Monday, July 29, 2013

More WashPA Friends, Food and Music

The fun times in WashPA continue with another week of friends, food and music.  While traveling is what we do, being back in our old home territory is always great.  Some people we only see once while others we cross paths with many times.  Regardless it is always fun.
Ron and Becky had a great house party for the Wednesday Out to Lunch Bunch. Top left is Patrice, John, Sandy, Nanc, Chris and Ken. Right is Linda, Peg and Barb.  Bottom left is Jackie and Phil and right is Trish and Sandy.  Look at all that wonderful food.
Top left is Bernie, Georgie, Tom and Jim.  Right is Kathy, Ed and Carol.  Bottom is Lena, Kim and our host Ron.  Someone failed to get a picture of our hostess, Becky, sorry.  It was a great time. 
Another great locally owned  Pittsburgh restaurant Someone Else's.  If you want a great burger (or one of many other great dishes) and a unique atmosphere, you need to check out this place in Castle Shannon.  In addition to the great menu, the candy on the bar and tables is real neat.
A couple more evenings of music.  At Al & Rubens we heard Antoinette and another singer (missed the name) who did some great jazz numbers.  At the Kopper Kettle we heard Dan, Tom and Greg do some wonderful blues.  We usually hear Dan play jazz and it was great hearing him play the blues.  Here is a short video of some of his work. 
We were joined that evening by Ray, Sandy, Tom and Georgie.  Another fun time with friends.
One of the things we miss the most about not being in WashPA is getting together with the Euchre group.  We used to get together every four to six weeks for an evening of food, cards and conversation.  Left are Mary Lou, Sherri, Diane and Tom. Right are Mike, Nanc, Tim and Georgie.  The time with friends was great even though the cards did not come our way this time.
The Out to Lunch Bunch went to a new place, Yo Rocco's, in nearby Belle Vernon.  Here we are with the owner Keith, a former student that four of us taught in school.  He has only been open for a month and we all agreed the food was great.  If you are in the area, check out Yo Rocco's and tell Keith Mr. Tidball (Jim) sent you. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Year Six Summary

THE LIST..............................YEAR 4.......Year 5.......YEAR 6
Motorhome Miles.....................9,576......11,209.........5,300
Average Miles Per Day..................26.2..........30.6..........14.1
Average Trip................................184..........180.............160
Gallons of Diesel Fuel...............1179.93...1467.75........747.26
Average Cost Per Gallon.................3.46.........3.86............3.84
CRV Miles..............................11,517........8776.........11344
Bicycle Miles...............................119...........180...........107
Camp Sites.....................................52.............62.............33
Average Nights in Each...................7.0............5.9..........11.1
Number of Frosty Nights............too many......very few...none
Number of Windy, Stormy Days. too many...very few....few
Number of States(Provinces).........27(3).......17(4).........11(0)
National Parks & Monuments.......34............25..............10
Blog Posts.....................................62.............79.............61
Days of Exercise (Jim)................173...........161..........193
Days of Exercise (Nanc)..............240............223........238
Number of haircuts (Jim).................0...............0.............0
Old & New Friends & Family..Priceless...Priceless....Priceless

It has now been six years since we hit the road to explore North America while living in our motorhome, Opus. We continue to love the lifestyle and don't have any plans to go back to a stix and brix. People always ask what we like best and while it is hard to pick one, seeing old and making new friends is really the best thing about the lifestyle. When it comes to places we love, Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, LA is the best because of the wonderful hostess Betty is and the many people (RVers and locals) we have met there. Also, while we did not do many this year, any National Park Service site is always near the top of the list.

This year we stayed in eleven states in the Eastern half of the country and only put 5300 miles on Opus, the least in six years. We stayed in 33 places, by far the fewest since we went on the road. That said, our campground expenses at $21.35 a day were the highest we have had since our first year when we stayed in75 places. This was mainly because of the time we spent in the Keys, New Orleans and having to leave the Outer Banks early. (No refund since we were paying the Passport America rate). We did have help with the increase in expenses because Nanc is now a member of the “check(s) of the month club” (Social Security and a pension from an old job).

We started the year in Ohio and then spent two months in WashPA getting caught up with family, friends and taking care of personal business. We are ending the year in the same place doing the same thing. After we left WashPA last October we made a couple of stops to see friends, one in Charlottesville, VA to see Richard and Valerie, where we ran into our former WashPA neighbors Jeff and Joanne (small world). We then spent a day with the Sharp family in North Carolina before heading to the Outer Banks for what was supposed to be a month long stay only to be driven out two weeks early by Hurricane Sandy. Then after short stays with Brian and Lori and in Charleston, South Carolina we went to Florida for three months. We spent January in the Keys where I was able to go the whole month wearing shorts and t-shirts making the added expenses very worthwhile. In Florida we got to spend time with Nanc's sister Judy and her husband Bill and our friend Mary Lou. We also had visits from Tom & Georgie and Mike & Sherri. We also went to Punta Cuna, Dominican Republic, on vacation (no we are not always on vacation just because our home has wheels). We have decided we are going to take a vacation at least once a year.

Near the end of February we headed to Louisiana and Betty's RV Park our favorite stop. During our six years we have been there six times for a total of almost eight months. In addition to all the people we have met there, we love the food and of course the music. We love this place so much we even have a special blog label for the time we spend there. After leaving Betty's near the end of April we were able to cross the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival off our list, only to add it again as we plan to return someday. From NOLA we went birding in Grand Isle before taking five weeks to slowly travel back to WashPA. We took in the Vicksburg battlefield, the Natchez Trace Parkway, Elvis's birthplace and the Blues Highway in Mississippi. The Blues is our favorite music and we were treated to some great musicians at the festival and on our way north. We then spent a week in Tennessee with Charles and Sandy who we met at Betty's. Only RVers would invite almost total strangers into their home and have them spend a week parked in their yard. Another reason we love the lifestyle. While in Tennessee we did some music in Nashville. Next we went to Bardstown, KY and did the Kentucky Bourbon Trail before spending a few days with Nanc's family in Marietta, Ohio.

The year included many stops at places related to the name Tidball. Tidball's Bar in Bowling Green, KY was the last stop of Tidball related places we visited. We met the owner, John, and learned we were the first Tidballs to patronize his bar. Last fall our first stop was the Tidball Trail on the Antietam Battlefield. I had discovered the trail while reading a biography about John C. Tidball. This spring in Grand Isle we learned that Lanny, the owner of the RV park, had an uncle in Illinois who was a Tidball. In Vicksburg we found a Tidball listed on the Illinois memorial. It has been neat finding all these distant connections to the family tree.

As we look at the big picture plan for year seven we have an appointment in Elkhart for some RV service when we leave WashPA in mid August. We hope to do a Mark Twain stop in Hannibal, Missouri, take in some shows in Branson and drive the mother road, Route 66, on our way the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We will then take advantage of a good fall rate at Sun Life RV Park in Mesa until the first of the year. We have scheduled a Riviera Maya vacation to celebrate our anniversary in November. We will be staying somewhere in the Southwest for the rest of the winter before heading North to Alaska in the summer of '14. That said, as we have learned when your house is on wheels, the plans can change just like the wind.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Project TV"

Most of my former students and old friends knew we did not have a TV in our stix and brix.  There was even an article in the local paper years ago about this strange fact.  So one of the biggest changes that came into our lives when we bought an RV was, for the first time, we owned not just one but two TVs.  For the first three plus years on the road we relied on RV park cable or over the air TV.  In 2010 we made a big leap and signed up for Dish Network since I figured that being retired we actually now had time to watch some of the mindless stuff that is on the tube.  I have come to enjoy the access to "the news" and getting to watch Pittsburgh sports.     
Our years of travelling America's highways resulted in the plastic case that holds the bedroom TV in place to crack (top right corner).  I was afraid the external problems could cause electrical problems on the inside so I decided to replace it with a new flat screen TV.  So for the first time in our married lives we went shopping for a TV.  Very confusing.
The first challenge was removing the old TV. Because of the crack in the plastic case, when we lifted the front the back did not move.  I ended up splitting the case in two and holding the picture tube while Nanc cut all the wires.  I was then able to get the remainder of the case out.  No pictures of that as all hands were required, but here is what is left of the old TV. 
We opted for a 24" Vizio that has a screen that is just a bit bigger than the old one.  We were left with a huge hole that we realized we could use for additional storage space if we mounted the TV on a door.
With the help of our friend Tom, who has all the right tools, I cut a finished piece of plywood and the old trim boards to face the new door.
Here I am holding the finished door in place.  It was then stained and sealed.  I attached it with a piano hinge.
We purchased a Mor/ryde stationary mounting bracket and drilled holes for the power cord and cable.
The door is hinged on the right so we can turn it to watch from bed if needed.
We now have a new space that we discovered will be ideal for our printer so we don't have to get it out of storage every time we use it.
The finished project.  Nanc was very happy with the way it looked which means I was also very happy.  I still have not decided if I am going to tackle the other TV on this stay, but when I do it will be here in WashPA where I can use Tom as an expert resource.  So, what do you think?  It looks pretty good huh?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More Friends and Food

The good times with friends and family continue while we take care of our personal business and work on a couple of projects. 
We had a surprise visit from Richard and Valerie Frayer, RVers we met at our first Escapade in 2007.  We have crossed paths many times from PA to CA and in between.  We had a great couple of days getting caught up.  We even had a chance to get some WashPA and RV friends together.  Here are Tom, Georgie, Val, Richard, Nanc and Jim at Al & Rubens where we had a great meal and enjoyed an evening of music. 
One of our favorite things about our WashPA visits is having John's wood fired oven pizza.  The man is a master and these parties always bring a big crowd of the Wednesday lunch bunch.  We took Cajun Bloody Marys that were very popular.  Here are a few pics of what retirees enjoy all the time and working teacher love about the summer.
Georgie, Phil, Kim Bill, Linda and Gail.
Sandy and me. 
Kathy, Carol, Bobbie Jo and Ron.
Georgie, Kim, Anne Marie, Tom, Sandy and Patty.
Patrice, Linda and Charlie
BJ, Emily, Lisa and Becky.
Pat and Joy seated by Chef John.
BJ, Ron and me.
Georgie, Becky and Sandy
Linda, John and Lisa
Charlie and I compare our retirement dos. 
John's pizza parties are always a fun fun time with good food and good friends.
On Friday we got together with my brother Rick to meet Pedro, a Guatemalan student he and Denise are helping out.  We had a great time learning about Pedro's experience as an exchange student in the US.
On Sunday we went to a craft fair in Pittsburgh where our friends Karen and Donna were selling their jewelry.  As you can tell by what they are wearing, they make some very interesting jewelry.  This has been their retirement job.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Food, Friends and Fireworks

When we were working and living in a stix and brix Nanc was famous among our friends for what she made the best and that was reservations.  She was a founding member of the LEO (Let's Eat Out) Club. Our restaurants of choice were all locally owned and we became friends with many of the owners and employees.  We ate out so often that we were afraid that some of our local favorites would close once we went on the road.  While we do cook and eat in more often since we went on the road, when we are in WashPA we always have to go to our old favorites to see how our friends are doing and to contribute to the local economy.     
Of course dining out is also a excuse to get together with old friends.  Here we are with Mike & Sherri (left), Diane with Nanc and Tim with Jim.  It is so great getting to see so many friends.
We were at a the Speers Street Grill in Speers that is near the RV park.  Great casual dining. 
The teachers out to lunch bunch went to a local bar, the Kopper Kettle, just outside WashPA for lunch.  Left are Kim, Bill, Tom and Georgie.  Center are Gail, Linda, John, Becky and Ron.  Right are Nanc, Chuck, Dave, Jackie and Anne Marie.  We like local places were we can have a good meal and not be rushed since we are all either retired or teachers on the summer break. 
While we have been eating out a lot Nanc did cook a great homemade meal for Independence Day.  I have always known she was a wonderful cook when she has the time and that has been a real bonus of retirement.  This meal was a spinach feta sauce over some Rossi Pasta. MMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was the 4th so we celebrated with a tasting of four whiskeys we bought on our travels this spring.  We had tried each individually but had not done a side by side comparison.  We concluded that they were all wonderful and will be sipped slowly over the next couple of years. 
This was the first time we have been in PA for the fourth since we hit the road.  Pine Cove Resort put on a great display of fireworks between the rain drops.  Here is a short video.
We went to another favorite local restaurant, the Union Grill, with Mike and Judy.  They are birders and love to travel so it was great getting caught up on their past adventures and future plans.  The Grill is a great local place that has been in WashPA for years.  It has a great staff, food and owner, Mickey.  Their slogan is "Where Friends Meet" and that sure is true of their Cheers like bar.  It is a place where we will always see many old local friends and acquaintances. 
Another day, another friend and back to the Grill.  I taught with Linda years ago before she moved to Mesa, AZ.  We have seen her every time we winter there and it was great seeing her here in WashPA.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Music, Family and Friends

Our fun times continue here in WashPA with friends and family.  We have gotten our dentist and a  couple of doctors visits out of the way and others are scheduled.  So far all is well.  We got together with the teachers' out to lunch bunch and my brother Rick and his wife Denise, but I was lazy with the camera and failed to get any pictures.  We have been very busy, but mostly with fun times. 
We always love to check out the local music scene wherever we travel and here in WashPA is no different.  We went to a local community day and heard the New Orleans Riverside Band play some jazz and dixieland.
One of our local favorites is the Four Townsmen Show Band.  Two of the members go back to the early 60's when they released an original doo wop record.  They play a big variety of music today in addition to many old time doo wap.  Here is a short video of one of their songs.
Another evening we went to hear guitarist Dan Baker, drummer (and sail maker) Tom Bell and bass player Jim do some blues and jazz.   
Every Wednesday evening Al & Ruben's, a wonderful local restaurant, has jazz.  Right are Dan and Jim. The sax player is Josh.  I did not get the drummer's name, he is new with the group.  Josh and Dan are former students and great musicians.  If you want a fun evening of great music, check them out.
If you are a Pittsburgher this statue needs no explanation.  For others it is Bill Mazeroski running the bases after hitting a "walk off" game 7 home run to win the 1960 World Series over the powerful Yankees.  It was the first time a World Series was won with a walk off homer.  It has only happened once since then.   I know I still remember that day and the parade that followed. 
Nanc's family was in town and we went to see the Pirates.  Here are Nanc, sister Judy, brother Dave, sister, Michelle, her husband Keith, nephew Scott, his wife Bobbi Jo.  We all had a great evening at the ballpark watching the Pirates defeat the Brewers 10 - 3. 
Our view of the Burgh from our seats in beautiful PNC Park.  After 20 losing seasons not only are the Pirates winning, but for the first time in years at the half way mark of the season we can say, the Bucs have the BEST record in all of baseball.  We all hope this is the year without a September swoon.
LET'S GO BUCS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
On Saturday we had a Scott family reunion.  This was the largest gathering of Nanc's family for a happy occasion in many many years.  It was great seeing all the siblings, nieces, nephews and so many of their kids.
Sure are a lot of girls in this family.  Emma, Madison, Elizabeth, Jayna, Jackie and Olivia.
The Scott siblings.  Michelle from Maryland, Judy from Ohio, Nanc, and Dave from Washington.  While we have seen them all on our travels, this is the first time they have all been together in years.
We finished a busy weekend with a graduation party for Tyler Maltony.  Here is the Maltony family Brea, Mike, Lesli, Tyler and Mikala.  Mike was my assistant coach at Wash High but we go back over forty years when his family was our neighbor in Burgettstown.  It was great seeing Mike and his family as well as his parents and several others from the old neighborhood.  We wish Tyler good luck in his future endeavors.  Congratulations Tyler!