It’s that time of the year, so Happy New Year! We enjoy reading a snapshot of others’ year end blogs so hope others enjoy ours as well. And writing ours helps us keep our travels in perspective. We are still enjoying our lifestyle in spite of the challenges we’ve had this year. But that’s why it’s even more important to look back.
First, it helped us to look at what we wrote last year (click here if you missed it).WOW, our start this is is the same as last year. Once again, we started the New Year fleeing freezing cold temperatures in Virginia. We forgot how bad it was last year when we tried to close our slides to leave Fredericksburg. The slide toppers were frozen with a sheet of ice! This year, we had the slides pulled in for over two weeks to stay warm which we have never had to do before. The winter storm Benji arrived ahead of any other storms we’ve fled from in these four years of traveling.
Normally, we stay in Fredericksburg from Thanksgiving to over the New Years Eve Holiday. We especially like to stay on to watch our grandsons and give our daughter and son-in-law another date night before we leave. But this year, we had to leave early, on December 27, 2017. The freezing cold was just unrelenting and even more brutal cold was coming. While we try to accept whatever the weather brings us, it’s hard to live in a motor home in sustained freezing weather as you can imagine.
As we reflect on 2017, we see a few categories. So we’ll look back this way:
Adventure travels! After all, this is what our goal is, as we travel to find adventures. But this year, we can now define adventures in a few different ways: Traveling to new locations, motor home repairs, healthcare adventures and grandsons adventures! Wouldn’t these fit in here somewhere:
Merriam-Webster’s Definition of Adventure
- an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks; the encountering of risks
- an exciting or remarkable experience
- an enterprise involving financial risk
We will focus on the travels first. A few statistics: Bill drove the motorhome 8,271 miles. While we stayed in 45 Campgrounds: Private (28), State (4) , County (3), National Parks (2), and US Army Corps of Engineers (8) with a total of 32 sites were new for us. That means we stayed in 13 places as returnees. The place now we return the most to is in Fredericksburg, three times a year – where our grandsons live with their amazing mom and super dad (sometimes they think we like the grandsons more than them. Geez, what makes them think that???) Otherwise, Myrtle Beach comes in second then the other places are just on our way to and from Fredericksburg. We really tried to not return to Myrtle Beach this fall, but as written here, for health reasons we returned. And we are so glad we did as we made a new friend that we hope to see one day in his home state of Alaska! As important of course, the needed healing occurred.
This year, we traveled to and stayed in 10 states, but only three were new for us in our motorhome: Mississippi, Wisconsin and West Virginia. We don’t count a state unless we spend the night. Here are our 2016 and 2017 maps, courtesy of RVillage, for comparison. We are pretty excited we were able to really expand our travels – so of course, that is a goal to continue to do in 2018. But maybe in a different direction….we’ll see how it works out.
And below, click on our live travel map of all of our travels since we started in September 2013, courtesy of RVillage. You can click on each pin drop to see where we stayed if you are curious:
In our travels, we must say Wisconsin hit a home run! There was just so much to do and so little time (we limited ourselves to one month there), we didn’t have time or the energy to blog about each location. So we only have a summary blog post here of the most adventures one can have in 30 days! Interesting, though, as many GREAT hikes as we found there, our favorite one that month was in Minnesota. We are not counting that state as we just went over for a day hike, but it was amazing! It’s made us want to see more of Minnesota – of course. We also took a few days trips in Iowa while in Illinois – and that now makes us want to see more of Iowa!
The highlight is always seeing family, friends and making new friends. We make an annual trek to see family, so it’s always a bonus when family members travel to see us, which happened, but only coincidently in Mount Vernon, Illinois this year. And what a treat to realize you will be staying not too far from other family, as we did when we went back through Kentucky. As for friends, we have made a number of friends on the road, but none are as close to us as Jerry and Sherry Voight, over at USA RV Nomads. They became our mentors on how to buy a motorhome – at the time we met, that was our goal! We met them early on in our first big road trip in our 5th wheel in 2014. We’ve been able to see them two other times, in Florida. Since they still “work” on the road and are also able to travel full time, they more or less have a yearly travel schedule. We don’t plan that far ahead. We haven’t been able to cross paths until Wisconsin, this summer! They helped us secure a sight over the 4th of July – our big concern. It was easy peasy in Omro, Wisconsin. They are natives of the area, so they were our tour guides and showed us their actual hometowns. We had one day of hiking with them, around the Gordon Bubolz Preserve. It was a fabulous time and now we have an iconic picture of our visit with them. They are both photographers – Gerry a professional and his wife, his best student! So below Gerry’s amazing photo is my crummy attempts at photographing photographers at the Preserve – not easy taking a photo of photographers! (click on the smaller pictures to read the captions.)
We tried to not go back to Myrtle Beach – but for health reasons decided it was best. I had some minor surgery and needed about six weeks to recover – and I did, more or less. The surgery has left me with a lingering pain. Maybe some other blog post I will expand on it. But in the meantime, we were so glad we went back because we made a new life long friend. He wasn’t into RVing, but was a beach walker and was actually on a health journey adventure himself! We hit it off right away and we plan to keep on keeping on being his cheerleaders and encouragers. Meet our Alaskan friend, Jason and wish him the best as he continues to “slim” down for his health:
We count our blessings both of our moms are still with us. Bill’s mom turns 97 in a few months. My mom is 94. My mom is amazing. Every time she sees a doctor, not only is the doc amazed at her, but all the staff. Her mind is still crystal clear – almost too clear as her daughter’s can’t get away with anything! 😁 Sadly, Bill’s mom is not so good. She’s suffering from Parkinson’s and now dementia. She kept getting confused when Bill was visiting her with his brother. She’d ask Bill, as if he was David, who’s that guy over there? And then vice versa, when David was closer to her, she asked him the same. So both sat within her visual range and tried to say who they were – she responded by saying, “You’re confusing me.” So this was the heartbreak moment of the year.
As far as touristy things go this year, we really enjoyed seeing “The American Pickers Store,” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz’s place in LeClaire, Iowa. The craziest touristy thing we saw as the “House on the Rock” located between Dodgeville and Spring Green, Wisconsin. As fans of the American Pickers (I know, we are minimalists, but we enjoy the history aspect of the show) we quoted Mike a lot while touring the House – “we were drunk on junk!” It really is a marvel….we’re not collectors but we can appreciate what others collect.
Our favorite city to visit was Madison, Wisconsin with a close second of Frankfort, Kentucky. Madison had it all for us. As the State Capital, we loved touring the capitol and learning all of the history. It was one of the best tours we have ever been on. It also had an amazing urban botanical garden and several museums. Sadly, since we went on a Monday, the museums were closed as is typical. And the final thing was the fresh fruits and vegetables at a Farmer’s Market and even in the grocery stores. We were staying in a bit of a grocery store desert, so made two stops for those necessities! We saw and did all of this in one day. It was a 45 minute drive from our campground – the downside. As for Frankfurt, we were only 15 minutes away, if that. We went several days as there was so much to see. And as it’s State Capital, we also enjoyed the capitol tour! It was funny, both of the state capital tour guides said their capitols were the most beautiful in the nation! True, they were truly beautiful, but the MOST??? Now we want to see all of them so we can compare them. In fact, we haven’t really toured any other State Capitals so now we have a new goal as we travel. Here’s a few highlights of Madison:
Our best full week was in Door County, Wisconsin. We’ve heard about it for decades. It did not disappoint. What we loved were the nine state parks we hiked. Oh we did a lot of hiking in Wisconsin but the most at Door County. We also visited a number of lighthouses. Here are two pictures just to show the diversity when going to see a lighthouse. Sadly, we don’t have any epic pictures of any of the light houses we visited.
Our favorite day and hike was on July 11, 2017 when we had to catch two ferries over to Rock Island State Park (RISP). We had to be there early – which is a challenge for us! The first leg was to ride a ferry in our car over to Washington Island. We had to catch the second ferry at the opposite end of the Island, which meant we drove over there without seeing many sites. Once on the island, we did what we love the best, took a long hike around the RISP. Thankfully, we had time after the hike to do some sightseeing back on Washington Island – but we had to be ever mindful of the times to catch the last ferry.
But then, every place we went in our 2017 travels was GREAT! We could go back to every place we visited because we really didn’t see and do all that we wanted. But we were committed to not going back to the same places, but sometimes we just can’t help it.
The next category of adventures were all the issues we had with our Tiffany – our motor home. Those adventures of the “financial risk” category. We’ve said before, you don’t want to live in a motor home unless you have some spare change stashed away. They can be so much more expensive than a trailer or 5th wheel because of the engines/chassis/generators/air conditioners/batteries. I would add tires but then we had a flat in our 5th wheel and it was a pain to find that size and ply tire nearby. We are thankful we didn’t have any troubles with our engine (diesel are more costly but have longer lives) or chassis. But our generator cost us an unexpected $1,500 this year for a new wiring harness (which we were told was VERY RARE). It has stopped working for us in January 2017 – or that’s when we discovered it. The good news is that it caused Bill to do a lot of research (over five months) in trying to trouble shoot it. And now he knows more about how to have it serviced. In fact, he ended up tearing it up and did a lot of service himself – to no avail. But at least he learned a lot.
The other good news is that it caused us to see two new locations we otherwise would have missed. One was Salisbury, NC where we stayed in a sweet city park, Dan Nichols Park and Campground. We wished we could have stayed longer but we were in a hurry to get our generator fixed. We were only staying one night – but loved it so much we stayed two and vowed to go back. We didn’t see Salisbury, either. Then we went onto the Atlantic Cummins Service Center (first class treatment there) in Spartanburg, SC. Did I already pick a favorite city, or two? Geez, Spartanburg is right up there, too. We had hoped to only stay here two nights at best, but it ended up being five. Thankfully, that gave us enough time to write up this area, click here to read it if you missed it. We had a grand time, even it it was VERY costly. We decided to also get our diesel engine serviced while there so that made it really worth our while. Motorhome maintenance is also time consuming. But by having both items serviced meant faster service as well, believe it or not. And guess what? We met and made new friends while staying there, at Cummins. They parked next to us and also has a Phaeton! It does help you to become fast friends when you have the same brand and model motorhome!
After we had our generator fixed, we had lots of great travel adventures through Georgia and Alabama, up to Red Bay, Alabama (we now return there yearly). We like to return to the home of our Tiffany’s manufacturer, the Tiffin Service Center (TSC). This time, we really only needed to buy a lot of parts for Bill to DIY (do it himself) projects. It’s so much cheaper to buy the parts there, it pays us to go. And we do enjoy all the camaraderie you enjoy with other owners of the same brand motorhome. While there, one of our air conditioners (A/C) seemed to give us a little trouble. Bill really debated on replacing it while there. But it seemed to act OK after a few days so he thought we could go another year without replacing them. We have three, so he thought we could save up and replace them all next summer. So you know what is going to happen, right?
Once we arrived back in Fredericksburg for the month of August, the hottest month of the year in Virginia, one A/C went out. Flat out. Again, the good news, it wasn’t the one that was acting up before! Of the three A/Cs we have, two have heat pumps and other one is A/C only. It was one of the heat pump A/C – which of course are more expensive. And it would have been so much cheaper to buy the replacement A/C and have it installed at TSC. It would have saved us several $100. Bill actually began to think he could replace it himself. The only issue was how to get it on the roof? Our daughter and son-in-law are active and strong so they thought they could help….But then Bill discovered you can’t buy an RV A/C in the month of August anywhere. So he called TSC to see what they were doing as we know they make 12 new motorhomes a DAY! We found the honey hole – they had a warehouse of them and would be happy to ship one to us! It only cost $100 in the shipping fee – but they would drop it off right at our motorhome! And by now, Bill talked to a few pros and all said to have it professionally installed. We asked our neighbors who they use for such problems – and they had a wonderful RV Technician, Cecil, who could do it for us. But Bill had to help as he really needed a helper, so Bill said why not pay himself? 😳 We had to find someone like him after Camping World said they would only charge us a leg and an arm to do it, plus we had to disconnect and drive 45 minutes away to have it done, if we could get an appointment!
And then there are our tires issues. Oh what a nightmare they are becoming. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get four tires in RV motorhome size to match? Even though we bought four all new tires after our first blowout, we bought all new tires. We have six on our motorhome. We had to buy one tire “one the road, which turned out to be a Goodrich. We then had a month or more for the body shop to do our repairs and we asked them to also handle the purchase all of our new tires – since they had to repair the one wheel. Turns out, only four Toyo tires were available in our size, so we bought one more Goodrich to match the other and put those two up front. Bill wasn’t 100% comfortable with it but we had $700 invested in the one Goodrich. We went happily along until….our next near disaster when we had two tires blow, of course, it was one Goodrich and one Toyo. Since we were again on the side of the road, we were at the mercy of the emergency road side assistance. And do you think they could get us matching tires? Nope. We had to settle for two Goodyears! So now we have three brands of tires on our Tiffany. Need I say more???? I see a future blog post about tires as there is now a concern that could develop into a reason we may get off the road…..
This is becoming too long and depressing! So let’s go to the better part of our RV lifestyle – our grandsons! We always tell everyone we got into RVing because of them. When our first one was born, our daughter converted their guest bedroom (of their two bedroom townhouse) into the nursery. We needed our own bedroom – and the fact that we lived 14 hours away, meant why not get one on wheels. So it was a rather cavalier decision to by a recreational vehicle (RV). We just couldn’t think of another solution since we planned to visit often and for long stays. Long story short, they ended up having another baby and that meant they bought a bigger house two years later – but by then, we were hooked on the lifestyle. We sold everything and went “full-time.” So to make it work, we are there at least four months a year, spread over three visits, April (our daughter’s month and our anniversary), August (our two grandsons were born the same month and just days apart – and it’s also our second anniversary month) and then from Thanksgiving through the New Year.
This year, we got to see such huge growth spurts for the boys as they turned 4 and 2 in August. They are such charmers and have stolen our hearts. Our daughter and son-in-law are both hard working and it’s nearly impossible for them in these lean financial times (our son-in-law was laid off for almost a year – but thankfully was able to attend training while he obtained another skill & profession) to afford a family vacation or make it happen without help. So we don’t mind helping at all.
This year, we rented a cottage in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina for all of us. Jessica had both boys in swim lessons over the summer. Colin, the oldest, was ready to swim in our swimming pool at the OBX cottage – but it wasn’t heated and we were there “off season” in the third week of September – so the water was cold. Even the ocean was too cold. But the sand was wonderful as was the cottage. Everyone had a blast! If you go to our FaceBook page, (while there, please like it 😉), you will see my favorite picture of the boys at the beach. It was our first day there – we arrived at 4:00 pm after a miserable seven hour drive! The two boys were ready to let lose and they did!!! Then here are two pictures from their joint birthday party, one with their cousin and one with their mom:
We’ve loved hearing both of their language develop and watch them imitate being little men. Colin is a chatter box. His little brother tries to keep up with him – but no one understood much of what he was saying until the past two months. Now we are able to figure it out. Both sound so cute. And the littlest does like to mimic his big brother. That has it’s good points and bad points. The good point is that he was potty trained easily! No need to go into the bad point. Boys will be boys! We really cherish our time with them, but we just can’t move back there and live for multiple reasons, too many to say here. But it is a dilemma. We know one day we will have to get off the road and we want to be relatively close to them. So that bad news of this year was that we had hoped Wilmington, North Carolina might be our option as the ideal place to settle down. It met all of our basic requirements – for me to be no more than five hours away from them -and for Bill to be near the ocean in a small college town with good healthcare. Sadly, the one thing that is the deal breaker is traffic – and Wilmington has it bad. It’s over developed and in land locked area with no room to expand the road system. 😪
So what is ahead for us? Looking back on this year, what are our thoughts? We just can’t decide where we’d live when our traveling days are over – so that means we will just keep on trucking as long as our health holds out. So far, we are both in relatively good health – we know our heart healthy life style (update written here) is helping. For 2018, we basically plan to mimic our 2017 travels but add a few more states to our map.
From our morning devotional this morning – and has been a work in progress for us both for years – and how we pay we will get better at it this year:
All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” 1 John 15-16 NLT
“Dear Lord, help me (us) to love others the same way that You have loved me (us). Amen”