Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Year Twelve Summary

THE LIST........................ TOTAL.........AVERAGE.........YEAR 12
Motorhome Miles.................101975................8498...............5458
Average Miles Per Day..............23.3.................23.3..................18.6
Average Trip...............................175..................175.................182
Gallons of Diesel Fuel............13219................1101................733
Cost of Diesel Fuel.................43816................3651...............2164
Average Cost Per Gallon...........3.31.................3.31................2.95
CRV Miles............................127926..............10660...............9839
Camp Sites..................................584....................49..................30
Average Nights in Each...............7.5...................7.5..................9.7
Cost of Parks per Day.............86796.................19.80.............24.68
Number of States(Provinces)......50(11).............17(2).............13(0)
National Parks Monuments.........180.................15.....................4
Blog Posts....................................822.................69...................42
Days of Exercise (Jim)...............2025...............168..................76
Days of Exercise (Nanc)............2750...............229.................271
Number of haircuts (Jim)...............0....................0....................0
Friends & Family...........Priceless...........Priceless..............Priceless

Year 12 of our retirement and being full time travelers saw a big change. Many events with family and friends made us realize that this lifestyle was not going to last forever so we made a BIG decision and purchased a condo in Stuart, Florida. This does not mean that we are going to stop traveling, as we plan to get out of Florida during the warmer months. In 12 years we have traveled 101,975 miles in Opus and put 127,926 miles on the CRV. We have continue to add new sites to our list of new places visited. We know that we will never see it all, but it sure is fun trying.

This year we put 5458 miles on Opus and 9839 on the CRV while visiting 13 states. Since we spent several weeks in our new stix and brix we only stayed in Opus 292 days at 30 campgrounds at an average cost of $24.68. This is much more than we usually pay for a number of reasons; we stay in the Keys (very expensive) for six weeks, eight nights we only stayed night (more costly), we spent almost the entire year in the East (higher prices), generally speaking camp sites are getting more expensive (many more RVers) and lastly we only had nine nights of “free” stays. Our average fuel costs at $2,95 a gallon were about the same as last year but that is still well below our average 12 year cost of $3.31.

We started year 12 where we are ending it, in WashPA. We had so much to do this year that for the first time we stayed for three months. We had all of our doctor and dentist appointments and are happy to report all is fine. We had our usual fun time with the retired teachers weekly lunch bunch gatherings at many different local restaurants. We got to spend time with many friends and family and went to many music venues including seeing Million Dollar Quartet at the Mountain Playhouse. We had a fun time on a Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans with a group from Betty's RV Park to celebrate her 20th anniversary in style. We did a trip to Pymatuning to fish and I was very happy with all the fish I caught even if they were all catfish. Nanc ran the Great Race in Pittsburgh and finished in the top 10 in her age group. I went to a small gathering of Union High School class of 1964 to see a few old classmates and we went to Nanc's Class of 1968 50th reunion to catch up with many of hers. As always, we enjoyed our time with so may friends during our stay in WashPA.

We headed out on October 16th with our first stop in Delaware from where we added two more state capitols, Delaware and Maryland, to our list. We also toured the First State NHS in Dover. From there we headed to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, our favorite go to beach for many years. We stayed for two weeks and had a wonderful time even though the fishing was the worst I have ever experienced. From there it was a three day drive to Brunswick, Georgia where we toured Jekyll and St. Simon Islands, two beautiful resort isles on the Atlantic coast. Next stop was Jacksonville where we enjoyed the beach and a very exciting Steelers last second win over the Jags.

From Jacksonville we headed to South Florida and the beginning of big changes in our lifestyle. We stayed in Hobe Sound for a month. While we were there we went to Miami to see the Pitt Panthers play Miami and were not happy with the results. We enjoyed the music at the Jupiter Jazz Society and did the Christmas display at Heathcote Botanical Gardens with friends Richard and Valerie, who were staying nearby. John and Sharon stopped for a couple days and we accidentally ran into George and Nan. The big change was and is that we bought a condo in Stuart. We have been in this area several times during our years on the road and really like it. Last year we made the decision that this was were we wanted to settle. We checked online and made a list of several possible places. We contacted a realtor and quickly narrowed it down to two places that we revisited. One was near the water but lacked storage space and was much older. On Saturday we made an offer on the condo at Lexington Lakes expecting we would not hear anything until at least Monday. That evening we went to a movie and during the show we got a text that the owner had accepted. WOW!!!! This started a whirlwind month of inspections, credit checks, securing financing and finally closing and becoming homeowners again after 12 years.

We already had reservations in the Keys until February 1st so we headed there and did much of the paperwork online except for the closing in early January. We left Opus and drove to Stuart for the closing. Fortunately, the condo was fully furnished so we could move right in and we stayed in the condo for four days. We enjoyed all our time in the Keys with many old friends we have made there a few people who were there for the first time during our stay. We do love our time at the Elks in the Keys and still plan to go there next January even though we have a stix and brix just up the road. In February we went back to Stuart, put Opus in storage and stayed in the condo for a month. We did a thorough cleaning and had a couple issues taken care of while meeting our new neighbors and learning more about our new hometown. We spent more time with George and Nan who bought a place a couple miles from us. My cousin Missy and her husband Marty stopped by for a evening and Georgie flew down for a few days.

In March we headed to Louisiana for a few weeks stay at Betty's. As always, many old friends passed through while we were there and there was always many new people to meet. There is a long list of things that kept us busy while we are there including many great restaurants, fantastic music, festivals, and, of course, Betty's world famous happy hours. Betty's is one of the main reasons we intend to keep traveling, even though we now have the condo. In the middle of April we returned to Stuart with a stop along the way in Tallahassee to add Florida's capitol to our list and see Jane who I taught with for many years. In Stuart we did a few more things in the condo to make it feel more like our home than a vacation stop. Nanc's sister, Michelle, came down from DC for a visit and we enjoyed the pool, beach and music, all very close to home.

At the end of May we left Stuart heading north. Our first stop was St. Augustine, a place we have been before and really like. It was super hot, nearly 100, so we did not spend much time outside. We did tour Flagler College where the main building was once one of Flagler's hotels for rich Northerners who wanted to escape winter. Next stop was another hot one, in Georgia, to visit Cumberland Island National Seashore. To escape the heat we did a two day run to Asheville in the North Carolina mountains where we checked out a couple of their famous breweries. Crossing the Smokys we spent a week at the Escapee's park near Knoxville. While there we gave Opus a good cleaning and drove to Gatlinburg to try out the new Skybridge. Next stop was just up the road in Berea for a week of fun and the Hoard-Santek wedding. We had a great time with many friends and family.

From there we stopped in Charleston to add the West Virginia capitol, our fourth this year and 38th overall, to our list. We then moved to Marietta where we spent time with Nanc'c sister Judy and her family. Another short drive and we stopped at Seneca Lake to visit Jimmy and Darlene Brown. While there Georgie drove out from WashPA for a couple days. For the week of the Fourth of July we stayed in Amish country in Berlin, Ohio. We were very busy there going to the Football Hall of Fame and President McKinley sites in Canton. We toured the Warther Museum in Dover and the Age of Steam exhibit in Sugarcreek, all while taking in the Amish attractions. Our last stop before returning to WashPA was a whole week of fishing on Pymatuning Lake with Mike and Sherri. We returned to WashPA on July 15th just in time for some super hot weather. Unfortunately, the hot humid weather got to me and I ended up in Washington Hospital overnight with dehydration. I was thoroughly poked, jabbed and scoped and they found no other issues. While we were only on the road for 292 days traveling 5458 miles, we still had a wonderful year of exploring the USA and seeing many friends and family all over the East.

We are starting year 13 with another three month stay in WashPA. We will be doing all the usual stuff we do here every time we return. The difference is, we are planning to set in motion what we need to do to move our medical records to Florida. One big exception to the usual, in September we are going to Europe for eleven days to do a Rhine River Cruise. When we leave in October we will be going to Hatteras Island where we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary with a few friends and family. When we leave there we are heading to Stuart where we will stay until late spring. As I said, we are not giving up our spot in the Keys so we will be going there in January. In the spring we plan to head to New England to explore and check a few more state capitols off our list. At some point we will be back in WashPA but for a shorter stay because by then we hope to have all our medical appointments moved to Florida. So while we now own a piece of property, we do plan on continuing our RV adventure for a while longer.

Life is Good!!!!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Family - Friends - Blennerhassett

We left Charleston and headed to Ohio to spend some time with family and friends. Our first stop was Marietta to see Nanc's sister Judy, along with Judy's daughter Betsy and her family. Next we moved fifty miles up I-77 to Seneca Lake to see our friends Jim and Darlene. While there we had a personal mail delivery from Georgie.
We got to spend some time with Emma, Besty, Lou and Jackie. The girls have really grown up since the last time we were here.
Lou and Betsy have a lot on the Muskingum River where we enjoyed an afternoon getting caught up while soaking up the warm sun.
We went with Judy to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park near Parkersburg, WV. Access to the island requires a trip aboard the Island Belle, a real stern wheeler.
Nanc and Judy soaking up the sun on the Ohio River.
The river was up with all the recent rain, but there was still plenty of barge traffic. The current was so strong the boat in the foreground turned around and backed up so it could get into the Little Kanawha River. 
The island was the site of a plantation owned by Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. The house was built in 1798 and was the center of social life in what was then the edge of the wilderness. The original house burned down in 1811 and was rebuilt in the 1980's.
Margaret and Harman. Harman was born into a wealthy family in England in 1765 and in 1794 he married Margaret. He was a member of the secret Society of United Irishmen, a group that planned to rebel against the British crown. Because of that threat, he fled to the United States and built their home on the island.
We opted to take a ride in the covered wagon to see more of the island. 
There are other houses on the island. This is the Putnam-Houser House that was built on the mainland in the 1800's. It was moved to the island on a barge in 1986. There is also an 1860's log house that is the home of the island caretaker.
The Neal House was built on the island in 1833 and was occupied until the 1930's. This house was visited by poet Walt Whitman.
The new house was reconstructed on the original stone foundation. The right wing is a den and and wine cellar. On the left is the kitchen.
Harman's desk in the den. Some of the furnishings were owned by the family while others are from that time period.
The dining room was the social center. Among the visitors were Henry Clay, Johnny Appleseed and Vice President Aaron Burr, who visited three times. Burr and Harman were later charged with treason. Burr thought the US would go to war with Spain so he put together a small band of 80 farmers who he planned to use to capture and claim land for himself. They were both acquitted, but they lost their wealth which they never reclaimed. Harman and his family moved back to Europe in 1824 and he died there in 1831.
The game room on the second floor. It is easy to see Harman and Margaret entertaining the many people who stopped on their way down the Ohio River.
The kitchen had many period items that would have been common in homes of the period. To me the Blennerhassett House is unique as it was such a grand home located on the edge of civilization. 
Margaret died in poverty in New York in 1846 and was buried in the Sisters of Charity cemetery in New York. In 1996 the bodies of her and her son, Harman Jr., were reburied on Blennerhassett Island.  
Looking down the Ohio River at Blennerhassett Island. When they lived there the water would get so low people could walk to the island.
The headquarters of the park, where you buy tickets to tour the island, is in Parkersburg. There is a museum that traces the history of the area from the first native inhabitants through the steamboat period. They have an excellent collection of arrowheads.
Old gas pumps and three old Fords; a Model A, Model T and a truck.
There is a extensive collection of steamboat models, pictures and artifacts of that period. The island, house and museum give an interesting look at history along the Ohio River that played such a huge role in the opening of the west.
On our last day in Marietta we had dinner with Judy, Emma, Jackie, Lou, and Betsy, along with Betsy's daughter and son-in law, Morgan and Matt. It was great seeing them all and checking out some new things in the area.
Our next stop was only fifty miles up the road in Senecaville where Jim and Darlene live. We even had a personal mail delivery by Georgie (middle) who drove out from WashPA. 
We had a fun time visiting with them. Here is master griller Joe, Jim and Darlene's son, cooking some salmon and steaks for all of us. I did fail to get a picture of Steve and Kristin, Jim and Darlene's daughter and son-in-law.
Nanc and Georgie getting caught up while playing games. Here they are playing Upwards where Georgie ruled the day. It was great having her as a guest.
We even celebrated Georgie's birthday. Unfortunately, Darlene was not feeling well and missed the dinner. It has been a great trip north getting to see so many friends and family along the way.

We are now settled in for our three month stay at Pine Cove near WashPA. We do have two or three more posts about our stops after we left Senecaville on the way to WashPA.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

West Virginia Capitol

A few years after we started our fulltiming lifestyle we decided to add touring state capitols to our to do list. When we left Berea we realized we would be passing through Charleston, WV on our way north and we could check West Virginia, our 38th capitol, off our list. It is off our list but we did not plan well. One, we visited on statehood day so access was very limited; two, the building is undergoing a major renovation. Because of that, several pictures are ones I got off the internet.
This is what we excepted to see, the beautiful gold leafed dome at 293 feet is higher than the US capitol.  The statue, Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight by Fred Torrey based on a poem by Vachel Lindsay's by the same name. The poem and statue show the strain the president was under leading the war torn country.
Instead, this is what we saw. The dome under a shroud and even Lincoln surrounded by cones and construction barriers. The capitol, designed by Cass Gilbert, was built between 1924 and 1932. It was dedicated on June 20, 1932 the 69th birthday of statehood.    
This is what we expected to see, a beautiful interior dome with a 4000 pound chandelier made of 10,080 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal. The chandelier hangs from a 54 foot brass and bronze chain suspended 180 feet above the floor.
This is what it looks like during the renovation, scaffolding from the floor to the dome. 
Looking down in to the rotunda from the second floor. It looks beautiful.
In the halls that lead to the legislative chambers these temporary walls block access to the rotunda. These pictures show the capitol being built.
The temporary wall in the opposite legislative hall. The huge pictures are neat but we would rather have seen the rotunda.
Even the visitors' galleries were locked. This is the House of Delegates chamber. There are 100 house members who are elected to two year terms. Both chambers have identical crystal chandeliers.
The senate chamber. There are 34 senators, with half up for election every other year for a four year term. While both chambers are similar, the senate chamber has two rows of coffers on the arches and the house only has one and the senate ceiling is domed. These are to show the senate as the upper body.
There are displays of West Virginia industries throughout the building. I liked this one about Homer Laughlin China Company. My mother used their Fiesta ware dishes all the time. 
Happy Birthday West Virginia. West Virginia is the only state to become a state by presidential proclamation when Lincoln recognized the western counties that seceded from Virginia as a new state.
Beautiful quilts in the culture center that is in the capitol complex.
The West Virginia Veterans Memorial has the names of the more that 11,000 West Virginians who gave the last full measure from WWI through Vietnam. I had a chilling experience related to this memorial. Someone at the wedding asked if I knew what had happened to one of my class of 1964 classmates, George W. Locke. I told him George had been killed in Vietnam and I had seen his name on The Wall in DC.  
We had graduated from Burgettstown High School in Pennsylvania but I knew George had moved there from West Virginia. Sure enough there was his name engraved on the memorial honoring those from his home state. I went to the archives in the cultural center and was able to confirm this was the person I knew in high school. The experience gave me a real chill.
Other statues on the grounds of the capitol complex. The West Virginia Female Veterans statue dedicated to all female veterans was unveiled on November 11, 2011.
This statue honors West Virginia native Booker T. Washington who established Tuskegee University in Alabama.
The Coal Miners statue pays tribute to the state's coal industry and its underground miners. The reliefs on the pedestal show different periods of the industry. 
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors the 35,000 West Virginians who fought for the Union during the Civil War. We were glad to add the West Virginia capitol to out list even though we did not get to see much of the building because of the renovations.  Maybe one day we will return.

As I post this we are back in Pennsylvania for the next three months. We have been very busy on our way north so I am more than a couple weeks behind in with the blog. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Asheville, Gatlinburg and Berea

We escaped the heat of the coast and headed to the mountains. After an overnight in Columbia, SC we arrived in cooler Asheville, NC. After a couple days there we went to the Escapees RV park in Tennessee where we gave Opus a good cleaning and also visited Gatlinburg. Next we spent a week in Berea, KY for the Hoard - Santek wedding, an earlier post.
We have been to Asheville a couple times and love the many local breweries that have made the city famous. Since our last visit, Sierra Nevada Brewing has built a huge brewery and gastropub. Sierra Nevada was the first "microbrew" I ever tasted on a trip to California in the early 90's, so this was not to be missed.
I say "microbrew" because, while it is still privately owned, it is now the 10th largest in the country. Here is the list of brews they had on tap the day we were there. 
The place is all shiny and new. We missed the tour as we did not get there until the early evening, as the food was our main goal. It did not disappoint.
All the bottling machines were shut down for the day, but you can see they are built to produce a lot of beer.
This was something interesting we came upon as we walked the streets of Asheville. William Porter, O. Henry, was born in Greensboro, NC. This plaque on the sidewalk has the props from my favorite O. Henry story, The Gift of the Magi. Read it to learn the significance of each item.
We heard on the news that the new Skybridge in Gatlinburg had opened, so we did a day trip to the mountains. These are before and after pictures of the chairlift that was destroyed by the 2016 fire and the new facility at the top. The flag was rescued from the fire.
The traffic to Gatlinburg was terrible, but nothing compared to the line to get to the top of the mountain.
Rebuilding after the fire included a new attraction, a 700 foot swinging bridge. It is the longest pedestrian bridge in North America.
In the middle there is a glass floor 150 feet above the ground. Neat, but nothing like the Grand Canyon Skywalk in Arizona. 
The view of the town and the Smoky Mountains from the top is great.
If you keep moving you do not even realize the bridge is swinging a bit. Stop and you can feel it, a bit unnerving.
The top is still a work in progress. Workers were replacing temporary wooden rails with iron rails the day we were there.
There are a couple of attractions here that take you to the top of the mountain. From the lines we saw, adding the bridge seems to have made the Skybridge the must see attraction.
As always, when in the Smoky Mountains you need to keep an eye out for bears. 
We made it. While it was neat, the massive crowds and traffic are not the kind of experience we like. From Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg it is like one huge amusement park.
After the wedding we had time to explore Berea. For its size, it has a large number of artisans and craftsmen. We checked out several of the shops. Most were selling locally made items. 
The painted hands are found all over town.
If you are looking for genuine, handmade items, Berea should be on your must see places list.

We had a great time in all three places and enjoyed somewhat cooler weather than we had along the coast. We are now in Ohio and will be back in WashPA in the middle of the month.