Tuesday, December 31, 2019

'19 Review / '20 Outlook

This was the thirteenth year we have been retired and it was a year of BIG changes. After living in Opus, our house on wheels since 2007, we decided it was time to slow down and plant some roots in Florida. In January we closed on a condo in the Lexington Lakes community in Stuart, Florida. As if to prove we still love the roaming lifestyle, we drove from the Keys, closed on the condo and then went back to the Keys for the remainder of the month. In February we went back to Stuart for 31 days before heading to our favorite RV park, Betty's in Abbeville, LA. In April we returned to Lex Lakes for six weeks before heading out at the end of May for a summer of travel. We headed north with short stops in St. Augustine, Woodbine, GA, Lexington, SC, and Asheville, NC before spending five days at the Escapee's park in Heiskell, TN where we were able to give Opus a good bath and do a couple other chores. Next stop was seven days in Berea, KY for the Hoard – Santek wedding, then to West Virginia to tour the capitol and stop in Marietta and Senecaville, OH to see family and friends. That was followed by a week in Ohio Amish country, and a week of fishing at Pymatuning before our annual extended stay in WashPA. From there we went to DC to visit family and then to the Outer Banks for three weeks of celebrating. From there it was a sprint back home to Stuart until the end of the year.

While doing all this we put 5,205 miles on Opus and 8,938 on the CRV. Our average fuel cost this year was $2.84 a gallon which was $.26 a gallon less than last year and $.11 a gallon less than our thirteen year average. We seem to have the idea of not driving a lot of miles per day mastered. This year our 30 travel days averaged 173 miles, the same as last year and 11 miles less than all our travel days since hitting the road in 2007. We always say the perfect day is to leave by the crack of 10:00 AM, travel 200 miles and stop by 2:00 PM, so we are doing even better than that. A big difference in our schedule is this year Opus was in storage 124 days and in RV parks 241 days. We paid an average of $24.44 a day for RV parks, which is higher than usual. That is because eleven of our 27 stops were for only one night and we only had eight nights of free stays. We are also now paying $160 a month when Opus is in storage.

We rang in 2019 at the Florida Keys Elks where we got to see many old friends including George and Linda, Gary and Jean, Tim and Patty, Dennis and Sue, Jim and Christine, Dick and Beth and Mary who are usually there when we visit. We were sad to hear that Beth passed away just this week while in the Keys. On February 1 we returned to Stuart and spent a month working on the condo. While it was in move-in condition, Nanc had many changes planned that kept us busy. Georgie came down for a stay and my cousin Missy, her husband Marty, his sister Teresa and brother-in-law Jay stopped by for a visit. We spent time with George and Nan and enjoyed many local restaurants and the area music scene. At the beginning of March we did a four day sprint to our favorite place, Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, LA for 38 days. While there we got to spend time with many old friends and as always made many new ones. Of course we had a wonderful time at many great local eateries, attended festivals, heard great music and enjoyed Betty's famous happy hour(s). In April we left Betty's and went back home to Stuart for six weeks. Nanc's sister Michelle came down to visit for a few days. Now, we not only see family and friends on the road, we live in a place that people love to visit so we get to see them at home.

After Memorial Day we headed north stopping at St Augustine, one of our favorite North Florida stops where we toured Flagler College. Next stop was in Georgia to add another park service site, Cumberland Island National Seashore, to our done that list. Our next stay was near Asheville where we checked out the eclectic downtown and the new Sierra Nevada brewery and pub. It was then over the mountains to Tennessee for five days where, in addition to cleaning Opus, we did a day trip to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We got to check out the new Skywalk, a swinging bridge high in the mountains, that was very neat. From there it was a short trip to Berea for the wedding where we got to spend time with family members Rick, Denise, Missy, Marty, Micheal, Amanda, Dee, Elsie and Marty and Abbie. It was a great week of celebrating and seeing family and friends.

We next stayed near Charleston to make the West Virginia capitol the 38th we have toured. From there it was a short drive to Marietta, OH to see Nanc's sister Judy and here family Betsy, Lou, Jackie, Emma, Morgan and Matt. We also toured Blennerhassett State Park near Parkersburg, WV, a reconstructed home that was built in what was wilderness the the late 1700's. With another short drive we spent four days in Senecaville where we spent time with Jimmy and Darlene and their family Joe, Kristin and Steve. While there, Georgie came out fromWashPA to do a mail delivery. Next it was on to Millersburg, OH for a very busy week. One day we went to the Ernest Warther Museum, one of the neatest places we have visited in our time on the road. We made two day trips to Canton, one to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame and another to visit the McKinley Presidential Library and the First Ladies National Site. We have now visited 160 park service sites. On other days we visited the Age of Steam and checked out several Amish stores in the area. Our last stop before our three months in WashPA was at Mike and Sherri's cabin at Pymatuning Lake for a week of fun and fishing.

While in WashPA we did all our usual visits to doctors and the dentist. For the most part all was okay except for Nanc needing to have cataract surgery (it is scheduled in Florida in February) and Jim spending a night in the hospital because he did not drink enough water. We did make plans with all our doctors to have our records sent to Florida once we establish new doctors there. As always we enjoyed getting together with family and friends for lunch and dinner and had John's famous homemade wood fired pizza. My cousin Chuckie and his wife Deb had a family gathering where we got to spend time with my cousin Greg, his wife Carol and son Travis who we had not seen for a long time. We toured the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park, something that has been on my to do list for a long time as Mrs. Miller was a Tidball. It was very cool. In September we flew to Europe for a Rhine River Cruise that started with a couple days in Luzern and ended in Amsterdam. It was a fantastic trip with many fun people Rick, Denise, John, Patrice, Ron, Becky, Ken, Mary, Dick, BJ, Tim, Sharon, Gail and Anne Marie.

We left WashPA in the middle of October going to Maryland to spend some time with Michelle and Keith. It was then on to Cape Hatteras National Seashore for three weeks of fishing relaxing and celebrating. One of those weeks we stayed in a beach house for a week long party celebrating our 50th Anniversary. It was a fantastic time with Rick, Denise, Linda, Phil, Mike, Sherri, John, Patrice, Richard, Valerie, Bill, Kim, Judy, Georgie, Gail, Mary Lou, Irene and Betty. Thanks to all of them who traveled a long way to help us make it a very special time with family and friends. On November 7th we left Avon and, after getting annual service done on Opus, we did a four day sprint home to Stuart.

High on our to do list was becoming Florida residents. It was a surprisingly easy process getting the domicile documents, driver's licenses, car registration, voters registration, free seniors fishing and hunting license and homesteading our new home which will give us a nice tax break. We also had to unpack the several boxes that had been stored in Georgie's basement since 2007. We saved more than we remembered and our new condo is now really looking like our home. It was not all work. On the first evening we got together with George and Nan at The Pelican for the full-moon party. Joe and Kathy were staying at Floridays, the park we stayed at in Hobe Sound last year. We got together with them several times and invited them to stay overnight. Joe cooked a wonderful fish stew for Thanksgiving and we had a great holiday together. It was great seeing them since they did not make it to Florida last year. In early December we flew to Mexico for a nine day stay at Secrets Capri for our birthdays and one more anniversary celebration. While there, we got to spend an evening having dinner at another resort with our friends Jim and Darlene who just happened to be there the same time as us. After we got back from Mexico Mark and Renita, who were visiting their daughter in Clearwater, came over for a couple days so we could show them around our new hometown. For Christmas we flew to Washington, DC to spend the holiday with Nanc's sister Michelle and her husband Keith. We are so glad we were able to be there as Michelle, who has been fighting cancer for nearly three years, is now under Hospice care. So while it was great being together and sharing old times, it was also a very sad holiday.  

So as you can see, 2019 was a very BIG year for us starting with buying a new home in Florida. We saw many new things during our travels in Opus and took two overseas trips. While our lives are changing, being able to spend time with so many friends and our family continues to be the best part of our lifestyle and we don't see that changing even though we now have a stix and brix home.

As we look ahead to 2020, on New Year's Day we will be heading to the Florida Keys Elks in Opus for one month. We are then coming back home and staying until after Memorial Day. During that time we expect to see many friends and family here in Florida. In April we will be going back to Secrets Capri with Rick and Denise for a week. When we head out we plan to head slowly toward New England to add a few capitols to our list. On the way south we plan to spend some time in WashPA just to visit with friends and family since our doctors will now be in Florida. From WashPA we want to go to Betty's RV Park before coming home to Stuart. While we have always said our plans are written in the sand and are subject to change, they are now a bit more concrete as we need to be in Florida for at least six months a year to maintain our homestead tax exemption.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Family, Friends, Hurricane Shutters

We have been very busy since getting back from Mexico. We got home on Thursday and Mark and Renita come over on Saturday for a weekend visit. They are renting a condo on the West coast near their daughter. We wanted to get caught up on all our travels and show them around our new hometown. 
On Saturday afternoon we went to Hutchinson Island to check out the beach. The water was very calm and great for collecting shells. 
With the recent rain and high waves there were many shells on the beach. 
The first picture is what was in the foreground. Nanc and Renita are searching a huge pile closer to the water. We have never seen so many in one spot. On Saturday night we went to dinner at Shrimpers in Port Salerno. George and Nan joined us and we had great time talking about jewelry making and rocks, a passion for Mark, Renita and Nan. 
If you are in Stuart on Sunday, going to Rock n Riverwalk is a must do. We walked the boardwalk enjoying the water and sunshine. 
As we always do, we saw a couple beautiful birds feeding right along the boardwalk. Here is a little blue heron looking for fish and insects among the rocks.
This is an immature egret. Mark turned me on to a neat bird identification app, Merlin Bird ID from Cornell University. 
As always there is music on Sunday on the Riverwalk. That evening we watched the Steelers-Bills game. As the Steelers lost, I was not happy with the results and I also had to listen to Renita cheer for the Bills because their quarterback is the only NFL player from Wyoming. Despite that, we had a great visit and look forward to doing it again. 
This is what the storm shutters that came with the condo looked like. Each window had several individual pieces of metal that had to be screwed into place, a long difficult process. 
Nick, who looks after our place when we are gone, made a contact to have accordion shutters installed. We got a good price since several other people in Lexington Lakes also got them. 
So here is Nanc’s Christmas gift, new accordion shutters for our windows and the sliding glass door. This will make it much easier to cover the widows if a storm is threatening. They were installed the day before we left so I did not have a chance to get a picture with them closed. 
On the Friday before Christmas we flew to DC to spend the holiday with Nanc’s sister Michelle and her husband Keith. 
Merry Christmas at Keith and Michelle’s beautiful home.
Nanc doing some cooking. I know it looks like meat, but it is a vegan thing that Keith's nieces cooked for us when we were there in October. It really wasn't too bad after I covered it with beans, guacamole and salsa. 
Michelle has been battling cancer for nearly three years. Her prognosis at this point is not very good so we wanted to spend as much time as possible with her and Keith. The day before we left her doctors told her she should contact Hospice. While this is very sad news, our experience with Hospice has been very positive and we know they will do everything necessary to make her comfortable. Here is a nice picture of them a couple years ago.
Their dog Spartacus all dressed up for Christmas complete with reindeer antlers. He is a great dog.
We were up very early the day after Christmas to fly back to Florida. I got a great look at Washington, DC at sunrise.
Looking down the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.
Looking the other way from the stadium to the Lincoln Memorial. We have always loved DC and have been there many times, but this is the first time we got to see the city from this point of view.
Getting ready to land in Florida. Most of the buildings you see are in Palm Beach County. Where there are fewer buildings is in Martin County and also where we bought our condo. This sure shows how  much less densely populated it is where we now live and we hope it can stay that way.
Guess who is in Palm Beach for the holidays? This is the first time we have seen Air Force One. 

We are only going to be in Stuart until January 1st and then we are taking Opus and going to the Florida Keys Elks for the month. Our plans for the winter are up in the air as we are going to try and get back to DC to see Michelle again.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Secrets Capri, Mexico

Taking a break from moving in, we decided to go on a vacation to Mexico. We spent nine days at Secrets Capri near Cancun. It was mostly just hanging out at the pool and relaxing, so most of this post will just be pictures.
We joined the Unlimited Vacation Club seven years ago and have been to four different resorts seven times. We like the Secrets because it is adults only.
The resort next door had the 2019 sign on the beach.
Tis the season and their Christmas decorations were beautiful.
Me doing what I do best, soaking up the sun and relaxing in the pool.
The only real decision we had to make every day was which of the five restaurants we were going to choose to dine. This was Portofino, where we had a wonderful Italian dinner.  
One of the evening shows was The Beatles, so they had the English phone booth. This vacation was not only a continuation of the year-long 50th Anniversary celebration, but also we both recently had birthdays.
Our view for nine days. Of all the resorts we have stayed in, Capri is the the smallest so all the activities are near the pool.
Another evening we dined at Oceana, a great seafood restaurant. Nanc loved the stick tree.
The entertainment is always great. This group did a tribute to Queen.
They had salsa dance lessons and a couples dance contest. Unbelievably, we won and the prize was two 25 minute massages. 
Every morning they had yoga and Nanc loved it.
The easiest activity of the 52 a week they offer is feeding the turtles in the lobby pool.
To celebrate our anniversary we opted for a special wine dinner in the wine cellar. Victor, our waiter did a fantastic job.
The happy couple by the lobby Christmas tree.
The Nativity was traditional with shepherds, sheep, a donkey, wise men, an angel, Joseph and Mary but no baby. In Mexico Jesus is placed in the creche on Christmas Day.
Our spa day. Since we had already scheduled massages before we won the contest, we ended up having two. Our first one included hydro-therapy, a cycle of eleven different stops with showers, steam room, sauna, water jets and cold and hot water pools. Very relaxing. 
Nanc was like a noodle after her 80 minute massage. All the Secrets resorts have spas that offer a variety of services and the hydro-therapy.
Nanc and Elvis. He did a tribute show to The King.
As part of our birthday celebration they gave us a special room service breakfast on the balcony overlooking the pool.
The beach here is very nice, but we prefer being by the pool. The water in the Caribbean Sea is warm and generally clear unless the wind is blowing in sea weed. 
The water in the pool was actually cooler (but comfortable) than the sea water. There sure is something relaxing about the water and the beautiful sunny weather.
The pool at night.
A fun bunch of Californians we met; Maria, Darrell, Lori, Dave, Jen and Marcus. We had a great time partying with them.
We knew before we left that Jimmy and Darlene were staying at Dreams Riviera Cancun not far from the Capri. Because both hotels are owned by the same company, we could go there for dinner. We had a great evening getting caught up and a wonderful meal at Bordeaux. 
While we were at Dreams, Martha and Coco were entertaining in the lounge. We saw them at Capri and loved their music. We got to see them again at Capri on Wednesday, the day before we left.
Another pool activity Nanc loves is the daily water aerobics. The whole entertainment team is wonderful and there is something for everyone. One evening they had a casino party. We played blackjack (with Monopoly money) after which they had an auction where you could bid on prizes with your winnings. I won $1,000,000, so I bid on and won two free nights at Secrets Capri. Looks like we will be going back.   
A beautiful full moon on our last evening. 
We are not usually karaoke fans but Bob, a Brit we meet in the pool, was singing so we had to go hear him. He did a great job singing House of the Raising sun.
Our last morning. While we were sad to leave, unlike many people we met, we were returning to warm, sunny Florida and not some cold northern place. We already have plans to return here in April with Rick and Denise and since we have two free nights, it looks like we will be back next fall. We are looking forward to our next stays and seeing the wonderful staff who work so hard to make our vacation the best.