Category Archives: Itinerary

Fetching the Bus

21d89630b2308f383404a768f516e5b4As mentioned previously, we are currently hanging out in our lovely Gatlinburg log cabin. However, we had left our rig back at Jones Station RV park, near Greensboro. Our paid-up month was expiring, so we made the 4.5 hour trek back there on Monday to fetch the bus.

We had already packed up the bus and pulled the slides in before we left, so preparation for travel was fairly minimal. After sleeping overnight, we finished gearing up:  checked the tires, stowed the satellite dish, locked things down, hooked up the toad, and hit the road back to the Smokies.

Our journey back to Pigeon Forge was uneventful – always a good thing! It was odd not having Pumpkin kitty on my lap, as we had left him back at the cabin. He doesn’t particularly like all of the driving stuff, so he was much happier staying behind. We fueled up just before arriving at our new campsite at Pine Mountain RV Park. We shoehorned into the site — fitting, but just barely. We plugged into power, washed the bugs off the front of the bus, grabbed a few more things from the inside, and headed back to the cabin. Mission accomplished!

The pandemic shut-down is creating significant disruption for the full-time RV community. We’ve already cancelled our first three northeast tour campground reservations. The Jones Station RV park owner shared that his campground was full of folks that literally had nowhere to go. We were unable to extend our reservation there, but were luckily able to find another spot closer to our cabin. We’re booked here for three weeks, and then – theoretically – will head up toward the Boston area.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mightily tired of Covid-19. I want to go the National Park and hike. I want to go out to dinner, and shop. I want to get my hair cut! We won’t do anything imprudent – we will continue to follow the guidelines and take proper precautions. We don’t want to catch this thing. But going from a full-on active life to full-stop has been challenging to say the least. If we can safely move along to another area to explore wilderness (continuing to observe social distancing) – we will.

Fingers crossed.

RV itinerary vs. Covid

c0481846-wuhan_novel_coronavirus_illustration-splIn a day of travel we transitioned from mid-Summer into early Spring. Central Florida temperatures were already reaching the steamy 90’s when we left for Jones Station RV park near Greensboro, NC.  (As mentioned previously, we cancelled our first planned Northeast tour stop in Hilton Head Island, to head directly here for a month.) The weather is glorious with brisk nights and sunny warm days. Bushes are in colorful bloom and trees are clothed in young bright-green leaves.

A simple change of scenery has provided us a mental and emotional boost. Most everything was closed down in Central Florida, including parks and trails. Here, recreation areas are mostly open for hiking and biking, including our favorite trail system. Truth be told, as much as I loved our wintering spot, even before the virus shut-down we were starting to get hitch-itch. A break into routine was welcome, but we were more than ready to begin traveling again.

We were able to (sort of) visit Sean and Marissa. We had a package to pick up from their place (and had some things to give them), so we headed over there last Sunday afternoon. Jeff and Sean saddled up to hit the nearby mountain bike trails while I walked the greenway. Since they are at a much higher risk for virus exposure than us, we maintained the proper “social distancing”. We didn’t go into their apartment. We chatted outside in the parking lot for a bit, separated by the requisite 6 feet or more. It was so sad not to be able to give my kids a hug and really spend time with them.

This isn’t a bad place to self-isolate. We’re in a small, quiet campground in a rural area. Folks here are friendly enough, but maintaining their distance. The campground office is closed to campers — all interactions are by telephone. Many campgrounds have also closed all amenities, but fortunately this bath house remains open. (Our currently-malfunctioning shower only provides a lukewarm trickle, OK in a pinch, but not desirable to rely on.) We endeavor to get out every day into nature to hike or bike. The rest of the time is spent doing bus chores, working, crafting, and keeping up with the news coverage. Trips to the store are few and we are careful. I even sewed cloth face coverings to have handy.

We are truly fortunate. We are healthy, with no “underlying health conditions”. Our financial situation is unaffected by the virus disruption. We can self isolate, hopefully avoiding Covid-19 infection until either an effective treatment or a vaccine is available. We can flex our travel plans as the situation warrants, and can afford to go to any RV park with availability. At worst, we are mildly inconvenienced. We are some of the lucky ones.

Looking ahead, we’ve had to make further adjustments to our itinerary. Colonial Williamsburg is closed, so no reason to go there. The RV park near Washington DC is not accepting new check-ins. Our current RV park is fully booked, so we can’t stay here. After researching a variety of options, we identified and reserved a site at an RV park in Pigeon Forge. That will buy us 3 more weeks in familiar territory as we wait out the various “stay at home” orders. Hopefully after that we can rejoin our scheduled itinerary already in progress.

If not, we’ll figure something else out.

Stay well, my friends!

Frequently Asked Question: How Do You Plan Your Itinerary?

Banner-825x510In our travels and discussions with folks, one of the things we often get asked is: How do you decide where to go? It’s actually quite a process!

We have two overarching goals:  follow nice weather and see cool stuff. Like most snowbirds, we aim to head north in the spring, explore the northerly sections of the US in the summertime, and swing back south as winter approaches to stay out of ice and snow as much as possible. We joke about following 70 degrees, which is a great goal, but not always easy to do! This means that each year we’re crafting a “loop” which takes us north around and through various scenic spots and back south to a winter-over spot in either Florida or Arizona. We typically stay in one place the longest over winter, waiting for nice weather to arrive at points north.

Going into this fulltime RV life, we already had developed a fairly extensive bucket list of things we want to see and do. This includes National Parks, cultural and historical sites, mountain biking areas, favorite vacation spots, and areas where we can visit family and friends. For example, in our first year of full timing we completed a West Coast loop, focusing on visiting National Parks and mountain biking areas. (You can see a summary of our past itineraries by clicking on the “Our Travels” tab at the top of the page).

So, the first thing we do is to pick a general route  — do we want to loop through the East, West, or somewhere in the middle? We’ll pull out our personal bucket lists, research “best things to do” in the States we’ll travel through, and highlight areas of interest.

Then, we use the Allstays app to identify campgrounds in and around each area of interest. We check reviews on TripAdvisor and Campground Review web sites and look at the aerial photographs on Google Earth. We’re too big to stay just anywhere, so we are very particular to check big-rig friendliness: Are the roads wide? Are the sites level? Do they have 50 amp electrical hookup? Is it easy to get in and out? Not too many trees? We will venture farther away from our point of interest in order to stay at a campground with good reviews and big-rig-friendly, open sites.

Once we have our areas and campgrounds identified, we decide how long we’d like to stay in each area, depending on how much there is to do. Because it’s a lot of effort to move this beast, we generally stay no less than 1 week and may stay up to a month at any given location. We have found that we enjoy ourselves more when we take our time at each place, moving less frequently. We then chain the campgrounds together into a rough route with desired time frames. We typically plan a route that departs our winter spot around April 1 and returns south by late October to mid-November.

THEN, we start booking campgrounds. The need for advance booking varies wildly depending on the campground. Some campgrounds don’t open their booking window until January of that year. Some campgrounds can be booked almost at the last minute. Some campgrounds fill up more than a year in advance! Because we’re big, and like to stay longer than a few days, we try to book a year ahead – especially around holidays. We can always adjust later, if needed. You do have to watch for campground cancellation fees, however, that can be hefty if it’s done at the last minute.

Completing route planning initially takes several days of research to rough out the year’s schedule. Making the actual campground reservations requires several months of follow-up, depending on their booking windows. Sometimes we have to adjust our route around campground availability. I keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, including deposits paid and site notes.

We always have a rough idea of what we want to do a year or two out. The first year was West Coast. This year is a Midwest loop and next year will be the Northeast. The year after that will be West Coast again, hitting areas we missed the first time along with some favorite locations. After that who knows?? It’s nice to have a plan, although we’re never locked in. We can always change it up as we go along, and we certainly have done that!

And that’s how we do it!

 

2019 Itinerary Finalized! And Blog Improvements.

nnco-pyc_blk02_i01Now that we know where Sean and Marissa are going, we’ve finalized our 2019 plans and started looking at 2020!

From Florida, we’re heading up to our cabin in Gatlinburg for a month in a real house! Then we’ll mosey up through Indiana to visit friends and family.  I’ll be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom! We’ll get our final warranty work done at the Entegra Factory in Middlebury Indiana. Following that, we’ll enjoy the month of July in Petoskey Michigan, then will loop around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into Wisconsin. After visiting Milwaukee (Harley Museum!), we’ll shoot south to Nashville for the Labor Day holiday. We’ll visit Asheville NC for a couple of weeks, then stay a month near Greensboro, NC before heading back south to Florida. We’ll visit Disney for a week in late October, staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground and go nuts at the Theme Parks while our annual passes are still valid.

We’ll settle down for the winter season at a new RV resort: the Recreation Plantation in Lady Lake, Florida. It’s about a half hour from Jeff’s favorite mountain bike park in Santos and is quite near the retirement mecca of The Villages, with all of its amenities and activities. Recreation Plantation is primarily a seasonal park with many park models and a very full calendar of  activities. They take their activities seriously! The exercise classes, crafting, and gaming sessions appeal to me, while the softball league, poker sessions, and pool tables appeal to Jeff. The location also offers cooler winter weather as compared to South Florida, and a more convenient jumping off spot for heading out West in the spring of 2020.

The new route map is posted!

I’ve also added a new “Our Travels” page to the blog. If you look at the top, you’ll see a tab for the Blog, About Us, Contact Us, and now, Our Travels. I added a synopsis of our 2018 adventures and included our 2018 map. I plan to do that every year to keep a running history of our journey-ing! I do it mostly for myself, because I get forgetful in my old age! We’ve done so many things, it’s easy to forget stuff.

We’ve also started thinking about a new 2020 West coast loop. I know that seems WAY in advance, but we’ve learned (the hard way) that some campgrounds book a year (or more) in advance. We try to think ahead,  identify those critical places, and make a reservation well in advance. It’s much easier to modify/cancel plans than try to find something too late in the game!

Our time in Florida is nearly up. Just another week or so and we’ll be heading North again. Where did the winter go???

And the Match says …..

A couple of weeks ago I shared in a post about our uncertainty regarding this years’ itinerary. Our son’s longtime girlfriend will be graduating from medical school soon and progressing on to a residency program out of State. March 15 was the big day for fourth year medical schools all over the country as students learned of their destiny – all at the same time!

thumbnail_IMG_5245The magic hour was noon, so we arrived at the medical school building about a half hour early. A crowd of students and family were gathered, partaking of offered food/beverages and clustered around tables set in a Harry Potter theme (as selected by the students). The tables also held the all-important sealed envelopes, ready for the big reveal.

All medical students had received an email earlier in the week, notifying whether they had matched (or not), so some of the pressure was off. But, still, the excitement of soon learning the actual match location was palpable. As the noon hour approached, several nice speeches were made, and then a countdown from 10 …. 3 …. 2 … 1 …. MATCH! 117 envelopes were simultaneously ripped open and the squeals of celebration commenced! It was exciting and inspiring to hear excited students announce match locations all over the US.

And the Residency Match location for Marissa and Sean is …. Greensboro, NC! They had wanted to go somewhere with mountains and four distinct seasons (but not too harsh winters), and this certainly fits the bill. Her grandparents live in Asheville, NC and our cabin is only 4 hours away.  They are now in the throes of planning for relocation – housing, job changes, packing/moving, etc. However, the new location is about 9 hours from their current home, which is logistically much easier than something cross-country. It’s all good!

So, we are now able to complete our 2019 itinerary! We’ll run from Wisconsin down to Tennessee and North Carolina, spending a month in the Fall near Greensboro. Then, back to Central Florida for the winter season.

See you down the road!

 

Where will we go? Nobody knows …

nnco-pyc_blk02_i01If you know anything about us, you likely know that we are planners by nature. We research major purchases for months before pulling the trigger. We planned for this RV life for YEARS before launching into it. So, it’s not unlike us to have our travel itinerary planned out for months, even a year or more, in advance.

Not this time. At least, not for sure.

Our original plan was to do a Midwest loop this year, heading back to Florida for the winter, and then head out west in early 2020. We even have Florida campsites booked for all of next winter. So what’s the deal?

It’s simply this — we don’t know where our son will be after June. His long-time girlfriend graduates from medical school this May and will be matched somewhere in the country for her residency program. She interviewed at internal medicine residency programs all over the US – literally from Portland Maine to Portland Oregon. She has ranked her preferences and submitted her list to the nationwide residency match computer, along with all of the other medical students. A computer algorithm will bump her list against the hospitals’ ranked lists of interviewed students, and match her up to a program – somewhere.

March 15 is the big day …. Match Day. Medical students all over the country will open their little white envelopes on that day, all at the same time, and discover where they will spend the next 3 years. Sean has taken the day off and we will meet up with them at the Med school for the big reveal. Followed by a celebratory dinner at her Dad’s place.

So, March 15 will dictate our route come Fall. If she matches in the East US, we’ll likely keep to our Florida plans. However, if she matches somewhere out West, we will likely head west in the Fall and spend our winter somewhere in Arizona. Either way, it will position us to head in their direction the following Spring. The advantage of having a home on wheels — we can follow our hearts.

March 15 approaches …. we will let you know!

2019 Planning

Plan-AheadWe’re only a little more than halfway through 2018, but we are already looking at our route for next year. We have learned (the hard way) that popular seasonal campgrounds can book up many months (a year or more) in advance, so we are trying to keep ahead of the curve.

Our original thought was to do an east coast loop in 2019. However, we need to be in northern Indiana in June to complete our motorhome’s “post delivery inspection” within 2 years of  purchase. One of the reasons that we chose Entegra was their 2 year warranty and ability to have this inspection and any warranty repair work completed at the factory in Middlebury. Considering the timing and logistics, we are now planning a Midwest loop – pushing the Northeast loop until 2020.

So here’s how it’s shaping up:

  • January through March – in Florida (Orlando, South Florida, Orange City)
  • April – in our Gatlinburg cabin. We’re parking the bus and moving out for the month!
  • May – Mammoth Cave National Park, Brown County State Park (Indiana) and Anderson Indiana  (my home town).
  • June – Warranty work at Entegra, then Michigan City, IN
  • July – Petoskey, MI
  • August – Michigan upper peninsula, Cable WI, and Minneapolis
  • September – Wisconsin Dells, then Illinois, then head to Nashville for a month
  • October – Nashville, Birmingham, Tallahassee, Fort Wilderness (Disney!)
  • November – December:  South Florida

The theme for the year is friends and family:  We’ll have time to visit with our son and his girlfriend in Orlando. Gatlinburg is traditionally a gathering spot for friends and family, with rotating company during our stay at our second home. Then we’ll have several weeks in Indiana, where we have close family on both sides. We’ll be visiting friends in Illinois. Then wintering over in South Florida, our home for 35 years.

This fulltime RV life can be a bit isolating, but it can also afford opportunities for great quality time with loved ones.

Looking forward to it!

Planned itinerary

Upcoming travel plans (subject to change, of course!)

  • Oct 16 – 22: America’s Best Campground, Branson, MO
  • Oct 23 – 29: Catherine’s Landing, Hot Springs, AR
  • Oct 31 – Nov 4: Carlsbad KOA, Carlsbad NM
  • Nov 5 – 13: Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, NM
  • Nov 14 – March 17 2021: Rincon West RV Resort, Tuscon AZ
  • 2021 Preview: Sedona, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hurricane UT, Heber City UT, Kalispell MT, Ferndale WA, ALASKA CRUISE!, Port Angeles WA, Bend OR, Eugene OR, Redding CA, Napa Valley, Lodi CA, Monterey CA, Paso Robles CA, Palm Springs for the winter!