Monday, December 31, 2018

'18 Review / '19 Outlook

This is our twelfth year of retirement and living in a house on wheels. Even though we have been on the road a long time, every year we have found new places to go and new things to do. This year was no different. Of course, we often stay in the same places year after year and that was true again. As always we got to see many friends and family on our travels. We stayed in 38 places while putting 6,559 miles on Opus and 11,209 on the CRV. We started with a month-long stay in the Florida Keys before doing a four day sprint to our favorite stop, Betty's RV, for two and a half months. We then spent a month at five different places exploring East Texas. It was then on to Arkansas and Missouri to add a couple capitols to our list. We also worked at the Escapade in Sedalia. From there we headed to Michigan for service on Opus. That is when things took a change for the worse in several ways I write about below. From Michigan it was across Pennsylvania to New York for the the Escapees New York City HOP. Next was our annual visit to WashPA for three months of friends, family, doctors and dentists. We left there in the middle of October and added the Maryland and Delaware capitols to our list. That was followed by a two-week stay on Hatteras Island, NC. From there we turned south with a short stay in Georgia before a month in Hobe Sound, FL where we had a big change in our lifestyle. For the first time since we hit the road in 2007 we are ending the year where we started in the Florida Keys. Our average trip was the same as last year, 173 miles, even though we traveled 1750 fewer miles. That fit our plan of trying to travel only a couple hundred miles every time we moved. The cost of campgrounds has been going up quite a bit the last couple years. We stayed in 38 places at an average cost of $22.73 per day, even though we had 30 days were we stayed for free. The average cost of fuel is also going up, at $3.10 a gallon, almost $.50 more than last year.

There were two changes for the worse this year, the first being the death of several dear friends. In June we got a call that Tom had died while on vacation on the Outer Banks. While we were in WashPA for his service we learned that another former Washington teacher, Melvin, had passed. During our three-month stay in WashPA two teachers, Nicole and Dave whom I had worked with, and the spouse, Ron, of another teacher Jane passed. Shortly after we headed south a couple more former coworkers, Cindy and Sandy passed. After being retired for eleven years where we only lost one friend, Jack, all the deaths really hit us hard. In addition to these old friends, we learned of the sudden passing of an RV friend, Richard, and just this week another RV friend, Dodo, lost her long battle with cancer. This has also been a tough  year for some friends who have been battling cancer. All these issues with so many friends sure makes one realize how fragile life can be.

In addition to all that has happened with our friends, Opus, who will be fifteen next year, has been acting up. We have spent more time (and money) on repairs than we normally do. We had problems with the air suspension, slides, jacks and an acceleration issue. While repairs are part of living in a house on wheels, the problems are not ones that were corrected on the first visit and the jacks and acceleration issues continue. Sure hope that in 2019 we will get ALL the issues resolved.

We started 2018 driving to the Elks lodge on January 1st. We had a great time with many friends, Joe and Kathy, George and Linda, Tim and Pat, Gary and Jean, Dick and Beth who have been there every year. We also made some new friends, Lance and Shawna, Dennis and Sue, Christina and Jim and Mary. We did a day trip to Homestead to add Biscayne National Park to our been there list. It is always a fun time with a fun group in the Keys. We left there a couple days early and did a 1100 mile, four-day sprint to Betty's for a two and a half month stay. We got there in time for Mardi Gras and Rick and Denise came down for the Chicken Run, always a fun time. Tom and Georgie made a personal mail delivery and joined us for a week of Betty's fun. We always love the great music, food, festivals, and attractions in Cajun Louisiana. As always we meet many friends during our stays at Betty's. This year over 100 people passed through during our stay and nearly ¾ of them were people we already knew. It is not possible to list them all here but we do have a link to our Betty's RV Park post under labels.

From Betty's we went to the Escapee's park in Texas. While there we gave Opus a good bath and had a couple repair issues taken care of. In College Station we toured the George H. W. Bush Library and spent time with John and Sharon who gave us a tour of Texas A & M where John worked. We moved on to Hill Country and toured the Nimitz Pacific War Museum and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Site. We did a couple day trips to the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin and Hamilton Pool, a place I went to in 1966 when I was stationed in San Antonio. Our next Texas stop was surprising Waco where we visited the Mammoth National Monument, the Dr. Pepper Museum and Magnolia Silos. Turns out Waco is a pretty neat city.

It was then on to Little Rock to tour the capitol that we missed on our first visit. From there we went to Jefferson City to tour the Missouri capitol. Next stop was Sedalia for the Escapade. We were on staff with Duane, Jean, John and Lora so it was a very, very busy but fun week. The Escapade in 2007 in Goshen was the first place we met a lot of people and we still cross paths with many of them. Unfortunately, many of the Class of 07 mates are either off the road or did not make the trip to Missouri so we missed seeing many of them. We did have fun working with Dave, Brenda, Rick, Terry, Lanny, Lois, Bill, Jan, Mark and many others. From Sedalia we had an appointment for service at Spartan in Michigan. While on the way there we got the call about Tom passing, so we left Opus at Spartan in Charlotte and drove the CRV to WashPA for the service and to spend a week with Georgie. The service was a great celebration of a life well lived, but a tough week for Tom's family and our many friends. When we got back to Spartan they told us the could not fix the acceleration issue and we should take it to Cummins.

That started a series of service stops and as I write the issue has still not been fixed. From Charlotte we drove to Grand Rapids to tour the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. On our way there the acceleration problem happened again so we had the fuel filter changed. Next stop was Duncan RV Repair in Elkhart to have the slide fixed. As we headed across Ohio and Pennsylvania the acceleration issue continued but only intermittently. We stop in Bloomsburg for a week where we had the fuel checked and were told we had algae in the fuel. We had the filters changed, (after only 750 miles) and added Bio Kleen. We only made it to Pottsville before another service stop. We left Opus at the shop and stayed in a hotel because they did not have enough power to run the AC in the 90 degree days. This place checked the fuel and filters and said there was NO algae. At least while in the Pottsville area we got to tour Yuengling, Roadside America and have dinner with Andy and Diane. We decided not to go to New England as planned and just headed to New York where we were going on the Escapees New York City Hudson Valley Head Out Program (HOP).

We had a great time on the HOP. We went into the city two days touring the Statue of Liberty National Monument, 9/11 Monument and Museum, the Empire State Building, Time Square and saw Lion King. In the Hudson River Valley we toured and had lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. We visited the Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site and Presidential Library and the United States Military Academy. At West Point we visited the grave of John Caldwell Tidball. We stayed an extra day and visited Val-Kill NHS, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Vanderbilt Mansion NHS. We left New York and did a two-day 400 mile sprint to WashPA.

This year we spent three months in WashPA for our annual doctors and dentist visits. Happy to report that all is well for another year. As always we had a great time with local friends and family while doing our part to keep our favorite local restaurants open. We enjoyed the weekly teachers' lunch bunch gatherings as it gives us a chance to catch up with old friends. Of course we had John's wonderful homemade wood-fired pizza, always a priority. We checked out the local music scene at the Washington Jazz Society Sunday Brunch at the Presidents Pub and the Dan Baker Group at Al'an Rubens. We played euchre with the old club a couple times and went to see the Million Dollar Quartet with them. While we had a great time doing all the above we were also sad, as these were things we had always done with Tom. We did take Opus to a Cummins dealer while there, but like every other place they were not able to identify the problem. In September we flew to New Orleans and went on the Betty's RV Park 20th anniversary cruise. It was a fun time with fun people. We went to Pymatuning with Mike and Sherri where I caught a bunch of fish. Nanc ran the Great Race and finished well in her age group. My high school class had a gathering that we attended. It was great seeing so many people I had not seen in years. We also went to Nanc's 50th year class reunion and enjoyed catching up with old friends.

On October 16th we started our trek south. We spent five days in Delaware and added the Maryland and Delaware capitols to our list. We have been to 36 so far. From there it was a two-day drive to Avon, NC where we spent two weeks at our favorite beach area, Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The fishing was terrible, but the beach time was great. From Avon we took three days to drive the 600 miles to Brunswick, GA. That trip included two days at a Cummins repair facility in Kenly, NC where we had our annual service. They joined the ever lengthening list of places who could not figure what was causing the acceleration issue or what was wrong with the jacks. While in Brunswick we explored Jekyll and St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast. Both were neat places that we would like to visit again. Next was a short trip to Jacksonville where was watched the Steelers pull out a last second victory.

Leaving Jacksonville we headed to our last two stops of the year in South Florida, Hobe Sound for a month and the Keys where we will be until February 1, 2019. Our time in Hobe Sound was filled with friends, music and big decisions. The first week we were there John and Sharon stopped by. The next week it was George and Nan and the last week Richard and Valerie. It is always the best seeing friends on the road. We did the Jupiter Jazz Society Sunday jam every week, enjoyed several great local restaurants and enjoyed a couple more music venues. In addition, we made the BIG decision to put down roots in the area buying a stix and brix in Stuart. This had been our plan since we visited the area last year, but finding the right place was still a very big deal. We will be closing on the condo in early January. We are ending 2018 at one of our favorite places, the Elks lodge in the Keys, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the friends we have made here have already arrived and others will be rolling in in the next couple of weeks.

With the decision to buy a stix and brix our travel plans for 2019 have changed somewhat but we will still be RVing most of the year. We are in the Keys for January, but will be driving the CRV to Stuart for the closing and spend a couple days in our new home. When we leave the Keys we will spend a month in the condo giving it a thorough cleaning. In March we will head to Betty's RV Park for a month to see our favorite RV park hostess and many friends. We will then head back to Florida for another month or so exploring our new hometown. Some time in May we go to North Carolina to see Rick and Denise's new home on Lake Norman, yes it has been a big year for the Tidballs. In June we are going to a wedding in Kentucky. From there we have a month to get back to WashPA for three months. While we intend to return to WashPA for visits in the future, this will be our last time with our doctors and dentist as we will be moving all those services to Florida. During our stay we will be going to Europe for a much anticipated Rhine River cruise. When we leave WashPA we are going to Hatteras where we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary with family and friends. From Hatteras we will be going to our new home for an extended winter stay. 2019 is looking like a year of transition as we go from being full-time Rvers to putting down roots in a new home.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Friends, Christmas Lights, Condo Update

We have always said the best thing about our fulltiming lifestyle is seeing friends and family all over the country. It sure has been true on this stop. The steady stream of friends passing through South Florida continued this week with a visit with Richard and Valerie. We met them at our first Escapade in 2007 and have crossed paths all over the country. A few years ago they bought a beautiful condo in Charlottesville and sold their 5th wheel. After a couple years they developed a case of hitchitch so they bought a motorhome and are now part-timers.  
  Since we are buying a place and becoming part-timers we had a lot we wanted to talk about. They stopped for an afternoon visit of getting caught up and dinner at one of our new favorite places in Hobe Sound, Taste.
Friday we went out to eat at the Original Tiki in Fort Pierce. It was more time spent getting caught up on all our life happenings. 
After dinner we went to the Heathcote Botanical Gardens Garden of Lights. It was a great walk through the exhibit. Here is a stream of lights with an island and plants. 
The colored light shining on the palms made for an interesting display.
Valerie and Nanc. Valerie made sure we each had our own light necklaces to add to the show.
Not flowers but lights looking like flowers.
Treasure Coast idea of what winter snow is like.
Beautiful lights of flowers and a butterfly.
What a great flowerbed.
The Heathcote James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery is one of the largest collections of tropical bonsai in the United States.
Seeing them with lights was very cool.
A bonsai forest was one of my favorites. 
The blooming bougainvillea was another favorite. 
The art of bonsai is something that has always fascinated me. This is one of the best displays we have ever seen. We are going to make it a point to return during the day to see them.
They had a checklist with all the different animals. Here is a dolphin and a manatee. 
Great bicycle.
A swamp scene with a heron and gator. The Garden of Lights is well worth a visit if you are near Fort Pierce around Christmas. We had a great visit with Richard and Valerie and are looking forward to seeing them again down the road.
If it is Sunday it time for the Jupiter Jazz Society jam. This weeks featured group was a youth ensemble, the JazzPath AllStars. It is great to hear young musicians who are the future for keeping jazz alive.
A couple great string players. We were sad that this was our last jam for this visit, then we realized we are going to live just up the road and will be able to be here more often.
Opus was in need of a bath so we had Ron, a camper staying in Floridays, give him a good washing. This is the first time we have had someone else do this. I must be getting old.

We have been busy with tons of paperwork related to purchasing a stix and brix. It has been forty years since we have gone through the home buying process and we had forgotten how much paper work was involved before the place is ours. There was the home inspection, appraisal, title search, getting the down payment and mortgage, insurance and being interviewed by the condo association (we passed). 

Many people have asked what our RVing plans are going to be after we become homeowners. Right now we are in the Keys and will be here until February. We will drive the CRV to Stuart for the closing in early January. In February we will store Opus (not sure where yet) and live in our stix and brix. In March we will head to Betty's for our scheduled one-month stay and then return to Stuart for at least a month. In May we will do the snowbird thing, close up our home and slowly head north for the summer.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Friends, Music and BIG BIG NEWS

Our whirlwind time continues here in South Florida. We spent time with friends and checking out the local music scene. Most of our time has been running around and dealing with the BIG, BIG NEWS.
We were out looking at a condo in Stuart when we heard someone calling our names. It was George and Nan who were looking at a condo in the same plan. We met them at Betty's and have crossed paths with them several times and it is always a fun time.
They recommended we check out the Pelican Cafe and Beach, a funky little place on the river in Stuart for music and food. The band was Nouveaux Honkies, a great band that played a nice variety of music. All seating is outside so if it is cold, windy or raining they are not open. 
If it's Sunday we like to go to the Jupiter Jazz Society jam at the Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter. George and Nan joined us for an evening of music, food and conversation.
You never know who is going to be performing, but the music is always great.
George and Nan swaying to some smooth jazz. We had a great time with them. We were sad to get a call from them the next day that they had to go to Connecticut as George's mother was ill. Unfortunately, she passed away soon after they got there. We send our condolences at this difficult time. 
On Friday Nanc and I went back to the Double Roads to hear a band lead by George Lilly, "New Orleans Legend," who we had heard at the jam session. He played a great variety of blues, funk and jazz. They announced that the sax player, Jeff Watson, had played with James Brown. We talked to him and it turned out he knew Wash High grad Erik Hargrove who also played with James Brown.  
Sunday Nanc and I did the jam session again. This week's featured performer was Mickey Freeman who started her career in Boston. She has toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, The Pointer Sisters and many others.
We love the music of Libra Sene who is a regular at the jams. If you want to hear great jazz the Double Roads is the place to be on Sunday.


All of the great music is one reason we really like this part of Florida. From Jupiter to Stuart there are several venues that have live music and great food. That was a big factor in our decision to put down roots here after nearly 12 years of living in a house on wheels.
Here it is our new home in Stuart with a big four car garage. No not really, we are buying a small first floor condo in this building so we are soon going to be living in a stix and brix for the first time in nearly 12 years.
This condo really fits our needs with a nice master suite with a huge shower. There are two smaller bedrooms, a guest bath and laundry. The living room and kitchen have tile floors while the bedrooms have carpet. 
The kitchen has nice wood cabinets and granite counter tops. The appliances are newer and everything passed the home inspection with only a couple maintenance issues we will need to have taken care of.
The happy new owners. Another big plus for us is the sellers did not want the furniture and sold it to us at a very reasonable price. They are even leaving all the dishes and utensils in the kitchen.

We were also very happy to hear George and Nan are buying a place in Stuart so we will have friends in the area.

While we will no longer be full-timers after we close on the condo, we do plan on continuing to RV as part-timers. More details on those plans in a future post.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Back in South Florida

We arrived in Hobe Sound on November 18 for a month-long stay. We were lucky to find a place to stay as South Florida RV parks are filling up fast this year. Our plan was to kick back and enjoy while doing a few chores. It started that way but has turned into an almost nonstop frenzy of activity as we looked at a few places where we might put down roots, but more on that in another post.
We are only a couple miles from the Hobe Sound Beach on Jupiter Island. Always love the drive through the canopy of banyan trees to the beach.
Jupiter Island is one the wealthiest places in the country. There are many magnificent homes on the ocean shoreline.
The northern end of the island is a wildlife refuge, so there are beautiful beaches with no buildings and few people.
We had two invites for Thanksgiving dinner, one from a local we met the first night and another from the RV park for a traditional potluck dinner. We opted to stay home and had our favorite dish, homemade linguine with clam sauce. It was wonderful.
Saturday we drove to Miami to see Pitt play Miami. We bought a couple tickets from a scalper that gave us great down front seats and access to the Hyundai Club.
As you can see we were real close. Unfortunately the Panthers played terribly, failing to score a touchdown. Other than that we had a fun time with all the Canes' fans.
Look who showed up in South Florida, John and Sharon. It is always great seeing friends on the road.
When we are in the area we always check out the Jupiter Jazz Society Sunday Jam Session. This weeks featured artist was 17 year old Dylan Thomas on sax.
Another special treat was Theo Peoples who has preformed with the Temptations and Four Tops. You never know who will show up at the jam.
John and Sharon hit the dance floor.
We have heard Libra Sene before and were glad to see her again this week. If you are in the area on Sunday don't miss the jam at the Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter.
The last week of November we both celebrated our birthdays. I picked Shrimpers in Port Salerno where we could enjoy arrgh day. 
A couple days later Nanc opted for Taste in Hobe Sound where she loved the crab cakes. We both had great birthdays and love that there are so many wonderful restaurants in the area. 

We are here until December 18 and will then be heading to the Keys for six weeks.