Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Travel Review / 2011 Outlook

We have now been “on the road” for 1257 days and we enjoyed a great travel year in 2010. We started the year in Pasadena, traveled to the Eastern most point of North America in Newfoundland and are now ending the year in Southern Florida. We stayed in 62 different places while putting 11354 miles on the RV and 11472 on the CRV. We traveled through 28 states and stayed in 21 of those including eight new ones; New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Delaware We also added five new Canadian provinces; New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. A big change in our travel style was spending 15 nights at Walmarts, rest areas or friends when we were only stopping for a night. We dry camped for extended stays five times and had five month long stays, all of which helped reduce campground costs.

We had some great firsts including the Rose Parade, Quartzite, driving to the top of Mt. Washington and, of course, two great months in Maritime Canada. Being able to stand on the shore in Labrador and watch the humpback whales up close was one of our greatest experiences ever. We revisited several places including Betty's, our favorite park, in Abbeville, LA. I know I say it to often but seeing people while traveling is one of the best things about this lifestyle. We spent time with friends and family at 22 stops this year. We started the year with Valerie & Richard, John & Ann, Emile & Raymonde, Bob & Gini and other SKPs at the Rose Parade in California and ended it with Jack & Mary Lou in Florida. In between we had planned visits with Joan & Dick, Tom & Georgie, Rick & Denise and Mike & Sherri, a week with Jean Paul & Celine in Quebec and several stops with Class of 07 mates. Other visits were chance meetings along the road with Mike & Loretta, Otis & Mary and Richard & Val. We went to the Escapade and reconnected with many SKPs. The list is really too long to name everyone. We had a great time at the Yanni wedding in Cleveland and seeing all our old pals during our extended stays in Washington. That stay involved many doctors visits from routine check ups to Nanc having her knee scoped for a torn meniscus. All of which turned out well.

Looking forward to the 2011 travel year we plan to leave Florida in early February depending on when NASA plans to launch the shuttle. We are going to Betty's for a month of Mardi Gras celebration. We want to add Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri to the map on our way back to WashPA for our annual visit in the spring. Next we will add Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota on the way to the Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming over Labor Day weekend. If we stick to this plan we will have visited all of the lower 48 since going full time. We plan to winter in Arizona with stops on the way at Yellowstone and the Balloon Fest in Albuquerque if the weather permits.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A New Dish for Christmas

I know this will come as a big surprise to a lot of people, but after 41 years of marriage I decided it was time for me to get a new dish. I have gotten along fine all these years and until we bought the motorhome I did not really have a need for one. But after spending three and a half years living together in the close quarters of an RV where I often get a lot of static I knew it was time to move on to the next level. Of course the new dish is for our two TVs. Now that I am retired I have the time to watch sports and, being a political junkie, I can now get my fix of news and politics (yes I sometimes even watch CSPAN) anytime I want. There is a picture of me and my new "dish" below.
Bill's & Judy's home all decorated for Christmas.
It was great spending time with them going to movies, Christmas parties, playing games and getting caught up with all that has been happening in our lives. We look forward to returning to see them in the future.
The last night we were there we got together with several friends for an evening of dominoes and cards. Left- Judy, Nanc, Velma & Donna. Right- Joe, Bill & Carroll.
Here I am with Riley who installed our Christmas present, the new dish. For someone who never owned a TV until we bought the rig having 200 channels is a bit daunting.
We have moved on to Jonathan Dickinson State Park near Jupiter where we will be spending time with Jack & Mary Lou until after the first of the year. Now that we have the NFL channel we were able to have them over to watch the Steelers on Thursday. For the first time in my life I was the "master of the clicker" and jumped back and forth from that game to the Pens. Isn't life grand.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Wildlife in Florida

The wildlife is one thing that makes Florida an interesting stop and I'm not talking about Fantasy Fest or Girls Gone Wild. We see many animals that we never saw in PA. There are a huge variety of birds that we can watch right from the RV. Many of these animals, including the human kind, have been suffering with this recent cold spell.
Left are ibis and right is a Sandhill Crane.
We went to Blue Springs State Park to see the manatees. The park surrounds a huge spring where over 104 million gallons of warm 72 degree water comes out of the ground daily and flows into the St. Johns River. During the colder weather the manatees gather here in huge numbers. Even with these warm spots, more then 200 manatees have died in 2010 because of the cold. When the spring became a park in the early 70's the population was down to approximately 14 manatees. On the day we visited the count was 261 and on the colder nights there are many more. Most of these sea cows are gathered on the sunny side of the spring.
This manatee passed right under the viewing area along with many different species of fish. Even though they are very fat they are not well insulated against the cold.
Left is a heron and right is a turtle on a log and cormorants on the branch. We did not see any gators but there were signs warning that they are in the area and swimmers and divers should be cautious.
One of the humans who has suffered during this cold spell.
YES, that is an ice covered plant and Nanc with a sweatshirt, gloves and earmuffs. There have been three nights in a row of below freezing temps and December has been the coldest on record for the Orlando area. We don't remember the last time we had to sleep with the furnace on. If they are going to continue to charge those high winter prices they are going to have to improve the weather.
Next week we will be heading farther south to spend the holidays with Jack and Mary Lou in Jupiter. After that we have reservations for a couple weeks in the Northern Keys and a week near Fort Meyers. We then plan to go to the SKP park in Bushnell before heading to Louisiana for Mardi Gras around the first of February.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chillin in FLA

The plan was to just chill here in Florida for most of the winter. Unfortunately, some of the chillin part has been the weather. Orlando had record cold this week to the point there was frost on the strawberries. I know it is nothing compared to PA but it is still not what we signed up for. That said, we are enjoying the Christmas season and all the socializing and fun that goes with it. We have spent several days with Bill and Judy playing cards and games, going to movies and getting caught up with what has been going on in their lives. I even helped Bill put up the Christmas lights at their house. It's not too bad doing that when it is 60 and sunny.
We went to a dinner at Zellwood Station with Judy and Bill (left) and several of their friends. The food, entertainment and table talk were great.
I thought the Teddy Bear Christmas tree was really neat.
The book 1000 Places to See Before You Die has nearby Mount (184') Dora as a must see for a look at how Central Florida was before it was Disneyfied. It is a great little town with many shops, restaurants and beautiful homes. It has several festivals a year and the lights were spectacular.
It was still warm the day we were there and it was nice to be walking around in shorts looking at Christmas decorations.
The lights on this tree danced to carols. Unfortunately, the video did not come out so it looses something.
We drove to Clermont to attend the Escapees Chapter luncheon. Paul Anderson (standing) is president and in the Class of 07. Other 07 mates, Joe and Marcia Jones, were also there and as with any SKP event we made some new friends. This retirement and travelling thing really is grand and I think it gets a little chilly once in a while just so we keep things in perspective.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Family, Food, Football

We had a great traditional Thanksgiving weekend with Judy and Bill. This is the first time on the road that we had a whole weekend of home cookin, which meant we had the usual turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pie and more on Thursday and then enjoyed the leftovers all weekend. We all ate to much, but that is part of what we do during the holidays. On top of that it was a great weekend of football with the traditional games in Dallas and Detroit on Thursday and then the Backyard Brawl on Friday with my school Pitt against Judy's WVU. It was not the usual rivalry for me because I was hoping Pitt would lose so maybe they will fire their incompetent coach. On Saturday we watched Bill's team Ohio State clench a piece of the Big Ten title and then on Sunday we saw the Steelers pull out a close one over Buffalo. All of the while eating turkey sandwiches, stuffing and more pie. I loved it!!!

Other big events were our birthdays with Nanc answering the questions asked by the Beatles that she still needs me and will still feed me when I'm 64. Next, for the first time in my life, I slept with a 60 year old woman after Nanc's birthday on the 28th. She has since been rewarded for living that long with a senior discount at the movies and lunch. Isn't life grand.
Judy and Nanc preparing a great feed.
Bill's sister Helen gets ready to start digging in. You can see why we were able to have leftovers all weekend.
Judy surveying the table before everyone sits down to eat. Bill at the sink in the background. Unfortunately the group picture did not come out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Searching for and Finding Warmer Weather

For the three days we were in Myrtle Beach we spent most of the time cleaning up the rig. We did get down to the beach one afternoon. Although it was a little cool, it was warmer than it was when we left Hatteras. Myrtle Beach is so different from the beaches we are used to with its high rises and wide, flat, hard beaches. On Hatteras there are no high rises.

Myrtle Beach

We then moved on to the Hardeeville RV Park in Hardeeville, SC. It is a nice park located near Beaufort and Hilton Head, SC and Savannah, GA. We visited Savannah the last time we passed through the area so we opted to visit the other two spots. We were not very impressed with Hilton Head as it is very obvious it is a play ground for the very wealthy. We even had a hard time finding a place to eat because they do not allow advertising signs. Oh well, we can say we were there and don't really care if we ever return.
Three years ago we visited Beaufort (Bo-furt), NC a neat little old seafaring town and we now wanted to see Beaufort (Bew-fert), SC another historic southern town. It was a bit warmer here than it had been in Myrtle Beach. This Beaufort is a beautiful town with many old, well preserved antebellum homes among the oak trees. The town's homes were saved because during the Civil War Union troops returned the town to the Union early in the war and it was used as the base for the blockade of Confederate ports. As you can see by the low clearance sign this is not a place you want to drive your RV.
We continue to cross many high bridges on the way south. Left is the bridge over the Cooper River near Charleston and right we are going over the Savannah River. I think these bridges are the highest above sea level we have been on since we left DC several weeks ago. Take a look at the big truck on the right. That is a huge tire sticking out the top. I will think about how much that tire must cost the next time we need to by tires for the rig.
We arrived in St. Augustine on a very warm day which also happened to be the night of the Holiday Lighting Gala. The city was all lit up for the Christmas season. It was wonderful to be walking around wearing shorts while seeing the lights and hearing Christmas music fill the air. The full moon also added something special to the beautiful night.
Surprise! Surprise!! When we turned on the phone Sunday morning there was a message for Richard, Valerie and Zephyr that they had just left Jacksonville on their way to their daughter's in St. Petersburg and wanting to know where we were and if it would be OK to stop for a visit. They were only a half an hour away at the time and we were just off I-95 so we had a great visit. They did bring the news that they have purchased a townhouse in Charlottesville, VA that they will be using as a base for future travels. We were hoping they would buy a place in the country with a long flat driveway and a 50 amp hookup. Oh well, we are still happy for them and we plan to visit in the future. While we were visiting with them a car drove by and I recognized Otis & Mary Moore whom we had met at Betty's last spring. What a small world.

We are now in Apopka, FL where the highs have been in the 80's and the lows in the 60's. So we are back to the nice warm weather we have been searching for. We are just two miles from where Nanc's sister and her husband Bill winter so we are looking forward to a traditional family Thanksgiving. Nanc thinks I say it to much but seeing family and friends, both old and new, is one of the great thing about our traveling lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fording our Way to a Sharp Weekend


We have this thing about getting safely off Hatteras Island in November. The last time we were here it was a ferry ride with high winds and waves and this time we awoke on our departure day to a coastal flood warning that Highway 12, the only road, could be under water at several places. The first few miles were fine but at the north end of Rodanthe, where the house from the movie used to be, we encountered the first over wash. This was mainly a lot of sand and just a bit of ocean "salt" water, but still very passable. The sheriff there told us that the water was deeper on Pea Island at the "S" turn near the Bonner Bridge but the road was still open. We felt we were committed at this point so we pressed on with the next few miles being high and dry even though we could see several spots were the waves had destroyed the dune and water was rolling through on to the ground along the road. With the bridge in sight we came upon a long stretch of road totally under water. It was shallow enough that we could see the lines to guide us so we did not get into the soft sand on the shoulders. Around another bend we encountered a break in the dune with sand and sea water pouring across the road and one car stuck in the sand with its occupants standing on high ground. Oh well, no turning around now, so we pushed on into deeper water. At least there was a car in front of us so when the lines disappeared we had someone to follow and hope they did not get stuck. All this was three hours before high tide so we knew the water would be getting deeper. Where the road reappeared a park service truck was making all south bound traffic turn around so we were the last vehicle to get through. We were very relieved, but knew we had to get the salt water washed off the rig and car. Fortunately, the rest area on route 64 on Roanoke Island had a dump station so we hooked up the hose and sprayed the salt water off. I am writing this in Myrtle Beach where we gave both vehicles a very thorough scrubbing.
This is the road in Rodanthe. Top right is a wave breaking above the dune. Top left is a break in the dune where the house from the movie, Nights in Rodanthe, used to be. There were waves breaking under several houses along this stretch.
Here we are fording through the water on the north end of Pea Island. This was a little scary, but at least the road was straight here and I could see the lines on the road.
This is the ocean pouring across the road. The car on the left is off the road and stuck in the soft sand. A back hoe was coming to its rescue. The car on the right was the one we slowly followed through the flooded area.
Here is were the south bound traffic was being turned around. We were really happy to be done with this adventure.
Our destination when we left Hatteras was to spend the weekend with Brian & Lori Sharp and their two sons. We watched Brian grow up in WashPA and were here three years ago when we helped them move into their new home. This time we parked in the driveway and had a couple of great relaxing days catching up with what has been going on in their lives. On Saturday we took the ferry to have lunch in Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina. We had a wonderful visit and were very happy to be able to spend some time with Brian and Lori and their family.
Andrew and Benjamin. Andrew was only six months old on our last visit and Ben had not been born. They are great kids who just go and go and go.

The Sharps, Brian, Lori, Andrew and Benjamin along with little "Earl" (Grandpap Sharp's chosen nickname) due early next year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Changes in Plans, Fishing & Weather

One of the great things about being a fulltimer is the flexibility we have about where we go, when we go and what route we will travel. Sometimes we change plans at the last minute just because we choose to and some times the change is necessary. We added a few days to our stay in Avon so we would be leaving on the weekend. We had planned to spend a couple of days in Ocracoke and then take the ferry to the mainland and stop at Brian and Lori Sharp's to see them and the kids. The last time we were here we went that way and helped them move into their new home. When we checked the weather the day before we were schedule to cross there were high winds, high surf and small craft warnings so we cancelled the ferry reservation and decided we would drive the extra 150 miles to avoid a repeat of that ferry ride on Pamlico Sound. Another change in our plans is that we may get to see a space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral. The launch scheduled for last month was scrubbed and the new launch date is November 30. This would be great as we missed seeing a launch in 07 when that one was scrubbed.
Another change in plans was having to get the fridge updated as it was recalled. There has been an ever expanding recall of our Norcold model since we have been on the road and ours was finally included. If you have a Norcold you should check the latest recall. We were worried about finding someone out here on Hatteras Island to do the job and were happy to find Bill's RV Service & Repair just up the road in Salvo. Bill ordered the parts and was very efficient in getting the job done. If you are ever in need of a repair on the Outer Banks we would recommend Bill.
The fishing continued to be good but the change was there seems to be bigger fish. I hooked the biggest fish I have ever had here, a very nice drum, that I was able to get to the beach but lost because I was not going into the water, which has cooled down, to pick it up. Oh well I was going to release it any way. I did land this little sand shark. When fishing in Hatteras you never know what you are going to hook. I caught at least eight different species.
Here is a look at how much the weather has changed. Left is looking up the beach from the cottage when Tom & Georgie and Mike & Sheri were here. Right is the same beach today with the high surf. There were many of those rogue waves I warned them about when they were staying there.
Looking down the beach toward the cottage at the Outer Banks Motel. The waves were getting all the way up to the dune. That is a dead deer on the beach, go figure.
Nanc looking at the waves by the circle of stones that mark the old location of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It is a good thing they moved it. The winds today were only about 25 mph with 40 mph gusts, far below the 75mph of the weakest hurricane.
Waves hitting the dunes near the old lighthouse site. The dunes on Hatteras are all man made. They were constructed by the CCC in the 1930's. Before the dunes the high water would just wash across the island into the sound.
Time to head south for warmer weather.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Outer Banks

For our third week on the Outer Banks the weather continued to be very good with sunny skies and warm temperature. We did our usual beach and fishing thing and did some exploring of the area. When you are here you don't need the GPS to find your way around as highway 12 is the only road up and down the island and there is almost no traffic this time of year. Each day more and more restaurants and stores close for the season. Very few stay open all winter.
Some of you may recognize this house because it was used to film the movie Nights in Rodanthe. It was built in 1980 and was 250 feet from the ocean. By the time it was used in the movie waves were breaking under it at high tide. This past January it was moved to a new, safer location and is once again available to rent. Here is an interesting story about the house.
One place we have never visited in all the years we have been coming to Hatteras Island is the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historical Site & Museum in Rodanthe. This site is dedicated to preserving the history and honoring the men who served in the Life-Saving Service that was the predecessor to the Coast Guard. Ten of the 29 North Carolina stations were on Hatteras Island with the job of rescuing people from ships that ran aground on the shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Over the years they saved more than 177,000 people. They worked by this quote, "The book says ya gotta go out; it don't say nothin' 'bout coming back!" Above bottom is the surfboat that was used in the 1918 rescue of the Mirlo and a few ship wreck parts found along the beach. Top is a breeches buoy and a beach rescue cart. During the summer months they have a demonstration on how this equipment was used.
Left is the Midgett House that was the home of Cornelius Payne Midgett and shows a typical Outer Banks home of the early 1900's. Right is the Chicamacomico 1874 station, the oldest in North Carolina. This station was moved five times, three by storms and twice by man.
This is the 1911 station that replaced the smaller 1874 station. It is at its original location and served the Coast Guard, that was formed in 1915, until 1954. During WWII 40 men were stationed here even though it was designed for 8 to 10. The museum is a worthwhile site to visit to get a look at early life on Hatteras Island.
Another site we had not visited since the first time we came to the Outer Banks over 35 years ago is the Wright Brothers National Memorial in nearby Kitty Hawk. We have also visited their home town of Dayton, OH and seen the original Wright Flyer at the National Air & Space Museum in DC. They have an excellent movie that explains all the obstacles Orville and Wilbur had to overcome on their way to flight. Starting in 1900 they travelled to Kitty Hawk each fall to test larger and larger gliders that lead to the 1903 powered flight. Above Nanc cheers Orville on by the 2003 sculpture that celebrated the centennial of this great event.
Center is the monument on the hill in Kitty Hawk where they tested the gliders. Left is the broken original engine that they built from scratch and one of the original propellers. Right is the wind tunnel they constructed to test the designs of various shapes of wings to find the most efficient.
Top left is a reproduction of one of the gliders, center a relief of the brothers with the heading "They taught us to fly." and on the right a reproduction of the original Flyer. Bottom are replicas of the shop and hanger they used on their visits. The large stone on the left was the take off point for the four flights and the the white stones mark the landing spot of each flight they made on December 17, 1903. They took turns piloting the flyer with Wilbur's final flight going 852 feet and lasting 59 seconds. The flyer was damaged on that landing ending the trials for that year. I am always fascinated by how closely in time events and people are connected and this is a great example. My grandfather was five in 1903, I was born two years before Orville died and it was only 66 years after this first flight that we watched the first man step on the moon. This is a very interesting, worthwhile place to visit.
We also travelled over to Roanoke Island to visit Fort Raleigh National Historical Site where the first English colony in the new world was established in 1585. This site is known as the Lost Colony because when the English returned with supplies in 1590 all the inhabitants were gone and the only clue was the word CROATOAN carved on a post. The site also played a role in the Civil War and had a Freedmen's Colony in the 1800's. During the summer there is a play about the Lost Colony. Unfortunately they were working on the visitors center so the reproduction of the small fort above was all we were able to see.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is undergoing a major restoration. This light is just north of Oregon Inlet near Nags Head and hopefully will be open to the public on our next visit. There are some worthwhile things the government spends money on.
Look at this happy couple out celebrating their 41st anniversary. This is the second time since we have been on the road that we were here for the big day. We had a great meal at the Inn on Pamlico Sound.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Enjoying the HI Life

Our second week on Hatteras Island (HI) was filled with sun, sand and friends. Tom and Georgie did a personal mail delivery and spent the week at a cottage at the Outer Banks Motel where we stayed for years when we vacationed here. Mike and Sherri took the ferry from the mainland after spending the weekend with their son Brian's family and stayed with us for a couple of days. It was their first visit to the Outer Banks so we showed them the sights and had a great time on the beach, playing euchre and dining out.
Mike and Nanc on the deck at Tom's and Georgie's cottage that was literally on the water. We always wanted to stay in one of the beach front cottages but they are booked solid in the summer season, the only time we could come here. This picture was at low tide. At high tide we could have fished from the deck. Glad there were no storms or "rogue waves" while they were there.
Sherri and Mike soaking up some of that warm Carolina sunshine.
Georgie, Murphy and Tom. Another advantage of staying in the cottage in the fall is you can bring your dog. We enjoyed spending each day on the beach by the cottage.
The fishing did get a bit better during week two. I caught several including a couple of blues. Look carefully and you can see the fins of two dolphins by my pole.
Murphy had never been in the water before and we "think" he enjoyed taking a dip with Tom.
The ferry Mike and Sherri took landed on Ocracoke, the island south of Hatteras. We met them at the dock then explored this neat little town and had lunch. This is the Ocracoke lighthouse, the oldest in North Carolina.
The British Cemetery on Ocracoke has the graves of the only four sailors whose bodies were recovered when the HMT Bedfordshire was sunk by a German U-boat off the island in May 1942. All others were lost at sea. There is also a British Cemetery on Hatteras Island. At the beginning of WWII the Germans sank so many ships off the Carolina coast that it was known as "Torpedo Alley".
Of course we had to take Mike and Sherri to see the high point of any visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the lighthouse. At 208 feet it is the tallest in the US. We did not get to the top as it is closed each year after Columbus Day. We did get to see the video about the moving of the lighthouse in 1999. We were here at that time and it was something we will never forget seeing that engineering feat.
Dining out with Tom and Georgie on their last night. Once again, getting the chance to spend time with friends is one of the greatest things about this lifestyle.