and Gloria, RV friend we met at Betty's, and they took us to a couple great local restaurants. Down the road we toured the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and National Historical Site in West Branch. It was then a two day drive to Indianapolis with a quick stop at Lasso E RV where they replaced the bad slide roller in less than an hour and had us back on the road. In Indiana we toured the capitol, state library and Indy Raceway Museum.

Next was a short stop in Louisville where we checked out the Louisville Slugger factory and the Mohammad Ali Center. In Nashville we added the last of nine capitols we toured this year to our list. We toured the Parthenon and did some honky tonkin on Broadway. We got to have lunch with Charles and Sandy and Ray and Wendy, four more people we met at Betty's. We then spent a week at the Escapees RV Park in Heiskell where we gave Opus a good inside and outside cleaning. We also toured the Oak Ridge Manhattan Project National Historic Site. We moved to Concord, NC and spent two weeks with my brother Rick and sister-in-law Denise. We had a fun time playing with all Rick's toys on Lake Norman. Nanc's sister Michelle and brother-in-law Keith joined us for a weekend getaway. Our friends Dylan, Samantha, Tim, Mary, Pedro and Samantha all spent time with us while we were there.

We then spent two months in WashPA for our annual doctor and dentist appointments. We are happy to report that they all went well and we are good for another year. Of course while there, we helped keep many of our favorite local restaurants in business and had a great time with more local friends and family than we can list here. We especially like the weekly teacher's lunch bunch where we get to see so many friends. Always high on the list is John's wonderful homemade wood-fired pizza. Our RV friends Dan and Merlene stopped for a one day visit and we took them to hear the Dan Baker Group. We got to play euchre with the old card club three times and attended wedding celebrations of our niece Morgan and her husband Matt and my cousin Michael and his wife Amanda. We went to the lake with Mike and Sherri and I got to do some fishing, something I always look forward to when we are there. We also got a new recliner for Opus and did a couple small RV jobs. On a down note Nanc had a little hitch in her giddy up and could not run the Great Race. Even though we travel all over the country we always look forward to our time in WashPA.

On October 1st we started south with the first stop in Maryland to see Michelle and Keith. While there we went into DC to see the new Martin Luther King Memorial and spent some time in Old Town Alexandria. We moved to Hatteras Island for a week of sun, fun and fishing. Tom, Georgie and Milo were there on vacation for most of our stay so we had a great time with them. We left Hatteras and did four days in a row of one night stops on our way to Ocala for our annual RV service appointment. We did get to have dinner with George and Nan in Jacksonville one of those evenings. When the service was done we headed south to Naples for a month. Our goal this year in Florida was to check out places to put down some roots and after checking out the West coast we decided we want to be on the Atlantic Coast. While in Naples we flew to Punta Cana for a two week vacation at Secrets Royal Palms. We were very disappointed that Rick and Denise were not able to join us as they had planned because of health issues with her father. We had to have a problem with the AC and a water leak repaired while in Naples and were very happy with the service tech Daniel of Land and Sea Cooling.

We then headed to Jensen Beach on the East coast for a month. We really like the area and did some looking at possible places to settle. The prices are more reasonable here and it offers many things we have on our checklist, including warm winter weather, access to the ocean and many great local restaurants. The day we arrived we had dinner with RVers John and Sharon who we last saw in Tucson. Jean Paul and Celine came down from Orange City for lunch another day and we had a great time getting caught up with them. We are looking forward to seeing the four of them again this spring at Betty's. We were only 30 miles from Jupiter so on three Sundays we went to the Jupiter Jazz Society jam session with Mary Lou. She and her friend Pat drove up to have lunch with us one afternoon. The biggest thing we did while here was having new carpet installed in Opus. We have been looking to have this done for over a year and we finally found someone who would install it in an RV at a reasonable price. Our last move of 2017 was only 25 miles to Jonathon Dickinson State Park where we spent the holidays with Mary Lou. We have stayed here every year since we went on the road and wintered in Florida. We went to a couple music venues and dined at several of our favorite local restaurants. Mary Lou had us for Christmas dinner along with her neighbors Jack and Mervat who live on the same street as my brother in Pittsburgh. We will ring in the new year with Mary Lou and Pat.

2017 was a great year exploring many new sights across the land and seeing many friends and family members. We got a few wear and tear issues taken care of on Opus, just like we had to do when we lived in a stix and brix. We have begun to think about planting roots and feel that the Atlantic Coast area around Stuart and Jensen Beach, Florida would be a good place.

For 2018 our plan is to spend January at the Elks Lodge in the Keys. We will then sprint to Louisiana for Mardi Gras and a two month stay at Betty's RV Park. In the spring we want to explore Texas Hill Country and then add the Arkansas and Missouri capitols to our list. At the end of May we will be working at the Escapade in Sedalia, Missouri. If we get an appointment we will head to Spartan Chassis in Michigan for service before going to New England to add more capitols to our list. In July we have reservations for the Escapees New York City Hudson Valley Hop. We will then go back to WashPA for a three month stay. We are staying longer because Nanc wants to go to her 50 year class reunion. We hope to have an extended stay on Hatteras before slowly heading south to Florida for the second year in a row. Of course, these plans are not written in stone and always subject to change.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Week of Friends and Music in Jensen Beach

Our last week in Jensen Beach was very busy with doing a few jobs on Opus, checking out new areas and attending a couple music venues. We really like this area and have put it at the top of our possible places to settle down list. The area along the Indian River is true old Florida with many neat locally owned restaurants and shops. Less than five miles away are all the stores for anyone who loves to shop (not me) would want. Even with all this we found several condos that are in our price range. Another requirement we have is warm winter weather and Jensen Beach is far enough south for us. That said, we did have a "cold" snap with highs in the 60's and lows in the 40's that forced me to wear jeans rather than shorts. It was cool for five days but the warm sunny Florida weather we love has returned. We sure hope that means winter in Florida is over.    
We started our last week at the Jupiter Jazz Society's Sunday jam session. This week Leslie Rich was the featured singer for the first hour.
She was followed by several great musicians including Tony Natilo here on guitar who got the place rocking with some fantastic jazz and blues numbers.
While the winter weather scared us away from the Stuart Christmas boat parade we could not miss the Christmas golf cart parade at Ocean Breeze.
The parade had about twenty decorated golf carts that were led by two Jensen Beach police cars. They were even throwing candy.
We had not done the Thursday evening art walk so that was on our list for this week. There were several artisans selling their original works, but there were also a few people selling cheap imported junk. Overall, it was a good variety of art. 
After the art walk we went to Crawdaddy's for some live music......
......and some raw Louisiana oysters. While this place is not as good as the food we get in Abbeville, it is a great local choice.
On Friday we went to the Dolphin Bar and Shrimp House for lunch. This is an interesting place that was part of the Outrigger resort and restaurant. The Outrigger was owned by singer and actress Frances Langford and was the go to place for many rich and famous people in the 1960's. Famous visitors included Bob Hope, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Gleason, Richard Nixon, the Prince of Tonga,........
.......Mary Lou Burger, Jim Tidball, Nancy Tidball and Pat Fitzsimmons. We had a great lunch by the water and added the Dolphin Bar to our list of reasons to settle in this area.
On Friday evening we went to a local music venue in Stuart, Terra Fermata. This is a funky outdoor venue that has music seven nights a week. It is not a restaurant, but they serve drinks and there was a food truck parked at the entrance. The opening act was guitarist Joel DaSilva's group who played some great rock and blues. 
The featured act was a local band Big Pine that played a mix of Southern rock and blues. Several evenings a week Terra Fermata has open jam sessions for different genres of music.
On our last last day in Jensen Beach we went back to the Double Roads for the jazz jam session. We usually only get to go twice when we are in this area but going from Jensen Beach we got to go three times this year.
The featured singer this week was Libra Sene whom we met on our first visit. If you are in the Jupiter area and like jazz, add the jazz society's Sunday jam to your to do list. You can find the schedule at this link to their Facebook page.

I do have a report on the new carpet. Nanc said I spilled a beer on it, but from someone who has spilled more than one beer in my life my defense is it was really only a SMALL splash that was easily soaked up. No harm no foul.

We drove 25 miles and are now at Jonathon Dickinson State Park near Jupiter until 2018. We are looking forward to celebrating the holidays and spending time with our friend Mary Lou. This is another favorite area where we always have a great time. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Super (Moon) Week with Friends - New Carpet

We continue to explore the area around Jensen Beach, Hutchinson Island and Stuart as a possible place to plant some roots some time in the future. The area meets many of the requirements we have in mind. It is close to the ocean and a lot of other waterways, there are plenty of recreational opportunities, many locally owned eateries, less traffic than other places in Florida and more reasonable home prices. We are not planning on buying at this time as we are still in the information gathering phase.
We found another great restaurant, Castaways. They offer over 60 beers and many fine wines. The food menu is fantastic with a great selection of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and entrees all prepared to order.
We have been there twice and I opted for the wings and a great wheat IPA on our second visit. Another thing we like about the area is the friendliness of the people. Without fail, someone seated next to us strikes up a conversation. This is the best way to learn about the neighborhood and get the inside scoop.
When we leave here we are only moving 25 miles to be near Jupiter to spend the holidays with our friend Mary Lou. When we are there we always go to the Jupiter Jazz Societies' Sunday jam sessions at the Double Roads Tavern. We realized that the two Sundays we are going to be there are the holiday eves so there are no jam sessions, bummer.
We decided since it was not really that far away we would drive to Jupiter from Jensen Beach for the jam. As usual we were not disappointed. There were several great performers including many we remembered from our last visit two years ago.
Mary Lou, Nanc and I had a great evening of food, drink, conversation and music.
There is always an interesting variety of very talented people at the jams. They even got a little bit away from jazz with some great pop tunes. Sure happy we realized we needed to go to the jams from Jensen Beach or we would have missed one of our favorite things about this area of Florida.
WOW what a super moon. The clouds parted just enough so we could see the super moon over Florida. It's amazing how big it looked.
We got an email from Jean Paul and Celine, our amis from Quebec who we met at Betty's RV Park. They were a couple hours north of us in Orange City and wanted to check out the Ocean Breeze RV Park. We have seen them on the road many times including a visit to their home in Saint Omer on the Gaspe Peninsula. 
We had a great visit and lunch at Conchy Joe's, another interesting local eatery. We got caught up with all their travels and are looking forward to being with them at Betty's in February and March.
We (Nanc) has been on a mission to get new carpet in Opus for a couple years. We got estimates from Newmar and Duncan in Indiana and they were both around $6,000, way more than we paid to have our three-bedroom house done. We thought we could get it from a local WashPA shop, only to discover they no longer did RVs. Nanc found Syl Wagenti in Port Saint Lucie on Home Advisor. He does carpet in RVs and his price was a third of the other estimates we received.
Syl showed up with his helper on Wednesday and immediately went to work moving furniture, not an easy job in an RV and removing the old carpet. 
All the furniture stacked in the slide and the carpet out in the front of Opus.
People often said our carpet did not look too bad but when you see it rolled together you can see it was not only worn, but very faded.
You can see why some places want so much money to install carpet in an RV. It is a very small area that requires many cuts.
In the bedroom they just removed the carpet from around the bed, a major cost savings.
By the end of day one the new padding was down and the carpet was rough cut. It took Syl a long time to cut it so it fit properly along the front of the slide.
The job is finished and looking good.
He did a great job putting it in and as they say, happy wife, happy life.
But, look who was not happy when I was told I was to messy to eat supper where I might drop something on the new carpet and I had to eat sitting on the tiled floor:-)
It was not all fun and games here while new carpet was being installed and we could not be in our house for two days. Nanc and I took advantage of having to be outside and shined up Opus. 

We only have one more week here before moving 25 miles further south. Hopefully, it will warm up by then as a cold (cool) front just moved through and lowered the high temperature into the sixties with a couple days of lows in the forties.  BBBRRRR!!!! 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanksgiving, Birthdays and Jensen Beach

We had a busy second week on the East Coast celebrating Thanksgiving and both our birthdays. We have also checked out several local restaurants, possible places to settle and the nearby beach. We really like the area and think it has a lot of the things we are looking for in a place to settle.
We are only 30 miles north of Jupiter where our friend Mary Lou lives. She had no real plans for Thanksgiving, so she invited us for a traditional holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and more. Nanc made butternut squash soup and a salad to round out the feast.  We had a great day getting caught up and hearing about her trip to several Western national parks. Our next move is to Jonathon Dickinson State Park where we will spend the holidays with Mary.
One of our requirements for the place we will settle is good, locally owned restaurants. The first one we found was the House of Brews where they have 69 brews on tap and hundreds of different bottled beers for sale to go.  They also have a nice wine selection which is rare in brew pubs, which made Nanc happy.
One thing we like about Florida over the Southwest is that the evenings stay warm after the sun goes down. This makes sitting outside very comfortable. The Banyan Bar is the outdoor part of Crawdaddy's and on this evening we were treated to some live blues.
Another great place is the Dolphin Bar and Shrimp House. It is right on the water and has great happy hour food specials. In the lobby they had something I have not sat in for years, a barber's chair. 
Another requirement met. Hutchinson Island and the beach is only 10 minutes away. Unlike the beaches near Naples, they offer free parking and access to a nice wide ocean beach.
Our birthdays, mine on the 26th and Nanc's on the 28th, turned into several days of celebration. I sure was happy that all my favorite sports teams were winners over the weekend. It started on Friday when Pitt upset Miami, then Pitt won a couple basketball games. The Pens snapped out of the funk and on Saturday the Prexies won the WPIAL football championship. Finally, on my birthday the Steelers won a close game over the Packers. Nanc cooked one of my favorite dishes, perogies with hot peppers, for dinner.  A true western Pennsylvania tradition. I had a great time and I'm sure happy not to be 70 anymore.
For Nanc's birthday she chose to check out a few local shops that are within walking distance of the RV park. While she shopped I went to another great local watering hole, Lures. The outdoor bar is on the sidewalk, very neat. It seems to us that people in this area are very friendly and welcoming. At every place we have been someone has struck up a conversation with us. Another reason we like the area. After she was done shopping the birthday girl joined me at Lures for happy hour.
She chose Crawdaddy's for her birthday dinner. How neat is this we can get actual Louisiana food right here in Jensen Beach. While it may not be as good as Abbeville, they have crawfish etouffee. jambalaya, shrimp creole and raw Louisiana oysters.
As you can tell we like the area and have checked out a couple condo developments. We have looked at them on the Internet and driven by but have not been inside any of them. This is supposed to be a time just to find an area we like, so we do not plan to buy this year.

I have used google Picasa to do pictures for the blog for years. It is easy to use to edit pictures and post them on the blog. Picasa always automatically downloaded all my pictures from the computer. This week that did not happen when I downloaded pictures from my phone and camera. Any help would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

From Naples to Jensen Beach and a Surprise Visit With Friends

We were back in Naples for a week after we returned from Punta Cana and did not do much as we were both still recovering from our colds. We did do a bit of exploring, looking at possible places to settle down. We did not find anything that really appealed to us so we will be checking out the East coast in the next few weeks.
One of the swans at Lake San Marino. The park was almost back to normal after Irma. They removed the couple of totaled trailers, repaired the fence and remove the downed branches and stumps.
We did stop at Big Cypress National Preserve on our trip to Miami. We were shocked at how much water is still on the ground from Irma. Many of the back roads and the Shark Valley area in the Everglades are still closed because they are under water. Here is an anhinga drying its wings.
We have driven across this road several times in Opus but this was the first time we have stopped at the visitors center to collect a park service stamp and add Big Cypress to our visited list. We did see one gator. 
Oh no, we got up the day after we returned from Punta Cana and found the carpet in the bedroom was wet. I found the leak under the sink, but I don't do plumbing, so we called Daniel at Land and Sea Cooling and he came out the first thing Monday morning and replaced the broken T. We can't say enough about Daniel. If you are in the Naples area and need a mobile RV service, he is very good.
We arrived in Jensen Beach on Saturday afternoon and got a message that John and Sharon were in the area so we got together for an extended happy hour.
As we always say, making and seeing friends on the road is the best thing about our full timing lifestyle. We got caught up with all our travels and are looking forward to seeing them at Betty's in the spring.
On Sunday we went to the Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival. It was a small event with the usual music, food and vendors.
We did find a Christmas gift and found a couple local restaurants that are within walking distance of the park. We are here for a month and plan to check out the area as a possible place to settle some day. Looking at prices, this area is less expensive than the West coast.

We are only a few miles north of Jupiter so we are going to have Thanksgiving with our friend Mary Lou. Hope you all have a great turkey day and are with friends and/or family.