Category Archives: Life on the Road

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.

Hangin’ Out at Home

IMG_5875Although our primary residence is our motorhome, we DO own a couple of other properties. Our Orlando house is our “domicile” for all legal purposes and is where our mail goes. Family members live there and forward our mail to us, wherever we happen to be. And then, we have our vacation rental log cabin in Gatlinburg.

Due to the Covid-19 disruption, our rentals for the next few weeks cancelled out – thus opening up the cabin for us to occupy. So, last week we packed up clothing and cat, buttoned up the bus, and left for Gatlinburg. Although we love our motorhome, having more living space is quite a nice change of pace. Pumpkin loves the extra room! And you can’t beat the view.

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Everything is shut down here. It’s eerie to walk through downtown Gatlinburg in broad daylight and see NO tourists and every shop and restaurant closed. Pigeon Forge isn’t much better, although a few drive-through (or take out) restaurants and businesses deemed critical remain open. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also closed –  barricaded at every entrance and trailhead. Our log cabin community is a ghost town, just us and the maintenance guy. It’s certainly not difficult to self-isolate!

We’re keeping ourselves occupied by tackling a few cabin repairs and upgrades. Things like: stripping a peeling wallpaper border on the main floor, installing a new gas grill, renewing the deck/cabin staining, and having UV blocking window film applied to the main floor vaulted windows to cut the afternoon sun/heat. We’ve got time, and vendors around here aren’t all that busy right now. There’s always something we can do!

At the end of the month, we’ll need to retrieve the bus from Greensboro and park it at our next reserved campsite in Pigeon Forge. At least the bus will be closer to us if we need anything! We plan to continue living in the cabin through mid-May while we assess our next move, based on what is happening around the country.  And hopefully by then, some things will be open around here! Not to sound whiny, but I’d sure like to take a hike in the Park and maybe even go out to dinner.

Wouldn’t we all ……

 

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!

Winter Wrap-Up

Up until March, our winter season was going beautifully. We found a wonderful winter home at Recreation Plantation. It was everything we hoped for: plentiful activities, friendly residents, and nice weather. (I’ll do my official campground review later.)

I would estimate that about 2/3 of the park sites are occupied by “permanent” units, either park models or trailers that stay year-round. A small cadre of residents are year-round, but most are snowbirds that migrate with the seasons. A majority appear to be from the Midwest, with a smattering from Canada and elsewhere. An overflowing  calendar of activity options facilitated integration into the community. We quickly made friends and established a daily/weekly rhythm. I felt entirely at home.

One new hobby I picked up here is Swedish weaving. Also known as “huck weaving”, the craft involves weaving designs with either yarn or thread onto an even weave fabric such as monks cloth or aida fabric. It’s not new, but is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Having done handicrafts of various types for years, it was easy for me to learn. Once you learn the basics, the possibilities are really endless. I’ve been making table runners and placemats for family members (since I don’t have any place in the motorhome to use for myself!)

Another true pleasure was finding a place to sing again. A good friend from South Florida (now living in this area) invited me to her church. She introduced me to her choir director and the next thing I knew, 2 fat binders of sheet music and rehearsal schedule were thrust into my hands. I was immediately embraced into the alto section, and within weeks I was also involved in a smaller women’s ensemble, sang in a trio, and performed as a substitute hand bell choir ringer. I didn’t realize just how much I had missed singing in a group and making beautiful music. Singing in the choir has been such a blessing to me.

The mega-retirement Villages community is literally next door, which provides a huge variety of dining, shopping and entertainment options. We got hooked on $5 movie Tuesdays, along with happy hour and free bands at the Village squares. Cart/bike paths stretch for miles along scenic green space. It was idyllic.

Until March. When everything abruptly shut down to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. No more theater or entertainment. No choir or church. No shopping, except for essentials. No restaurants. We get out and walk or bike on the paths, and shop for groceries as needed, but otherwise mainly hang around the bus. At least my Swedish weaving projects are coming along nicely!

We are packing up to head North first thing in the morning. We’ve already had to adjust our plans, canceling the planned Hilton Head Island stay. Everything is closed, so there’s no point in going there. We are headed straight up toward Greensboro, near our son. However, we may not be able to see him there. He is still working and his significant other is a medical resident, working in the hospital on the front lines of this pandemic. They don’t want to risk exposing us. For me, that’s the hardest part of dealing with this situation.

We’re currently booked to stay in Mebane NC for a month. We’ll reassess in a few weeks and adjust our plans as needed. It’s possible we may just have to hunker down there until this pandemic cycles through. The campground itself isn’t fancy, but it is in a rural area and an easy place to self-isolate …. for a while.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Looking back …. and ahead

looking back aheadOur time at Recreation Plantation is nearly finished! Our 5-month winter stay has gone by so quickly, it’s hard to believe we are already in mid-March.

I’ve posted a 2019 travel summary under the “Our Travels” tab. Last year offered a more relaxed style of travel. We drove fewer miles and stayed longer. We were able to spend a lot of quality time with friends and family. Our warranty issues were solved during service work at both Spartan and Entegra. We explored new parks and landed in a great spot for the winter season. There were a few challenges last year, including dealing with repairs from a fire at our beloved Gatlinburg cabin, and an invasion of stupid stinkbugs! While the bus was parked at our winter spot, we traveled back to South Florida in November, flew home for Christmas, drove up to our cabin in January (to complete repairs) and even went on a February week-long Southern Caribbean cruise with my sister! It was a great year.

But now the world has changed. We’re in the midst of an evolving public health crisis as the Covid-19 virus spreads throughout our communities. Activities in our area have been almost entirely shut down – no exercise classes, theaters, or church services. Stores are stripped of cleaning wipes and, of all things, toilet paper. It feels like hurricane prep mania, without knowing when/where the hurricane will hit or how big it will be. It’s hard to prepare adequately, when we don’t know exactly how all of this is going to play out.

So what will we do? We had already booked campgrounds for the year ahead and we are moving out as scheduled at the end of the month. We are currently healthy. RV parks aren’t closing (nor giving refunds) and our camping lifestyle lends itself easily to “social distancing”. We may not be able to do everything we hoped (like, visit museums and such), but I expect that forests and mountains will be open! This isn’t a vacation, it’s our lifestyle. After all, we have to live somewhere! We’ll be smart about it and follow recommendations regarding gatherings and hygiene. And we’ll continue to monitor the situation and adapt if needed.

We live in interesting times, friends!

Be well.

 

 

Taking a Vacation from RV-ing

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I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. Since we are stationary here in Central Florida for such a long time (5 months), we have been taking the opportunity for travel that is a bit different than our normal “mode”.

First, in November, we made a quick weekend trip down to our old South Florida haunts. Part of it was for a work meeting, but the rest was to see friends and run / bike in familiar places. Staying at a hotel directly on Hollywood Beach wasn’t so bad either! It was a lovely visit.

Over the holidays, we flew to Indiana to visit friends and family. It was simply wonderful, just enjoying great food, nice wine, and time together. That’s what the holidays are all about!

Then, a few days after returning from Indiana, we packed up the truck (and Pumpkin) and drove to Gatlinburg. I had mentioned earlier that we had a small dryer fire in June at our rental cabin. Fire damage was minimal, but smoke damage was extensive. We had expected repairs to be completed much earlier, but contractor, insurance and permit delays all conspired to drag out the process. We arrived in early January to find, to our delight, that our contractor had done a fantastic job. We spent two weeks purchasing replacement items, hanging TVs and décor, scrubbing and cleaning, and generally getting the cabin ready to place back on rental. Jeff’s brother joined us, bringing tools and expertise, which was an enormous help. I have to say that the place looks better than new! I love our cabin, and am so very happy that she is beautiful and fully functional again. All’s well that ends well!

That was last week. This Friday we are flying to Puerto Rico for a seven day Southern Caribbean cruise!! It’s a first for us, but we are traveling with my sister who is an experienced cruiser. She helped select the itinerary and has provided lots of handy tips. I’m really stoked about the whole trip – life on the ship, shore excursions, the entertainment, great food, and of course, adult beverages! I think it’s going to be just fantastic!

And then ….. just a few more weeks and we’ll be moving along in our lovely motorhome again, beginning our East Coast tour!

 

Expectation vs. Reality

expectOnce upon a time, I was an uber-busy working wife and mother. I had a more-than-fulltime job, a husband and two young boys to care for, and juggled volunteer work at the boys’ schools AND church. Free time was nonexistent and sleep was optional.

Yet, as frantic and stressful as that time was, it was an enormously productive and satisfying period of my life. My life was full in every sense — full of busy-ness and stress to be sure, but also full of the joys of raising children, and interacting within a rich social network. I enjoyed deep and satisfying relationships within my work, social, church, family, and running circles. However, as I juggled and multi-tasked, I couldn’t help but long for that time in the misty distant future when I would have fewer responsibilities and the option to sleep in.

Within a few short years, everything changed. Our older son went off to college. Our younger son died in a car accident shortly thereafter, leaving us instant empty nesters. That traumatic event left Jeff and I rudderless for a time, re-evaluating every priority. I opted to take an early retirement package, and left my longtime job. Conflict at church ultimately led to my drifting away, after 20 years of intense involvement. Even my running group mostly fell apart, due to injuries or shifting priorities. Adrift, I immersed myself in preparations for our long-planned full-time RV life. After all, that was the dream — a life of travel and adventure. We sold the house, gave almost everything away, moved into the bus, and took off. Total freedom – at last! No boring routine, few responsibilities, and new horizons around every corner! Nirvana!

So here we are, two years in. Did expectation meet reality?

For me — partly yes and partly no. Don’t get me wrong, I love travel and adventure! We’ve had some absolutely marvelous times exploring national parks, visiting cities, and learning new things everywhere we go. But, I’ve faced some adjustment struggles along the way. I underestimated how challenging it would be to cope with a constantly-shifting environment after living in the same neighborhood for 30 years. I struggled to establish a healthy routine, when our days HAD no regular pattern. And I missed my people — my daily, in-person interaction with friends and family who knew me down to the bone. No amount of social media can fill that need for face-to-face human contact.

So, we’ve changed things up. This past year, we prioritized visiting and spending time with friends and family. We slowed our travels, spending more time in places, which helped me to re-establish healthier habits and an exercise rhythm. We have elected to spend the entire winter season – five months – at an active adult retirement community. And here, I have really found myself again. I’ve thrown myself into the daily activity schedule, made friends, and even joined a local church choir. Once again my days are full, productive, and include ample opportunity for social interaction with like-minded folks. It’s a place where I can feel part of a community again and enjoy an established routine – for a while. I feel more like *me* than I have in years and I’m having a blast!

Now, we don’t want to STAY here forever, we still want to travel. But, I think I’ve found the way to have it all. If I can get my social fix during the winter season, I can happily pursue adventures the rest of the year. Plus, we can bake in visits to family and friends as we travel. For me, I think this will create the happy balance.

So, what have I learned in this process?

  • Any major life change requires a period of adjustment. I expected that, but it hit me harder and lasted longer than I anticipated.
  • I underestimated how essential certain aspects of my life are to my daily happiness; especially, an exercise routine and meaningful social interaction.
  • If you’re not happy – change something. And keep changing things up until it’s working. If you can identify whatever increases your soul-level happiness, you can seek creative ways to fill that fundamental need. (Hint: it’s never about getting more “stuff”). You can ALWAYS change something, even if it’s just your perspective on the current situation.

We’re deep in the holiday season, which often carries its own heavy set of expectations. If you’re stressed or unhappy about something – change things up!

Here’s hoping you find your happy balance, through the holidays and beyond.

I Am Grateful ….

happy-thanksgiving

In this season for giving thanks, I want to express gratitude for all of the many blessings God has showered on us. I am so grateful for:

  • Our robust good health,
  • The financial ability to enjoy this RV life of adventure,
  • Our guardian angels who have kept us safe along the way, despite our newbie mistakes and steep learning curve,
  • Our life in this beautiful country that provides so many amenities in the way of parks, highways and rest areas,
  • Our family and friends that support and cheer us along the way,
  • And for you, dear readers, that have joined us on our journey!

We wish all of you a most blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Throwback Thursday Post: Random Stuff I’ve Learned While Roaming the Country In An RV

Random MusingsI first published this a year ago and it’s all still true!


Here are a few tips, observations and random musings gleaned from our life on the road:

When you hook up your sewer hose, make darned sure that all of the “hooks” are engaged and the hose is securely seated against the fixture. Otherwise you will end up with a disgusting smelly mess when you go to dump the tanks. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Did you know that California passed a law prohibiting shops from providing disposable plastic bags for free? You have to take your own shopping bags or purchase a re-usable plastic bag from the store for no less than 10 cents each. Same goes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since I re-use plastic grocery bags to scoop the kitty litter box, I was forced to purchase rolls of disposable plastic bags from the pet store for that purpose. Does that make sense to you?

Investigating the local cuisine of every area is fantastic! We’ve enjoyed New Orleans Cajun and Creole cooking; Arizona authentic Mexican food; fantastic smoked salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and finger-licking Memphis barbeque. In New Mexico, green chili capital of the world, you can have your New Mexican dish served with green chilis, red chilis, or both (Christmas). Christmas is the best!

I’ve attended Sunday morning service at different denomination churches all over the country. I find that the similarities far outweigh the differences. Maybe we would get along better if we focused on the love of Jesus rather than sectarian differences.

When you buy an RV, make sure it is livable with all of the slides in. We have spent days at a time with our slides in – while in transit, while getting warranty repair work done, and while at campsites where we can’t effectively level. Aside from having a few cabinets/drawers that are inaccessible, we can live quite comfortably. That’s good design.

If you travel to higher elevations (like, Santa Fe at 7500 feet), things you bought at sea level will randomly spit at you when you open them. Mustard. Hand lotion. Shampoo. The occasional can of root beer. You have been warned.

Check your tires’ inflation pressure early and often. Inflation pressure varies significantly with altitude and temperature changes. Since both can vary greatly during national travel, it’s better to over-check than not. Investing in a tire pressure monitoring system is even better.

The desert has a lot of spiky, dangerous plants, but the worst is the teddy bear cholla cactus. A furry-looking plant with a deceptively gentle name, its easily-detached segments studded with a million tiny fish hook spines exist solely to cause you harm. They will hurt you. Avoid at all cost.

If you belong to a Credit Union, they likely belong to the Credit Union Co-op / Shared branches scheme. That grants you access to a nationwide network of “sister” credit union branches at which you can conduct business: deposit checks, make withdrawals, arrange for wire transfers, and complete essentially any transaction that you can perform at your home location. It effectively turns your local credit union into a national bank. That’s been extremely useful for us as we travel.

After travel, please be careful while opening overhead bins as items may have shifted during your flight. Also, the refrigerator.

Wine tasting at 3 wineries is about my limit for one afternoon. Any more than that and I’ll get loopy and buy too much wine. Then we are forced to drink it. Such a problem.

That’s all for now!

 

 

Greensboro

008I am sooooo behind in blogging!! Time has simply gotten away from me, but I’ll do my best to catch you up!

After departing the Hendersonville area, we traversed to a spot between Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Our campground was located about 45 minutes from Sean’s place in Greensboro, a bit farther than we would have liked, but it was the only suitable place for us. I’ll do a full campground review later.

Our main purpose for being there was really just to be able to spend time with Sean and Marissa. The weekends were the only time they were free, but we made the most of the time we had! We rode bicycles along the local greenway, caught a movie, enjoyed meals together, and even fit in a Broadway show (Aladdin) at the Durham Center for the Performing Arts. (The show was highly entertaining!) One Saturday we travelled to nearby Pilot Mountain State Park to hike and watch Sean show off his (impressive) rock climbing skills.

It was fantastic to see how they are settling into their new home. Sean’s rock climbing gym is 10 minutes away, and some of the best climbing in the East US is within an hour or so. A beautiful bicycle greenway literally travels through their apartment complex, providing immediate access to a variety of mountain biking trails. His new job is going well. Marissa’s medical residency program is extremely demanding, but she takes advantage of the recreational opportunities as her schedule permits. All you want as a parent is to see your children happy and successful. It’s all good!

During the weekdays, we explored the area. We discovered a little gem of a park: George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve. The park includes a network of flowy mountain biking, hiking, and multi-use trails that worked perfectly for our regular work-outs. As the weather cooled during our month-long stay, we got just a taste of chilly fall weather and changing leaves.

During our stay, we also had plenty of time to catch up on chores such as washing the bus, sanitizing our fresh water tanks, changing water filters, and such. It is a pleasant area, but it’s not a particularly exciting place to visit. If it weren’t for Sean and Marissa living there, it would not have been on our radar!

The only fly in the ointment, literally, were those darned stinkbugs! As we prepared to pack up and leave Greensboro, we pulled in one of our slides to find dozens of those pesky critters imbedded in one of the slide seals! We likely picked up the infestation at our Hendersonville location and carried them unknowingly to Greensboro. We squished all we could find, cleaned out the seal, and went on our way, knowing that there were likely plenty that we had missed. After reaching Florida, we went on an intensive bug hunt, through basement and cabinets, high and low, seeking and destroying. Nearly a month later, we still see an occasional stinkbug emerge from some unknown crevice. It’s rare though, so — I think — we’ve got a handle on the little stinkers.

Hopefully.