Glacier National Park

Kalispell, Montana
August 20, 2017

We drove up from Missoula to Kalispell last Tuesday so we could visit one of our “Bucket List” items, Glacier National Park. It has been on our list for many years, but being in western Montana, we were never able to make enough time to give it a visit.  I read several years ago that the glaciers would no longer exits after 2020, so I wanted to see them before they were all gone. 

In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in what is now Glacier National Park, today there are only 25 because of the rise in the earth’s temperature.  The park service defines a glacier as being at least 25 acres in size, at least 100 feet thick in ice, and must be moving.  When they do finally melt away, it will have a huge impact on the surrounding environment.  I had never realized that the ice that melts in the summer provides water for the plants and animals that rely on it during the summer droughts.  So, no water, no life.  Whether the rising temperatures are man-made or just one nature’s cycles, I don’t know.  I do know that the lack of water will have a terrible impact on this beautiful place. 

Cascading Waterfall

Cascading Waterfall

The Flathead River runs for miles along the highway going through the park and is crystal clear due to the snow melt. It flows into and out of Flathead Lake, which is about 200 square miles in size, about the same as Lake Tahoe. It would be sad to see it disappear.  While driving through, we spotted a little six-point buck deer standing on a sandbar in the middle of the river, just having a cool drink and enjoying his surroundings. 

Flathead River

Looking across the Flathead River in Glacier National P

We drove most of the 50 miles along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which runs from one end of the park to the other, but decided to stop near the eastern end because smoke from wildfires in the area blocked the views and also made it a bit difficult to breathe. Breathing seems like such a simple thing, but I have grown quite fond of it.

 

Until today, we had only seen the sun for one day in the past three weeks because of wildfires in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.  In Washington alone, the fires have already consumed over 256,000 acres or 400 square miles.  The smoke has cast a gray haze over the entire state of Washington and with the wind blowing to the east, the smoke just follows us.  Just west of where we are currently, there is a 35,000 acres fire raging and we get that smoke also. Fortunately, there was some rain last Friday and it cleared out some of the smoke.  That is the reason many of our pictures look rather hazy.

Smoke from wildfires in Glacier National Park

Smoke from wildfires in Glacier National Park

 

The road is a simple two-lane ribbon with spectacular scenery along the way.  Words and picture don’t begin to do it justice, you have to see and experience it.  If you don’t want to drive it, there is a shuttle service between the major points and hiking trials.  You can also take a bus tour on one of their historic 25-seat red busses that have been operating since the 1930’s.  The guides tell a lot about the park and its construction, but also about the Blackfeet tribe who were native to the area.

Glacier Touring Bus from the 1930's

Glacier Touring Bus from the 1930’s

 

We opted to just drive our car so we could stop when we wanted and do things at our own pace.  It took a couple of hours each way, but we were able to take lots of pictures.

Waterfall on the Flathead River

Waterfall on the Flathead River

Walking Bridge over the Flathead River

Walking Bridge over the Flathead River

Cascading waterfall on the Flathead River

Cascading waterfall on the Flathead River

Though there are shuttle busses inside the park, we found out there are way too many people and way too few busses.  Often there is an hour wait to get on a bus to the next stop.  As we were approaching one of the stops, there was about twenty people sitting in the outdoor waiting area but there was one lady, probably in her 60’s standing along the side of the road pumping her thumb quite enthusiastically in the air and holding up two fingers.  A much shyer looking man was standing off to her side.  What the heck, we decided to pick them up.  Eileen, and Mike had been hiking for about seven hours and were just wanting to get back to their car at Logan Pass, about 10 miles away by road. 

She was originally from Dublin, Ireland and still had that beautiful Irish accent. I joked that we make keep them for the rest of our trip back across the US just so we could hear her talk.  She replied rather coyly that she liked our distinct Southern accent.  They lived in San Francisco, but asked us not to judge them for that.  We told them San Francisco was one of our favorite places. 

Logan Pass is where the continental divide separates the continent, with one side channeling water to the east and the other side to the west.  The parking lot usually fills up by 9:00 in the morning and it’s about impossible to find a place to park.  They thanked us for the ride and said to take their parking spot when they pulled out.  Being nice to people is its own reward, but sometimes it pays extra dividends, a new friendship and a parking spot.

Hitchhikers Ilene & Mike

Hitchhikers Eileen & Mike at Logan Pass

Just beyond Logan Pass are the two glaciers you can see from the road, Jackson Glacier and Barefoot Glacier and they are about five miles away.  The rest of them require quite a bit of hiking, so we opted not to do it this time.  That just means we will have to come back again and that’s fine with us.  On our return trip from the east side of the park back to the west entrance, we could see the smoke from a new fire high up on one of the cliffs that overlook the road.  There was a ranger pulled over just past us and was surveying it as well.  I hope it does not get too serious.

Here are a few more of our favorites pictures in the park.

Kerry & Lynette In Glacier National Park

Kerry & Lynette In Glacier National Park

Crystal Clear Water in the Flathead River

Crystal Clear Water in the Flathead River

Color boluders along the river

Color boluders along the river

Where the glaciers have receded

Where the glaciers have receded

Logan Pass - This used to be a glacier, but only some snow is left

Logan Pass – This used to be a glacier, but only some snow is left

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge – build in 1913

Weeping wall waterfall - water "weeps" from the rocks for about 300 feet

Weeping wall waterfall – water “weeps” from the rocks for about 300 feet

 

We are still having a wonderful time seeing all the sites and meeting new people, but we really miss our family as we are RVingTheCountry.

 

When God Speaks, You Have To Listen

Sometimes things just happen from out of the blue.  I was reading some news articles and came upon the one below. Take a minute and watch it.

Kids’ Video, Pleading For Kidney Donor For Their Mom, Goes Viral

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/03/29/kids-video-pleading-for-kidney-donor-for-their-mom-goes-viral/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_us+%28RSS%3A+CNN+-+U.S.%29

The faces of those kids and the simple plea to help keep their family together really touched me, way down deep in my very soul.  So I prayed, “Lord, do you want me to be the one who help this woman live?”  I wanted to be sure this was something God wanted me to do and not something I wanted to do in God’s name.  There is a big difference. So many times, I have thought of good things to do, but they weren’t necessarily God’s will for me and I did not want this to me one of those times. So I waited.  It was hard not knowing but I wanted to be sure, so I waited some more.  But God was silent. This was a huge decision.  It would involve several trips to Pittsburg for testing, then the surgery, and then the follow up visits for  couple of years.  The decision weighed heavily on me, but I know this was something I had to do.

One of my pastors, Lindsey Lewis, always said, “God is always on time, but seldom early.” I really dreaded the surgery part because I have had so many of them and I don’t have a good reaction to the anesthesia. Nonetheless, I was willing. I have also learned over the years that God does not give us an answer for us to negotiate with Him.  He only answers when He knows we will be obedient.

A few days later, I ran across the following article. 

Man buys 40 Powerades for 5th graders stranded on interstate from broken-down bus

https://gma.yahoo.com/man-buys-40-powerades-5th-graders-stranded-interstate-181124758–abc-news-topstories.html

When I got to the part where he said, “I [saw] them broke down at the weigh station and my heart sank and I felt overwhelmed,” Hayden, 36, of Gaston, told ABC News. “When God talks you listen.” 

“It just made me think of my kids sitting there,” he added. “There are still good people out there. Just seeing stuff like that, knowing that people are just driving by not doing anything for these kids, I just couldn’t do it. God wouldn’t let me do it.”

There was my answer.  I could not be one of those people just driving by and not doing anything.  So I called the transplant coordinator and spent about 30 minutes with him on the phone.  He explained the process and what was required.  He said they only do transplants where the donor and recipient are the same blood type.  Mine is a bit rare at A-, so he check her blood type, also type A.  I was feeling both excited and terrified at the same time, but there was also a peace.  The next step was to do a questionnaire on my general health. When I shared I had been treated for malignant melanoma, the process stopped.  He shared that I would not be eligible to be a donor.  My heart sank but I was also somewhat relieved.  The coordinator shared that since the story broke, they have had over 100 calls from people trying to help.  I know the right person will come forward.
 
Even though I could not help this family directly, I had the knowledge that I had tried.  I share this story, not for you to think that I am such a great guy, but to encourage you to listen for God’s voice, to be willing to do something big for a total stranger, and live with the knowledge that you tried.

 

Largest Roadrunner Ever, Sort Of

Today we made the 60 mile trip up to Fort Stockton, Texas just to see what was there and to pick up a few items for our trip to Big Bend next week.  It is pretty much barren land between Marathon and Fort Stockton, with mountains in the distance for the first part of the journey and fairly flat land near the end.  I noticed there were fences on both sides of the road the entire way.  I like the way they build their fences.  Rather than using steel posts or wooden posts that have been hewn in a lumber mill, they just use sticks or tree branches that are a couple of inches around.  There is not a straight one in the whole bunch, but they serve their purpose.  They just space them fairly close together and tie them to the fence with baling wire.  It seems like a pretty simple approach but obviously very effective.  For privacy fencing, the tree limbs that are fairly straight are just placed next to each other and wire wrapped together.  It is obviously rustic but effective.  Folks here seem to just use what they have instead of buying specialty items for everything, but then, the closest store may be 50 miles away and the fence may be just as long.

We passed through a section along US 385 with the sign below, and since I had never been to an Astorbleme, I had Lynette look it up.  When the speed limit is 75 miles per hour and the signs around curves say to slow down to 70 (I love that), you certainly don’t want to take your eyes off the road.

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It tuns out an Astrobleme is a crater.   However, we didn’t get to see the actual crater because it is on private land. The peak of the structure cased by the impact is 793 feet high and can be seen for over 30 miles. The crater itself is over 8 miles in diameter.  Other than a few cows, there is not much else out there.

The biggest attraction in Fort Stockton, other that the only Walmart for 100 miles, was the World’s Largest Roadrunner, or he used to be until someone build a bigger one in Las Cruces, NM.  I can’t believe our luck since we are headed there in a couple of weeks. Lynette and I have both seen roadrunners since we have been in Texas, but nothing quite like this.  Being from Marietta, I was expecting something like the Big Chicken, something that is used as a landmark for giving directions. You know “Turn right at the Big Chicken and follow Roswell Road for two miles.” Unfortunately, we were looking a bit too high in the sky for it, and passed it the first time.  Not to be deterred, we made another go at finding it.  To our surprise, it was a bit hidden behind some trees at one of the main intersections in town.  But to our delight, it was quite impressive at 22 feet long and 11 feet tall.  His name is Paisano Pete, maybe our Big Chicken needs an actual name.  We are told the town dresses up the bird for special occasions.  It has a Christmas outfit, a scarf for cold weather, and a few more I am told.  I’m just wondering who makes these outfits, is there a roadrunner clothing store somewhere?

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World’s 2nd Largest Roadrunner with a drive through beer store in the background.

Back at our campground, I saw this sign.  I knew when we headed to Roswell, NM, I would have to keep my eyes out for UFO’s but I didn’t expect to have that problem in Texas. Hey, it calls attention to the speed limit.  Maybe we should get some for Atlanta.

UFO

The Marathon Motel and RV park has some beautiful landscaping and structures. This is the central courtyard and is one of the few places where there are trees and grass. Everything is rustic, but pretty as the same time.

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One of the things I have enjoyed about Texas is seeing the different plants.  I don’t know what they are, I just know I like them. These were also in the courtyard.

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The campsite we have is basically a gravel lot behind the motel, but is does have good water, 50 amp service, and a sewer connection.  The rooms for the motel are really small, but are clean and well kept.  I have noticed that a lot of motorcycle riders use them as they pass by this way.  Other folks will stay her and then drive down to Big Bend for a day trip.

The Gage Garden is about a mile away and is open to the public. It is owed by the Gage Hotel which also has the 12 Gage Restaurant and White Buffalo Bar. The manager told me they have weddings booked every weekend through September.

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Of course, you can’t have a garden in Texas without having a cow in it.

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The wind here is unlike any I have ever experienced.  We had to pull in our slides on the RV for most of the afternoon because the wind was gusting at over 35 miles per hour. There are fabric toppers over the slideouts and I didn’t want to take a chance on them getting ripped of. The wind was a constant 18 miles and hour and the gusts last for three or four minutes or more. We saw it blow up huge dust clouds on our way to Fort Stockton today and the clouds rose up 100 feet or more.

We spent a few hours researching the areas we are headed to and since school will be out in a few weeks, making some reservations at places that are expected to be crowded.  In about another week we will head on to New Mexico, and then on to Arizona and California.  In the meantime, we are just enjoying ourselves as we are RVingthecountry.

 

Camping under the Oaks

We were in Clermont, FL just outside Orlando for two weeks.  Most of the time, the weather was perfect with highs in the low 80’s and a breeze and the lows in the low 60’s.  It did get down into the 40’s a few nights but nothing like the 20’s in Georgia. We had a great camping spot under some huge Live Oaks with Spanish Moss hanging from them and it is so peaceful.

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Clerbrook Golf & RV Resort,Clermont, FL

One of the best things about traveling is meeting new people and we have meet some great ones at this park.  Parked next to us is an older couple from Pennsylvania, Bill and Ellie.  He is a retired truck driver for the big tanker trucks, and I am not sure what occupation she held but I do know she was originally from Germany.  Bob turns 80 this year but you would never know it.  They come down here each winter and head back home in the spring.  On their way down, Bob misjudged a post at a gas station while refueling and clipped the back end of his rig, ripping a big hole in the last rear door to the basement storage area.  It turns out he is pretty handy at body work.  He has been making the repairs himself, making a backer of cardboard and then laying in fiberglass and body putty to cover the hole.  Pretty sharp guy.  Now all he has to do is have it painted.

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Lynette with Bill and Ellie Zeitner.

They invited us to park our rig at their place when if we ever make it to Bethlehem, PA.

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Bill’s Repair Handiwork

One of the things I am enjoying now is taking walks in the evening just before sunset with our dog, Maggie.  She loves to meet new people and no one is a stranger to her.  We met one older lady the other night, setting in a lounge chair by her front door.  She had a pretty gruff voice, and looked pretty worn out, but was really nice.  I could see a pack on Pall Mall’s sitting on a little table beside her.   It looked like maybe that was one of the few pleasures she still had left in life.  Maggie wagging her tale and letting the lady pet her seemed to brighten her up.  She was smiling as we left, and seemed to be thinking of earlier and happier times in her life.

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One Of The Hiking Trails In The Park.

Everyone here waves as they are passing either in cars or more commonly in golf carts.  There is a nice golf course in the center of the complex with RV parking all around it.  I thought about playing a round, but with a back injury from a few years ago, I decided to skip it.

There are some permanent residents here, but most just come for, “the season”.  That’s the time of year when the population increased by anywhere from 30 to 300 per cent.  It’s kind of funny that there are TV spots encouraging the locals to allow more time and be more patient if they are going somewhere.  I expect the financial impact to the local economy is substantial.

We are planning to stay in Florida for a few more weeks, and then head west as we are RVingthecountry.

Wanna Race?

After leaving Highlands Hammond State Park, we drove over to Sebring International Raceway, about 20 minutes away.  I thought maybe we would be able to see the entrance to the complex and maybe snap a couple of pictures.  To our surprise, we were able to go onto the grounds right up into some bleachers overlooking the track, and watch some actual races. Unlike a NASCAR track, this was a road course with lots of curves, long straight aways, and a couple of hairpin turns.

IMG_2098There were several races throughout the afternoon, with everything from street cars to Indy and Formula one type cars.  As expected, there were tons of Porches, Corvette’s, and a number of really exotic looking cars. These things could fly.  So many of the drivers were fearless, coming wide out of the turn before the grandstand onto a long straightaway, and just missing hitting the wall that would have made for a bad day.  All of the true racing cars just screamed at high RPMs as they almost flew past us.

IMG_2100There were probably only twenty or thirty spectators there and some knew the best places to watch the racing.  One guy who comes there regularly told us about a couple of places where we were no more that forty feet from the track, one place with several back and forth turns and one place that was at the end of a long straight away into a hairpin turn.

As soon as I figure out to upload videos to WordPress, I will add a few.

In my younger days, I would have loved to be driving one of these bullets, but now understand that things break and take a while to mend, and I don’t mean the cars. Fortunately, there were no crashes.

Several of the cars were from professional racing teams, and these really stood out.  The course was 3.7 miles and they would lap the slower cars in about 10 laps.

After being there for a couple of hours, we went on to Lake Placid, the City of Murals, as they billed themselves.  There were maybe 50 paintings on the side of buildings, some as long as 30 yards.  The sun was shining right into the camera at some of the locations and many of the photos didn’t turn out well.  No matter, I am thankful for the ones that did. Many of them told stories from the early days in American history, chronicling the struggles from an agrarian lifestyle to more modern times.

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On our way back to the campground, we stopped by the Amtrak railroad station back in Sebring.

IMG_2081Lynette’s grandfather worked for the Atlantic Coastline RR and later the Seaboard Coastline after they merged, so she has a special place in her heart for railroads.  He was in charge of security in those days and when Franklin Roosevelt was making his whistle stop tours across the South in the 1930’s, Mr. Cooper was the man.  At 6’5″, he was an imposing figure and even in his older years, I would not have wanted to tangle with him.

It was a full day and we were ready to relax, so back to the RV, a little TV, and on to bed. We were supposed to leave on Monday for Clermont, Florida, just outside Orlando, but we weren’t quite ready to go.  So I booked another night where we were, changed our reservation in Clermont, and spent another day relaxing in Sebring.  This is definitely a place where I would love to return to.  Everything was great except that central Florida sulfur tasting water.  We have a couple of water filters, so it really wasn’t too bad.

Tuesday was a two hour drive to Clermont, where we plan to stay for a couple of weeks, though we may decide to shorten it a bit and head west, depending on the expected upcoming weather across south Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  For now, this is home for us.

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Parked out under a huge Live Oak with Spanish moss, the temperature in the low 70’s, a slight breeze blowing, who could ask for more?  Lynette and I know that we are so blessed to be able to have this experience in our lives right now that we don’t want to take anything for granted.  We are making happy trails as we are RVingthecountry.

Having Way Too Much Fun

WOW, what a weekend.  After visiting my brother and sister-in-law for a few days, we are back at the Buttonwood Bay RV Resort in Sebring, Florida.  Over the weekend, we were really busy taking in the things this area had to offer.

To start any good adventure, you first need nourishment.  We stopped first for a couple of Nathan’s hot dogs and milkshakes.  You can’t explore on an empty stomach.  Why eat at a boring building.  This one certainly stands out.

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Next, it was just a few miles down the road to Highlands Hammock State Park.   According to Wikipedia, “A Hammock is a term used in the southeastern United States for stands of trees, usually hardwood, that form an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem. Hammocks grow on elevated areas, often just a few inches high, surrounded by wetlands that are too wet to support them.”  So what that really means is that we walked along a half mile boardwalk that was over a swamp with stands of trees in it.

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Many people think that swamps are stands of stagnant water that are smelly.  Actually, they are exactly the opposite.  There is typically a slow current that keeps the water moving and the water is clean and crystal clear.

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The bottom of the swamp is what gives the water is dark color.  I heard one women comment as we were walking that she never realized the water was so clean.

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This boardwalk is deep in the park and the only sounds are those of birds that are standing along side the water looking for food and fussing at one another for getting too close.  There is such a sense of serenity in this place, with the clean air and clean water. All you can see are the natural sites, other than the boardwalk, and everyone talks with a sense of quietness and reverence.  It is truly like being in a totally different world.

 

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The cypress knees grow up and look like stalagmites in a cave.  I love the huge base of the Bald Cypress trees that spread out into the water to give them a firm base.  I learned they are called “Balk Cypress” because they loose their leaves in the fall and winter, appearing to be dead, and then come  back in the spring.

About half way through on the boardwalk, it changes from about eight feed wide with hand rails on both sides, to three feet wide with a low rail on just one side.  The water is only a couple of feet below the decking, but with the clear water, it looks much further to the bottom.  This was not my bride’s favorite park of the walk.

We spent a couple of hours in the park and drove through the campground.  The campsites were close to each other without much privacy.  Though the temperature was in the high 60’s, there is always someone who has to have a campfire in the middle of the day.  If the smoke went straight up, it wouldn’t smoke out those who were camped down wind.  Also, some folks can’t go without blasting their music, annoying those who come out for a more serene experience.  Can you tell these types of folks annoy me?

No matter, we drove though more of the park that is a single lane one-way road that is covered by a canopy of trees with rays of sunshine sneaking their way through. There was a soft breeze blowing, so we obviously had to ride through with the windows down, taking in the fresh air.  What a great way to spend part of the day.

Next is was on to the Sebring International Raceway to watch some racing, and then on to Lake Placid, FL. the town of murals.  More about that in our next installment.

 

 

Corona Salt and Pepper Shakers

We left the Peace River RV Resort and traveled the 40 minute drive to the Buttonwood Bay RV resort in Sebring, FL.  We purposely took the back roads and enjoyed being out among the new calves, jumping goats, and donkeys.  It is so relaxing yet exciting to see all the farm animals and wildlife and be away from all the overstimulation of city life.  I know my blood pressure is certainly lower.

There is a problem with having multiple devices for getting directions from one place to another.  We have three and invariable, they will give three different sets of directions. Even with all this technology, it’s also good to have an old school atlas.  It is the tie breaker as to which of those directions, if any we really want to use.

The park we are at right now is fabulous.  It is more of a retirement park with park model homes than an RV park, but there are plenty of RVs as well.  Here is a link to the park. https://www.sunrvresorts.com/Community/BUT/RatesSpecials.aspx#open
All the streets are paved and many have concrete patios along with water, sewer and electric.  It backs up to a 1200 acre Lake Josephine and has a 200 foot pier.  I think I am going to have to take up fishing before too much longer.

We arrived around 11:00 on Tuesday, got set up and then headed out to visit my brother and his wife in Osprey, FL, about two hours away for a few days.  We hadn’t seen them in a couple of years, so a visit was well overdue.  It seemed a bit strange sleeping in a regular house again instead of our little home on wheels.  There was so much room.  The back of their great room is a wall of sliding glass doors that opens up to a swimming pool that is screened in.  After our week at the previous RV park, we thought we had gone to a Five Star Hotel.

We had such a great time visiting.  My brother grilled out some huge two inch center cut steaks that just melted in my mouth, with a baked potato and salad.  The combination of atmosphere, meal, and company made for the perfect evening.  The next night, my sister-in-law cooked my favorite meal of hers’, sauteed tilapia with pink cream sauce over rigatoni pasta. She is so great as making people feel really special.

This morning, we went out to breakfast at a little local restaurant called Scramblers that is in an older strip mall.  You know you are in for a treat when none of the coffee cups match and the salt and pepper shakers are small replicas of Corona beer bottles.  True to form, the food was terrific, though the poor waiter messed up our order a few times and Lynette wound up eating her fried breakfast potatoes off my plate and they brought my grits in a side bowl.  No matter, we had a good time.

Today, we made the two hour trip back to Sebring.  The picture below is music to a full-time RVers ears.  Really low gas prices.

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Really low gas prices in Bradenton, FL

The high temperature today was 72 degrees with a good breeze blowing, and bright blue skies.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day.  For dinner, we grilled out some chicken and sat at the picnic table taking in the relaxing atmosphere of this place.  The temp had fallen to  a perfect 65 degrees.  I can’t believe it is the middle of January and we get to sit outside in shorts and t-shirts.  I think I can get used to this.

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Just finished dinner as the sun set

Today was a great adventure and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.  We are here for a few more day and then it’s on to the Orlando area as we are RVingthecountry.

Time To Move On

We have been here at the Peace River RV Resort in Wauchula, Florida for about a week. It is a bit less than what I expected, but for $3.00 a night for electricity and water, I can’t really complain.  It is pretty much what you would expect in the winter at a Florida RV Park.  There are older retirees from mainly the northern states and Canada, judging from the license plates. There are activities throughout the day and up till around 9:00 at night. The folks are really friendly and almost everyone says “hi” as you pass them walking.  It’s funny how small the world is at times.  I met a couple today who used to live about five miles from where we lived in Marietta.  They are full-timing as well.

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The Peace River, Wauchula, FL

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The Peace River RV Resort

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The Peace River RV Resort. Yes, it is crowded.

We went to the RV show in Tampa on Wednesday and were exhausted when we finished. There were acres of RVs of all sizes and just about every price range.  There were teardrop models just big enough for two people to lay day in and sleep for around $2995, up to rigs that sell for $1.5M and are nicer than most people’s homes.  I was told that the people who buy the million dollar RVs typically pay cash for them and only use them a couple of times a year.  That one is not in my budget since I didn’t win the lottery last week.  This was definitely a “looking” trip and not a “buying” trip, though we did find a couple that we really liked.  RVs are a lot like houses in that there is always one with better amenities, bigger and better than the one you have, and if you are not careful, you can be “house poor” with little money for anything else.  We are being careful to stay out of that trap.

It flooded a couple of times here in the park this week and the rains last night were especially harsh.  A tornado killed two people in a little town we went through on our way to Tampa for the RV show last week.  There was so much flooding here in the RV park that a couple of units got stranded and had to have a wrecker to tow them out.  The park staff was calling people who had booked reservation to tell them not to come, because so many of the sites were underwater.  Fortunately, we were in a section that was on higher ground and were fine.

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This is the road out of the park. If you look straight down the road, you can see a rig getting ready to take the plunge. The water came about a foot up on his tires and he made it through just fine.

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Fortunately, the folks at these camp sites moved before they got stuck.

 

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This couple waited too long. Though they are not in the water yet, they are stuck in the mud. I think a wrecker is on the way.

We are starting to get back in the groove of traveling.  After about a week, we are ready to hit the road again.  There was not too much for us to do around here though we did go exploring.  We were surprised by the size of the orange groves, they are enormous. Tractor trailers full of oranges run from the farms to the processing plant just up the road all hours of the day and part of the night.  There are a few orange casualties along the way with those who “escaped”, lining the sides of the road and the sidewalks in town.  It reminds me of being a kid in West Virginia.  The trains carrying coal from the mines would leave coal that had fallen off the railroad cars all along the tracks.  I thought all tracks were like that.  When I moved back to North Carolina, I was surprised to see their tracks with just regular gravel, no coal anywhere.  It’s a bit funny, our reality of the world is based only on what we see and experience.  There is so much more to the world than that.  That’s one of the reasons I like to travel.  We get to experience the reality of different places.

Tomorrow is a short travel day.  We are moving our rig over to Sebring, FL for a week, but spending three days in Osprey, FL, near Sarasota, with my brother and his wife.  Family is so great.  You get to enjoy each other’s company and pick up right where you left off the last conversation.  The weather is supposed to turn cold this week, with the lows in the high 30s and the highs in the 60s.  I think we can handle that.  Its certainly better than the 20’s and 30s back in Marietta.

In a couple more weeks, we will be heading west and getting really excited.  We have to be conscious of the upcoming weather, so we don’t get caught in snow.  I don’t think it would be much fun driving this beast in the snow.  No matter, we are having a great time as we are RVingthecountry.

Enjoying The Scenery

Today we made the five hour trip from Adel, Georgia to Wauchula, Florida in about seven hours.  We had a few stops along the way.  Reed Bingham State Park was so beautiful, we hated to leave, especially since we had most of the park to ourselves.  Last night, just before bed, I heard water running outside, never a good sound.  I went out and found water coming from the overflow hose on our fresh water tank.  It was too late, dark, and cold to do much about it, so I just turned off the water supply from the campground and went to bed.  I just figured I would work on it later in the week.

When we pulled out, it was around thirty degrees and that darn frost was on the windows again.  The sky was blue and the air was crisp with just a few high cirrus clouds streaking across the sky.  For the next 185 miles, it was more of the sites going down I-75.  In Lake Panasoffkee (love these names), we took County Highway 470 east. Since it was a county road, I was expecting a narrow road in so so condition.  To my surprise, it was more like a US highway with wide lanes. good pavement and five foot wide shoulders on each side, absolutely wonderful.

This a much more pleasant ride than the interstate.  We passed several huge plant nurseries with plenty of blooming bushes and plants with numerous hues of greenery, perfectly lined up in row after row.  I was surprised by the size of these operations.  One was about a half mile wide and the plants seemed to go all the way to the horizon in depth.  This is so much better than seeing the billboard pollution along the sides of the road.  We passed through a number of small towns, like Webster and Tarrytown with their one main street through the middle of the town.

One thing I forget about Florida is the cattle farms.  It just seems strange to see cows grazing under palm trees.  Another thing is the denseness of the trees along the highways. I couldn’t see more than about  40 feet into the woods.  Among the hardwoods and evergreens, palmettos grown so close together that passing through them is almost impossible.  In places, the trees formed a canopy over the road.

When we passed through Lakeland, I noticed that in one three mile stretch were three funeral homes, two crematoriums, a place to buy gravestones, and two cemeteries. I am a bit concerned that I even noticed that.

After a long day, we finally made it to the Thousand Trails Peace River RV Park.  What a difference from where we stayed last night.  There are about 150 campsites here and they are only a few feet apart.  About a third of the sites have 50 amp service and sewer connections.  Fifty amp service is important because it allows you to operate more devices that require electricity all at once, like the air conditioner, microwave and maybe a coffee pot.  With the other option of 30 amp service, you have to be careful not to overload your system.  A coffee pot and a curling iron, (a necessity, not for me though) can make everything stop.

The park here has had some flooding in the past few days, so many of the sites are underwater.  We had to park in a location that is not a true campsite, but the park manager said to use one of the electrical connections on either side of us.  Each one has a 30 and 50 amp connection.  Just use the one the camper at that site was not using.  After a bit of maneuvering, I was able to back into a site between two other RVs that was a bit snug.  One of my new “neighbors” came out and told me I could not park there.  After explaining to him that was where the park manager told me to park, he got rather rude.  I am not going to say where he was from, (according to his license plate) but he did use the word “yoos”.  No worries, I was too tired to care.

The folks on the other side of us are an older retired couple from Quebec with two little dachshunds.  They are super nice and kept asking if there was anything they could do to help us.  They have the most wonderful little French accents.  We joked about our dogs being built in security systems to alert us of other dogs in the area.

We got set up, took a nice walk down to the Peace River, which was only a few hundred yards away and watched as the brackish water raced by.  It was 68 degrees, the sky was blue, the water was soothing, I was with my sweetheart and totally relaxed.  What a wonderful end to a great day.

Tomorrow we drive over to Tampa for “The Country’s Largest RV Show”.  Two others claim the same title, but I am sure they are all large.  They are expecting 68,000 visitors this year.  One of the nice things about retirement is that we can go on Wednesday and Thursday and leave the weekends to the more adventurous folks.

We are here for about a week, then down to Sarasota as we are RVingthecountry.

Oh What A Wonderful World

Last night was our first night back on the road.  It was a chilly 30 degrees last night at Reed Bingham State Park in Adel, GA but we awoke to a bright clear blue sky.  Since we decided to explore here today, I decided to drive up to the office and pay for another night.  Horror of horrors, there was a coating of frost on the windshield.  I don’t remember the last time I had to scape ice off of a car window.  I realized I didn’t even own an ice scraper.  No matter, I just started the car, turned on the defroster and then let it run while I jumped back in the warm RV for a few minutes till the windows cleared.

We took care of some house keeping chores this morning and just after lunch, the temperature had warmed to the low 50s with a bright blue sky and no wind.  It was a perfect day, the warm sun making the outside temperature feeling even warmer, so we went for a walk and explored the area.  This is an absolutely beautiful park with lots of amenities.  There is a large playground and a Putt-Putt golf course.  There are special ponds that are closed to adults and are used for kid’s fishing rodeos.  How cool is that. The lake here is huge and spectacular.  Of course there was the ever present, “No Swimming, Alligators Present” sign.  After all, we are in south Georgia.

The campsites are large and well separated and this time of year, there are few campers anyway.  There were probably 8 or 9 in the section where we were. Most of them only stayed for one night, making their way down to Florida for the cold months.

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A shaded campsite under a canopy of live oaks and Spanish moss

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Beautiful old live oak

The scenery is spectacular with lots of wide open spaces, trees creating a canopy of shade in other areas, the bright blue water in the lake against an equally blue sky.  We made the mistake of taking a short cut though one of the shaded areas and about half way down discovered it was more of a marsh than terra firma.  The feet were a bit wet but at least it was warm outside.

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Looks like a tree that could be in a scary movie

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Magnificent and perfectly shaped old oak

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The lake at Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA

If you look at the water going over the dam from the lake side, it looks like a huge infinity pool.  From the other side, the roar of the water as it falls over the dam creates a roar that is mesmerizing.  I’m not sure what all the foam is on the water, maybe I will ask the Park Ranger tomorrow.

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The dam at Reed Bingham State Park

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The downhill side from the dam with lots of foam.

This place is so relaxing that we wish we had another day or two here, but we need to be in Florida tomorrow for an RV show on Wednesday and Thursday.

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We are getting back into the traveling mode and it feels good.  Our little house on wheels has truly become home for us.  There is not much space inside, but the outside yard and view is spectacular.  We need to be up and gone early tomorrow, so it’s going to be an early night to bed.  We feel so blessed to be able to have this adventure and share it with our friends and family.  Thanks to all of you who are joining us on our trip as we are RVingthecountry.

Is That A Dirt Road?

We are back on the road after about six weeks in Acworth, GA.  It was a great time visiting family and friends and reconnecting with people we have grown close to over the years.  While staying at Holiday Harbor Marina and RV Resort (the resort part is a real stretch), we had some more adventures.  As everyone in the Atlanta area knows, just after Christmas we had some torrential rains and it brought the lake levels way up.  Fortunately, we were at one of the highest points in the campground, so we didn’t have to worry about being flooded out, only about being stranded on an island.  One of the roads did flood, but fortunately there were two other escape routes.

About three weeks ago, a really old, run-down RV pulled into the campground.  It had definitely seen better days.  Once they got it into the right spot, they covered the roof with a big sheet of black plastic and secured it on the front, back and both sides with duct tape.  We rarely saw the occupants since they usually stayed inside day and night.  The windows were all blacked out so you could not see what was going on inside.  The camp host thought they were perhaps taking an extended chemical vacation.  We just started calling it the meth lab. “Breaking Bad” came to my mind since there was a 50ish age man and a young girl perhaps in her early 20s.  Their site was right on the water and even thought the water rose foot after foot, they stayed put.  They finally moved in the dark to another side close by when the water was actually flooding their site.  It was a good thing too, because the next morning, half of their campsite was submerged.  I never did see them again after that.

In an RV there are three separate tanks for holding water.  One the fresh water tank, another is for holding waste water from the shower and sinks, grey water, and the last is for holding the contents of the toilet, black water.  This campground did not have sewer connections at each site, so the choices were to disconnect everything and drive to the dump station to empty the grey and black tanks, or use the campground’s tank pumping service.  We opted to go with the service the campground provided since disconnecting and then reconnecting everything is a real pain.  The first time I set eyes on their contraption, I must admit I was a bit puzzled.  Here comes a John Deere tractor pulling a boat with a huge storage tank on board.  There was what looked like a fire hose attached to a large pump that pumped everything into a translucent plastic storage tank.  First off, why were they using a boat to pump poo in a campground?  Then the operator told me they also used it to pump the holding tanks in all the boats docked in the marina.  The unofficial name of the boat was the SS Pooper Brown.  That seems appropriate.

The tractor would pull up beside the RV, attach the hose to the release valves on the RV, start the pump, pull the valve, and voila, the action began.  It usually only took about 10 minutes and was normally a pretty clean operation, until the day they let a new guy perform this chore on his own.  It was pretty cold outside and I went out to thank him for his service.  I should have known something was amiss when it took him about 15 minutes to get the hose connected.  He started the pump, pulled the release valve on the black tank and everything was going fine, until, you guessed it, the hose came loose and gravity took over.  Let’s just say that part of the campsite was well fertilized.  It took about 20 minutes to get everything cleaned up and about an hour for the wind to carry away the aromatic evidence of the mishap.  Oh, well, just another memory and story to tell.

We packed up everything and headed out around 11:30 this morning.  Before leaving, I opted to empty the holding tanks myself since I had to move the RV anyway.  The chore was without incident.  The plan for today was to get to Adel, GA and stay at Reed Bingham State Park.  We made a couple of stops at rest areas along I-75 to stretch our legs, walk the dog and make some coffee.  As we got closer to our destination, I used Siri and Lynette used Google Maps to guide us to the park.  They both agreed that we should get off at Exit 45, turn right, go straight for about 6 miles and there was the park.  Seems simple enough, right?  About two miles down the road was a stop sign at a four way intersection.  We were supposed to stay straight, except going straight meant going down a clay dirt road where it had rained last night.  That was not the road we wanted to take.  With my keen sense of direction and honed navigational skills, I took a right, determining that at some point there would be a road on the left that would take us to our destination.  Sure enough, about three miles ahead was a road to the left which I took.  It was mostly deteriorated asphalt and I immediate knew we were in trouble.  Fortunately, there was a flatbed truck coming toward us that stopped.  I opened the window and asked him how to get to Reid Bingham State Park.  He sort of chuckled and said you can get to it on this road, but in about 100 yards, it turns into dirt.  “It rained here has night and I haven’t been down it today, but you may want to go another way”, he suggested.  He said I could turn around just ahead in his driveway.  It was a circular drive that had a building in the back for his “Offroad and Performace” business.  What a nice guy.

We made it the rest of the way here without incident.  As it turns out, if we had taken the exit after the one we took, it would have brought us right here.  The park is beautiful with a huge lake.  The campsites are large with 50 amp electric service, water and sewer.  There are lots of old growth oak trees with Spanish moss hanging down from them.  I took the dog out after dark for her to take care of business, and the moss made the whole place look like a scene from a horror movie.  I just thought it was cool.

Our plan is to stay here for a couple of days before going the rest of the way to Wauchula, Florida.  I’ve learned that being in a hurry means you are going to miss something.  Who knows if I will ever pass this way again, so I better see it while I can.

It feels good to be back on the move again as we are RVingthecountry.

Just Around The Corner

Since we are just around the corner from the beginning of a new year, I wanted to look back at 2015 for a few minutes.  It has been a busy year with lots of changes to say the least.  In December 2014, AT&T announced a program that would add 10% to the pension of retirement eligible employees.  They would have to accept the offer in January and be off the payroll on April 1, 2015.  With almost 37 years of service, I knew it was time.

Our daughter Melanie, sold her house and she and my granddaughter, Emily, moved in with us for a couple of months until they found just the right house in the neighborhood and school district they were looking for.  Next, it was time to get our house ready to put on the market.  We had lots of painting and cleaning done, inside and outside.  Since the entire downstairs was hardwood flooring and they had about 12 years of wear on them, we also had them refinished.  That involved moving all the furniture out, and when the floors dried, moving everything back in again.  Then there was the chore of sorting through 37 years of collecting “stuff” and deciding what “priceless treasures” we just had to keep and which ones we could “bless” others with.

In just a month, the house was sold and then another month before it closed.  There were a few unnecessary things the new homeowner wanted done, so I had to deal with that aggravation.  No matter, we closed on September 4 and have been living in our RV since. It was a bit of adjustment going from a three story house filled with furniture and things we could not live without, to 415 square feet.  Although, I must say, I think we both adjusted pretty quickly. We now have a small house with a big front yard that keeps changing. Sometimes it is a pasture, sometimes a lake, and sometimes an ocean. We are looking forward to seeing the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona out our front door.

Lynette and I had talked about going to Williamsburg, VA for at least 20 years, so that was our first trip.  We spent about 3 weeks there and everything was great until a hurricane was predicted to hit right where we were camping.  So we packed up and headed south and the next day the hurricane decided to head back east, out to sea.  We got to visit some friends and family we had not seen in years while meandering back south towards Florida.  After a couple of weeks camped right on the bay in Panama City Beach, it was time to go back to Marietta for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

During our time staying at the Holiday Harbor and Marina, we went from seeing dry ground in the lake that had not been seen in years, to having to keep a close eye on the rising waters.  With all the rain in the area over the past couple of weeks, the entire lake rose 18 feet between December 23 and December 30.  In the cove where we are camped, the water had come about 75 yards closer than it was just a week ago.  I put a stick at the edge of the water this morning at 11:00 and it has risen up the bank 13 feet in 12 hours.  Last night the camp host told us the Corp of Engineers was predicting the lake would rise another 10 feet when it crested on Saturday.  We were not concerned about getting flooded, just that we would be stuck on an island with no way to get off.  I think they have revised their forecast and it shouldn’t be that bad. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We are making memories.

We have been here for the past 6 weeks and will be leaving next week for three more weeks in warm, sunny Florida, then head west.  Whether you are working or retired, the Christmas vacation time seems to pass too quickly.  Time with friends and family is simply the best.  The good news is that I have no employee evaluations to write, no business plans to prepare, and no crazy traffic I will have to fight.

The plans for next year include driving across country to California, up the west coast to Oregon and Washington and then back east to New England for the fall colors.  Wait, I think I just did a 2016 Business Plan.  Oh well, some things you just can’t get away from.

I continue to learn that every day is precious, so make the most of it.  Most of the troubles we face will not really matter long term.  To quote Mark Twain, “I’m an old man and have had a lot of troubles, most which never came to pass.”  Well, so long 2015, I know the best is yet to come.

 

Musings on Retirement & Home For the Holidays

We came back to Marietta just before Thanksgiving to celebrate our youngest daughter’s birthday, my daughter in law’s and son’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, my oldest daughter’s birthday, my wife’s birthday, Christmas and then New Years.  We have a lot going on this time of year as you can see.  We are staying at a campground and marina up on Lake Allatoona for five weeks, then down to Florida for three weeks to attend an RV show and see my brother and his wife.  Then we are headed out to South Texas and eventually to Arizona.

I had lunch today with three of my buddies from AT&T that I worked with in my last position and they asked what I had learned in retirement and how I was enjoying my new lifestyle.  So here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. I watch our finances a lot closer.  There is not another paycheck coming in a couple of weeks, so I track every penny.  It is not really confining, but actually liberating.  I think before I spend, and if we really want to do something, we do.  We do have a budget and are sticking to it.
  2. For the first few months, I never watched the news and now, I rarely watch it.  When I do watch it, I remember why I stopped.  The news is typically all the bad stuff going on.  I am not hiding from it, but have decided to focus on all the good things going on around me.  I do like to catch the local news in the cities we visit just to see what is going on there.  I don’t remember which city it was, but they always started the newscast with a good news story.  I remember one where the residents of a small town collected money for a motorized wheelchair for a local disabled veteran.  He was extremely grateful.  Once when I was in Montana, the lead story was about someone who was attacked by a grizzly bear.  Now that’s not a story you hear just anywhere.
  3. For months I stayed off Facebook.  Everyone has their opinions and most will never be changed. Therefore, I won’t spend my time trying.  I went back on for a few weeks, but have sworn off it again.  I now just use it to let my friends know there is a new RVingTheCountry post.
  4. I have learned that it’s ok if someone wants to get in front of me while driving.  They must be in a bigger hurry than I am.  I have given up my “right” to my spot.  It is very liberating.  I actually never had the “right” to begin with.  I also tend to drive slower.  I want to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
  5. One of my friends at lunch today thanked me for keeping in touch and keeping our friendship going.  We all need to do that, but it does seem easier in retirement.  The people in my past have helped me grow personally and professionally, so I want to keep in touch with them and hopefully add value to their lives at the same time.
  6. I try to do meaningful work in the morning and then relax in the afternoon.  I also limit my TV time and set aside time for exercise and reading.  I am currently learning WordPress for blogging and website development.  Then I want to catalog articles I have saved over the past few years about places to visit across the country.  I am also, by necessity, leaning more about maintenance on our rig.  I love making some improvements as well.
  7. Just like working, I have to set goals for myself, what I want to get accomplished and by when.  Remember the SMART method.
  8. There is a real balance between planning and spontaneity, especially traveling the country.  We want to be sure we have a place to stay but not be a slave to a schedule.
  9. My time has allowed me a lot of time for retrospection.  I think about what is important to me and why.  I think about what I want to accomplish over the next few years and what changes I need to make in my life.  I have also thought about the things in my past that I need to make peace with.  I have some regrets, but none I can change.
  10. I am so glad I retired when I did, even though I did not have the nest egg laid aside I had planned.  Many of the full-time RVers I meet say their only regret is that they didn’t start sooner because they didn’t have enough time before age related issues set in.  As we are traveling, we sometimes share with others we meet about our travels.  Several people we have met say they had planned to do the same thing but the husband died and the wife was left with just the dream. Life and time is precious.

All in all, we are having a great time in retirement.  Lynette is a great traveling partner and I am still learning things about her even after 37 years of marriage.  After all, she is my best friend.  We (she) started decorating our little home for Christmas today.  It’s important to her, so it’s important to me.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas.

Pay Attention To The Signs

I am always intrigued by the sights I see as we travel down the backroads.  They are so much more interesting than traveling along the interstates.  In addition to the standard deer crossing signs that just show a picture of a deer, we saw a turtle crossing sign, a bear crossing sign, an armadillo crossing, a duck crossing, and a turkey crossing sign.  Someone once asked, “How do the animals know to cross there?”  I won’t mention hair color or who it was.

Then there are the crosses along the way to mark the location where someone lost their life, most likely from a car accident.  Many are erected and never touched again, judging from their weathered appearance, but then others seem to be kept up on a regular basis.  As we were traveling around Halloween, I saw one with a couple of plastic pumpkins hanging on it.  It’s nice to know that people are remembered and missed and someone took the time to do something nice.

My least favorite signs are those who commemorate some local official.  I can see having a sign to honor a fallen soldier, or first responder, but most are people we have never heard of and no one will bother to research to see who they were and what they did.  My other least favorite type of sign are those that identify that I am entering or leaving a particular watershed district.  I see a lot of these in North Carolina.  Does it really matter that I am leaving the Haw River watershed and entering the Neuse River watershed.  I am not sure why I need to know this.  The road didn’t seem to change. However, every state I go through seems to have these worthless signs and there is a lot of money spent on them.  I seem to remember that the budget for “Honorary” signs in Georgia is about $1,000,000 per year and the state legislature approves it with every budget.  Excuse my soapbox, but there are a heck of a lot of better things that money could be used for.

Signs on the sides of barns are always the best.  Living in the south, we used to see more “See Rock City” and “Ruby Falls” signs than we do today. Recently while traveling through Alabama, there was a big banner strung across an old barn that was obviously well past its prime and about to fall down.  The banner read, “Should have used Yella Wood.”  That one made me laugh.

I also love the commercials on the rural radio stations.  Having lived in the metro Atlanta area for about the past 30 years, I have gotten used to a certain type of commercial.  The company advertising will pay a “voice over” personality to use their golden vocal cords to promote their product.  In the more rural areas, the commercial is often done by the owner of the business, sometimes accompanied by their minor children.  I certainly respect these people for having their own businesses and being the backbone of our economy, but making commercials is not their calling.  On the other hand, maybe having a “professional” do the commercial would not be as effective with their particular clientele. At any rate, they are fun to listen to.  When Lynette and I were at the Grand Ole Opry once, which by the way is the longest continuously running radio show in America, they did a commercial for “Jawgin’ In A Jug”.  It was some type of country energy drink, but I don’t know if they got much business.

Speaking of radio stations, in the metropolitan areas, you can’t go more than a couple of numbers up the radio dial without getting a new station.  Well, there is really not actually a “dial” any more, but you know what I mean.  There is about every type of genre anyone could want, Old Country, New Country, Soft Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, R&B, Soul, Hip Hop, Rap, Gospel, Contemporary Christian, News, Weather, Talk, Sports, Evangelists, and Hispanic, in no particular order.  And there of lots of choices for each genre.  The further you get into the country, the more limited the choices become.  I can usually find a Country and a Rock station, but there may be only one choice for each.  I guess we could get a satellite radio subscription, but I am too cheap and there are enough other interesting things to see.  It is also nice just to listen to the quiet or the hum of the highway.

There is so much more that I notice now since I am in no hurry to get to a particular destination.  Truly, the journey is as good as the destination.  We are loving our new lifestyle.  The only big downside is that we don’t get to see our children and grandchildren as much and are not around to help them out.  We both struggle with that, but I know the kids are all glad we can have this experience.

We don’t have much travel planned until after Christmas, and then it’s off to warmer weather as we are RVingTheCountry.

Back Where We Started

We came back to Marietta last week and it seemed a bit strange being around all the traffic, again.

After having only over the air television for these last two months, I thought it was time for an upgrade.  Most of the places we stay don’t have free Wi-Fi and using cellular data for Amazon or Hulu is just cost prohibitive.  So, I decided to get a satellite dish and go with DirectTV.  With an RV, you have to purchase your own satellite since none of the satellite RV providers will provide them.  Then there is the decision whether to go portable or have one permanently mounted.  The advantage of portable is that if a tree is in the way of connecting to the satellite, you can easily move your dish.  Not so with the permanently mounted one.  With Dish, if you want to want to watch more than one station at a time, you need another dish.  DirectTV allows you to watch multiple channels at the same time with a single dish, but the price is significantly higher.  Also, you have to have separate coax cables from the satellite controller to each TV with both systems.  There is a lot more to it than a simple home installation.

With this project, it really paid to shop around.  I found a company that had it on sale, plus would give a 10% discount if you donated a pair of jeans to their charity drive, and I got a 30% discount on the installation for having them install it.  Overall, I saved about $500.

Because we are planning to head to Florida and then to Arizona for the winter, we will be driving a lot more.  The gasoline powered RVs like mine, are built on a standard truck chassis and have coil and leaf spring suspension along with heavy duty shock absorbers.  This makes for a bit of a stiff ride.  The more upscale diesel powered RVs are built with air bag suspension and give a much smoother ride, at a significantly higher price as well.  I have been researching some upgrades to cut down on the side to side sway, the front to back bouncing, and make the steering more responsive.  The solution was to install additional heavy duty sway bars, front and rear, and a steering stabilizer.  Again, after shopping around, I was able to save around $500 getting the parts online and then having them installed locally.  A big, “THANK YOU” to my youngest daughter for letting me have them shipped to her house while we were gone.  That doesn’t sound like much at first, but the front sway bar weighed about 75 pounds and the rear one was just over a 100 pounds.  She had to get them from where the UPS guy dropped them off, into her garage.  I got a real appreciation for her efforts when I had to load them into my CRV to have them installed.

Just like in a regular home, there is no limit to the upgrades you can do to your house/RV.  I am looking at installing a generator auto start switch.  This will automatically start the generator when the deep cycle house batteries dip below a certain level of charge.  Even though the refrigerator operates on LP gas when commercial power is available, it still requires electricity to run the control circuits.  Also, if there is no electricity to connect to, it will start the generator and operate the air conditioning if the inside of the RV gets up to a particular temperature.  That’s especially important for anyone with pets and camping in warmer climates.

Then there is the whole subject of solar power.  One word, “Expensive”.  For those who live off grid a lot, it enables them to do that.  For now, we will wait to see if we are more campground RVers or enjoy going off grid in the western US.  No rush.

We are staying locally at McKinney Campground for about a week, and then with our kids over Thanksgiving.  Next we are planning to go off for a couple of weeks and then back for Christmas.  We are planning to catch up friends during our time here.  After that, it’s down to Florida for the Tampa RV show and then visiting my brother a little further south for a week or so.  If all goes as planned, we will leave from there for Arizona.

This lifestyle all seems like a dream come true, so we are trying to enjoy every day as we are RVingTheCountry.