Reflections on December 2016


Colin took to Santa right away. Bryce wasn't too impressed, initially!

Colin took to Santa right away. Bryce wasn’t too impressed, initially!

Who doesn’t envision a Norman Rockwell December? We began to think Hurricane Matthew was going to severely alter our Thanksgiving to New Years time with our precious grandsons and their parents. (They are pretty precious, too!) Not that we had visions of the perfect Holy-day season, but we sure hoped it would be a great one for the boys.

While we are official residents of Sebring, Florida, we have made Fredericksburg, Virginia our “home base” as we plan to be here four times a year for a total of about five months. So far, we have been here about six months a year, but that was because we extended our time for the birth of both of our grandsons. But our home has wheels and we were made to travel during our “golden” years! And for as long as our health holds out…. Continue Reading

The Dunes Being Restored at Myrtle Beach! (Part 3)


High Tide

High tide, 10:08 am, Saturday, November 19, 2016, five days after the “superman.”

Just when we thought we ran out of things to write about the dunes….I was going to write about the high tides, the airplanes and the projects Bill has done. 

We left our motorhome here for a week to be with family after the death of Bill’s uncle (age 97 – so he had a fabulous life) and spent Thanksgiving (November 24, 2016) with our grandsons, their parents, and with our son-in-law’s mom, step dad, sister and nephew. We had a fantastic time and came back to a major surprise….hang on.

The fencing posts you see in this picture show where the dunes used to be, prior to Hurricane Matthew. The high tide only reached up to the darkened areas of the beach.  Hopefully, you can see where the row of beach front houses only have a smattering of the beach. I tried to zoom in to better show, but this was the best I could get. Continue Reading

The Dunes at Myrtle Beach! (part 1)


Amazing that we captured this picture of the sand dunes at between Myrtle Beach State Park and Springmaid Beach.

Amazing that we captured this picture of the sand dunes at Myrtle Beach State Park. We couldn’t find where we took this picture as these dunes are gone!

We’re in our sixth, or really seventh, stay in Myrtle Beach since we began RVing in 2013. What we love the most is the wide and flat beach – we can easily walk five miles! We’ve been mesmerized by the dunes and how much they protect not only the beach, but the campgrounds, houses and hotels that line the beach front. So of course, we were anxious to see the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October, 2016.  I’ve tried to find old pictures for comparison, but after took pictures upon our arrival and subsequent beach walks.

Hurricane Matthew’s storm surge and waves overwashed about 15 percent of the sand dunes on Florida’s Atlantic coast, 30 percent along Georgia’s coastline, and 42 percent of dunes on South Carolina’s sandy beaches as the powerful storm brushed past the Southeastern states October 6-9, according to USGS experts’ preliminary review of USGS low-altitude before-and-after images along of the coast and NOAA photographs collected after the storm.” (www.usgs.gov)

Continue Reading

Our September/October and Hurricane Matthew


Myrtle Beach has the most beautiful sunsets!

Myrtle Beach has the most beautiful sunsets!

We mentioned in our last post, in order to be a successful/happy/content full-time RVer, one must be flexible! Bill likes life a bit orderly, no surprise to those who know him, “let’s plan and do it!” I’m more of a spontaneous person, ready to rock and roll to most of life’s punches. Or is it the other way around?  😉, anyway, we are a great team!

We continue to reflect back on what an ideal summer we had in Kentucky! (If you missed the posts, start reading here or just for our recap, read about it here.) A well needed action-packed summer full of lots of miles, parks, hiking, sightseeing, etc. We thought after nearly two months of family time, six weeks in Myrtle Beach would be a relaxing break. And besides, we planned to be back in Fredericksburg for six weeks, from Thanksgiving to the New Year (to include the all important Christmas with family). We’d get in at least a five mile beach walk most days, Bill would complete a number of minor repairs/modifications to our RV, plus finish polishing it! Ah, life is good 😊! Continue Reading

The rest of our summer (August and September)


To make it in this lifestyle, as full time RV (recreational vehicle) travelers, one must be flexible.  We like to think we are and so far, we are making it! But we sure have had our moments. So our last post, we provided a recap of our exciting summer. It was about as ideal as we could hope for as far as traveling and seeing new places is concerned. The moments we had was driving our sweet Tiffany (our 40′ monster motor home) and flat towing our car was driving on totally unknown roads! Thankfully, a fellow traveler and blogger read about some of the “tight spots” we got into and suggested using Google Earth to check out our routes before we take off! Success!

Then we arrived at what has become our “home” campground near our daughter and family. It’s an inexpensive (monthly rate) RV family campground, complete with two playgrounds, heated swimming pool, putt putt golf and gently rolling hills surrounded by wooded lots. The downside was that it was a 30 minute drive, or an hour each day. And we went every day to our daughter’s home.  We’ve stayed here about five months so they know us. We had a reservation, like we do every time. BUT for some reason, they gave our reservation away, again….so gotta be flexible. It was not a good start to the month….

Continue Reading

A recap of our summer travels…


Started out just north of Richmond, Virginia, to Chattanooga, TN

On May 10, 2016, we started out just north of Richmond, Virginia: then to Mt. Airy, NC; to Waynesville, NC; to Chattanooga, TN; to Red Bay, AL; To Land Between the Lakes, KY; to Mt. Vernon, IL (with a weekend car trip to Missouri); back through Kentucky) ending in Wytheville, VA.

We had a wild summer! We never expected it to be so hot nor the roads so narrow. Were we naive or was it just hot everywhere? And the roads! Who would have ever thought we’d be so challenged?

Bill drove our motorhome 2,648 miles from May 10 until we returned to Virginia on July 29. Sadly, we didn’t keep a log of how many miles we drove our car over the summer but we guess around 8,000!

We thought a summary of our summer would be fun to help us relive (and remember) our adventures. And we want to mention we celebrated two years since of the sale of our stix ‘n bricks house on July 16, 2014, and finally got rid of the rest of our worldly possessions. It was a gradual process. We now can call ourselves minimalists! You can read more  here if you’ve missed that post. We also hit our our third anniversary when we started RVing, September 4, 2013.  Continue Reading

Wytheville, Virginia and the end of our summer travels


What beautiful West Virginia mountains we drove over and through!

While traveling for years, we’ve bought fuel in the Wytheville, Virginia area. It is at the crossroads of I-81 and I-77 in southwestern Virginia. Bill once said we should visit one day, so finally, we spent seven nights here, July 21-28, 2016. It was a  230 miles drive from Carters Cave State Resort Park. Click here if you missed that post.

If you’ve ever been through West Virginia, you can imagine it wasn’t Bill’s favorite state to drive through in our big rig….but thankfully the interstate system was great and all went smoothly. Note the beauty in this picture, above. Bill’s enjoyed our travels all summer, going around or even less than 100 miles per move.  This final leg of our summer was just a bit long. Thankfully, we were almost to our final summer destination: time with our grandsons and their parents! Continue Reading

Carter Caves State Resort Campground, Final Post


This was our favorite bridge, challenging to hike down to, but so worth it.

This was our favorite geologic site, Fern Bridge, although it was challenging to hike down to see, but so worth it.

“We’re going to have to rappel our way out of here!”

Yep, deep down into our hike to see Fern Bridge, Bill hollered that up to me! He says some of the funniest things on our hikes. I should do a better job of recording what he says….

We are continuing to write about our time in our last Kentucky campground and this time, it’s a state park. Click here if you missed the previous post about our arrival.

After a good nights rest, we were ready to conquer Three Bridges Trail (TBT) and see some of the best the natural geological sites in the park. We tried to find Smokey Bridge the night before, allegedly the biggest of the three. We actually had walked right past it! It was hidden by the trees. The only way to see it, you had to walk down lots and lots of manmade stairs, my nemesis. We skipped it.

We’re now using the All Trails app to help track the elevation in our “mountainous hikes.”  The TBT turned out to be the perfect hike and I captured it correctly: Continue Reading

Carter Caves State Park and Campground, Olive Hill, Kentucky


The red dot is Olive Hill, Kentucky, our last stop.

The red dot is Olive Hill, Kentucky, our last stop. Photo from http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/carter-caves/

This is our final stop in Kentucky and what a great place to end: Carters Cave State Park and Campground, Olive Hill, Kentucky. I’ll call it the Campground in the rest of the post. What a wonderful summer we’ve had!

Since Bill is the driver and is good at researching places visit, he sets our itinerary. I’ve never had a problem with his choices, except I really wanted to see some family members in Louisville. It was just too far north and too much traffic for his comfort. 😞 Plus, we had decided we wanted to do a lot of hiking in the mountains this summer…. Continue Reading

Lexington, Kentucky (also Slade and Stanton)


This is the sight we see as we exited Slade.

This is the sight we see as we exited the Mountain Parkway to Slade.

Slade, Kentucky is the home of the Natural Bridge State Resort. It’s a very small town, population was 303 in 2010. The Red River Gorge is also here. If you look up Slade on Trip Advisor, you will want to come! There are so many things to do if you love nature and the outdoors. It’s located at exit 33, off the Mountain Parkway. There is also a nice rest stop at this exit. If you think you somehow passed your exit coming from the west, which we did as we saw 4 Guys RV Resort back a mile or so, you can easily turn around at this exit – in a motor home towing a car! But we didn’t miss our exit, we had to exit here (the picture shows where we exited, drove to the A-frame business, turn left and drive west a few miles. Read our first post about this area if you missed it by clicking here. Continue Reading

Daniel Boone National Park (The rest of our hikes)


Site 42

We’ve been hoping to get an amazing photo of our motorhome. Here is one attempt. We had to include Old glory in this photo with Red River Gorge in the background.

We wrote about about our fabulous hike in Natural Bridge State Park on our first day in this area – which is nestled in the Daniel Boone National Park (DBNP). If you missed it, click here.  Then we wrote about our not so fabulous hike in the Red River Gorge, also nestled in the DBNP. If you missed it, click here.

We’ve decided to return to the Natural Bridge State Park (NBSP) for the rest of our hikes while we are here. On July 13, 2016, we headed back to NBSP for what we hoped would be a 7 & 1/2 mile hike, Sand Gap Trail. Yes, we thought we were ready for a long hike! We used All Trails to take us to the trailhead, which is in the State Park. It got us close, but we had to ask for help. So went to the Gift Shop to ask for directions. We were told the trail was closed due to a storm, there were too many trees down, AND they had to rescue some people stuck on it last night. She suggested we hike on Hood’s Branch Trail, close by. She also said to watch for the copper head snakes. Oh this sounds exciting! Continue Reading

Daniel Boone National Park (Introduction to Red River Gorge)


http://www.gopoco.org/maps/

Photo image of Kentucky, captured from GoPoCo.org website

This map shows where we had multiple hiking adventures, from July 11 to 18, 2016. We were in the blue area, Powell County, Kentucky. We also drove over 60 miles on July 16 to Lexington, marked by one of the three orange stars, one day. We’ll have a post about that trip.

We stayed in a brand new RV park, 4 Guys RV Park. Some parts are still under construction, but it didn’t bother us. The office hours are of an evening, so we didn’t get a map or the Wifi password until after our hike to Natural Bridge. We were told the Red River Gorge (RRG) is excellent for hiking. I guess he was kind and didn’t mention our age….😁  I said we love to hike, so I guess he thought we looked fit enough (or again he was kind) to not mention how rugged it is!

Anyway, we were psyched from our hike the day before to Natural Bridge. And after hearing the affirmation the RRG is great for hiking, we were told to take the  Historic Nada Tunnel. We were ready to tackle the RRG – or will it tackle us? Continue Reading

Daniel Boone National Park (Natural Bridge State Park)


Daniel Boone National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest from the Forest Service, USDA home page. We are near the top, just under the sign that says “I-64”

On July 11, 2016, We headed north from London, Kentucky to our next adventure, just 70 miles north and slightly east. “The Daniel Boone National Park (DBNP) embraces some of the most rugged terrain west of the Appalachian Mountains. Steep forested slopes, sandstone cliffs and narrow ravines characterize the land…Spread across 21 counties of southern and eastern Kentucky, more than 708,000 acres of national forest system lands are managed within a 2.1 million-acre proclamation boundary.”  We’ve emphasized rugged as I don’t think we read about the forest from this website! Continue Reading

London, Kentucky (final post)


Sheltowee Trace Trail Head

We were excited to learn this trail head was only about 5 minutes from our campground. We arrived here just before a big thunderstorm hit the area. Glad we checked our weather app, so we didn’t try it on our first day here.

Our last few days (July 8-10, 2016) were filled with two nice hikes in God’s creation and one day worshipping Him with a large congregation of other believers. We love the peacefulness of hiking in the woods.  We like to focus on the goodness in the world so let’s take a quick look at our last two hikes, one starting the descent down from this picture and the other was across the street.

The name, Sheltowee Trace Trail intrigued me so I had to look it up and found great information from this website about this 290 mile long trail.  Here are a few excepts from the web: Continue Reading

London, Kentucky (Let’s eat and hike!)


Our first hike at Cumberland Falls State Park. This should have been a clue to what eastern Kentucky is made of!

As said in our last post, we came to this area for a few reasons. We are continuing our trek back to Virginia through Kentucky, to spend about 5 weeks with our grandsons. Both were born in August, so we plan to do a lot of celebrating as the oldest one turns three and our baby turns one.

You can read all you want about an area, but until you are actually there  start walking around, you never know what you will like, what you will discover or how the weather will affect your plans! We really had no expectations, just that it sounded like Kentucky was a beautiful state and we planned to find that out – and we can confirm, it is full of beauty! But we’ve had so many unexpected surprises along the way. Most good, but eastern Kentucky hiking is not for the faint of heart! Continue Reading

London, Kentucky (Arrived on July 6, 2016)


Just a snap shot of the campgrounds where we stayed (in red) and the many different locations we visited.

Just a snap shot of the campgrounds (in red) and the many different locations (in green) where e’ve visited. Click on the picture to go to our live map.

We are finally getting into rhythm with Kentucky! We had a rocky start when we first arrived in the Land Between the Lakes in late May.  Click here if you missed that post. We hoped our difficulty was not a sign of things to come while in Kentucky. Well, guess what? It was! We’ve had to turn around, unhook, go back, and make more u-turns in Kentucky than ever! But we are on roads less traveled and it has all been worth it!

Our trip to London, Kentucky from the Mammoth Cave area was just over 100 miles. We are actually enjoying the short trips between stops, and we have decided to stay longer at each location. Seven days per location has become comfortable, and we stayed eight days in the Mammoth Cave area. Continue Reading

The Rest of the Story (near Mammoth Cave)


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Fort Williams, Glasgow, KY on July 1, 2016

We are loving our rural road adventures in Kentucky – once we learned to read the “signs” better. I haven’t really talked much about the four times we’ve had to turn around: twice we had to unhook the car and twice the turn around added a total of 60 more miles to our journey….Thanks to Pam over at Oh the Places They Go! who recommended we use Google Earth to check out the roads before we go.  And now we do ….

Anyway, who knew there could be so much history, so many sights to see and great hiking in rural Kentucky!  When Bill first decided we’d drive through Kentucky on our way from Illinois (to see his mom) back to Virginia (where our grandsons live), it was easy after seeing how many state parks there are. We thought there would be good hiking and a few points of interest around all those parks. We’d hope to camp in parks-But alas, we’ve discovered many of them don’t have 50 amp hook ups, what we need to run our air conditioners in this HOT summer! But we did find two and now we’re staying NEAR the parks

We are now up to our third day (July 1, 2016) in Cave City, Kentucky, which is just 10 minutes from the amazing Mammoth Cave National Park. We actually thought we’d get in a lot of hiking after exploring the caves and visit the Corvette Museum. Bill did mention there was a Train Museum to think about for a rainy day. Um, not sure I’d like that much more than looking at cars. We discovered an outdoor venue to explore (more to my liking), the South Union Shaker Village not far from Bowling Green (read here if you missed our last post) and now we’ll finish the rest of the story…. Continue Reading

Bowling Green, Day 2 (near Mammoth Cave)


National Corvette Museum

    National Corvette Museum from the website: corvette museum.org

It took three posts to really capture the essence of why we came to this area. But there was one other reason Bill picked this area. Can you guess?

What I hoped to do was lots of hiking. But it ended up raining so much, we had to find some indoor things to do. Can you believe the Mammoth Cave National Park has 84 miles of trails! These trails are not just for hiking but some are designated for bikes and horses. There is also canoeing and kayaking at this park. We only got in one day of hiking, but it was 8 miles! And it was a glorious trail.  Click here to read more about the trails and view maps.  Continue Reading

Mammoth Cave National Park, June 28 to July 6, 2016


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Mammoth Cave National Park, A World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Preserve

Finally, Bill got me here to see the world-famous Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky! I talked about our anticipation to visit here in our last post, Caves or Caverns.

We made our reservations to Cave Country RV Campground a week or so ahead since we knew this was the 4th of July holiday weekend.  We knew we couldn’t get into the campgrounds in the park, so we didn’t really explore them. Soon after we arrived, we decided to add a day on to our stay. We loved the warm welcome we received and all the brochures we were handed to help us make the most of our time here. There was so much to do in this area, but first, let’s check out Mammoth Cave National Park, which is part of the America the Beautiful pass program. Our tickets for the tours were half price! Continue Reading

Caves or Caverns?


Cave City, Kentucky

We are here, in Cave City, Kentucky

Bill doesn’t remember traveling very much with his family, except every summer, his family went to the Jersey Shore. But he remembers visiting Mammoth Caves in Kentucky with his parents and an Aunt when he was 18 or so. The caves left a great impression on him. Every time we visit caverns, he says he can’t wait to bring me here – and we are finally here! This is the fourth cave system we have visited in our marriage. So before we talk about the Mammoth Caves, let’s figure out the difference between caves and caverns and then look back at our previous three caves or were they caverns?  Continue Reading

Canal Campground, Grand Rivers (Part 3 and final)


Patti's Restaurant and Mr. Bill's Dining Room

Patti’s Restaurant and Mr. Bill’s Dining Room from an article in “The Lake News” dated June 18, 2015, announcing they had been awarded the “Certificate of Excellence Award” from TripAdvisor

Let’s continue with our time travel from our “Part 2” last post, which you can read here if you missed it.

Patti’s 1880’s Settlement Fine and historic dining in a casual atmosphere! If we heard it once, we heard it a dozen times, we had to eat at Patti’s Restaurant, especially the pork chops! We rarely eat out, saving it for special occasions, family times or when Bill just needs a break from cooking!  We had the opportunity to eat here with our new friends and former neighbors at Columbus-Belmont State Park. They recommended we stay in Canal Campground and gave us lots more pointers. And they also recommended we eat here. They live in Paducah, so it wasn’t too far for them to come join us. And now, of course, we will have to visit them in Paducah on our next trip to Illinois.  It’ll be on the way.

Continue Reading

Canal Campground, Grand Rivers (Part 2)


A view while out walking

A view while out walking. Many great views also have a bench or two!

We really liked Land Between the Lakes (LBL) the first time we camped at its Hillman Ferry Campground (HFC). When we left, we said we wouldn’t go out of our way to return….Who knew we’d be back within a month!

It was wonderful when our friends, Betty and Bob, recommended a stay in a hidden gem, Canal Campground, just at the northern tip of LBL. We loved it and extended our stay to eight days! Two things made this a better experience for us: the fact that it is an US Army Corps of Engineers campground (so we paid 1/2 price), and we had excellent cell phone and Mifi signal to research where we were going next and beyond.  We heard other people say they used to go to HFC, but, also discovered this campground and preferred it. Some turned 62 and some said there were fewer children here. 😞

There is so much to do in the LBL area, besides hiking, which is what we did the first time in this area. Here were the few things we finally were able to do and really enjoy, which we missed during previous time.  But first a few more pictures of this lovely campground. And you’ll see why it was hard to leave …. Continue Reading

Canal Campground, Grand Rivers, Kentucky (Part 1)


It was so easy to find, just put 1010 Canal Campground Rd., Grand Rivers, KY in your GPS.

It was so easy to find, just put 1010 Canal Campground Rd., Grand Rivers, KY in your GPS.

We’ve spent a wonderful eight days in this US Army Corps of Engineers campground (COE) from June 20-28, 2016. We never would have found this campground had we not met a couple, Betty and Bob, from Paducah, Kentucky at the last campground, Columbus-Belmont  State Park (CBSP). They were a wealth of information and helped us learn more about Kentucky. We hit it off and planned to meet up again, and we did yesterday afternoon. So not only did they tell us about Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee, but also the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, both discussed in this post hyper-linked in case you missed it. Continue Reading

Map of our RV Campgrounds and Resorts on RVillage


We’ve encouraged others we meet along the way to sign up for RVillage. We did sometime in 2014. It’s free and it has so many benefits. For us, we can now easily stay in touch with others we’ve met on the way. We’ve had questions for many (since we were newbies for so long, we needed lots of advice) and now, we’ve discovered every time we check in, it’s created a map!

Below is the static map or see below for our real time and live map!

My RVillage.com Map

My RVillage.com Places since 2014.

You can click here to see our real time map and zoom in on our locations!  We’re starting to cover more states this summer.

 

Columbus Belmont State Park, Kentucky (Final post)


Confederate Trenches

Confederate Trenches: the State Park has preserved this elaborate system of earthworks dug by Confederate soldiers.  It was not hard to imagine how hot and steamy the job was for these men as they dug the trenches. One soldier wrote home, he thought he would melt!

While Bill and I are students of history, our favorite way to learn is up close and personal! We didn’t discover our common affinity for history until we moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1996. We not only went into Washington D. C. to visit the museums, we also set out to visit nearly every nearby battlefield, and Virginia has its share of them. We really enjoyed the few times we were able to listen to a National Park Ranger give an oral history report.

In the Columbus Belmont State Park, they have great signage as you take your own self guided tour, which is complimented by the Museum and 8-minute video presentation.  Continue Reading

Columbus Belmont State Park, Kentucky (Part 2)


IMG_3523We were in this beautiful state park from June 15 to June 20, 2016.  Part 1 is dedicated to the drive here. Part 2 will be about the actual grounds and two other places we visited. Part 3 will contain the Civil War history we learned while we were here. The most notable thing we learned was how pivotal Kentucky was to the North (they originally were going to remain neutral) and how important this particular battle was – although every battle ground we have visited, we seem to walk away with that impression. One thing we now know, it’s best to really learn the history up close and personal!  Continue Reading

Columbus-Belmont State Park, Columbus, Kentucky (Part 1)


After an 11 day visit with family in Illinois and Missouri, we hit the road. When Bill began researching the routes to and from Illinois, he discovered that Kentucky has 37 state parks! That intrigued him, so he wants to visit as many as we can in a six-week period. We are going to travel west to east through Kentucky on our way back to Virginia. We did stop in Land between the Lakes, a national recreation park on our way to Illinois.

Kentucky State Parks

Kentucky State Parks Regional Map from Kentucky Official Visitor Guide – 2016 Digital Edition

We started with a five-day stay in the “Western Waterlands,” in what we think is one of the most beautiful state parks we’ve visited so far, Columbus-Belmont State Park. Just remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for us at this time, this is the park we needed.

WARNING, this short post will have lots of pictures…

Continue Reading

Land Between the Lakes, Cadiz, Kentucky


Hillman T-42

Hillman Ferry Campground Site T-42. Nice shade, but shorter than we expected.

Bill plotted the route to our first adventure to the midwest (southern Illinois), to visit his mom, brother and sister-in-law. He decided our return route to Virginia would be via Kentucky. On the way to Southern Illinois, from Alabama (click here to read our last post), we sampled Western Kentucky in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Park.

According to this website, “Land Between The Lakes (LBL) is a 170,000-acre national recreation area in Western Kentucky and Tennessee located near I-24, about 90 miles north of Nashville, TN, and just south of Paducah, KY….LBL is an inland peninsula formed when the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded, creating Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley — one of the world’s largest man-made bodies of water. In 1959, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River, many recognized the recreational and environmental education benefits of what would soon become Land Between the Lakes, a near-island between two man-made lakes….In 1963, President John F. Kennedy created Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.”  Continue Reading

Tiffin Service Center, Red Bay, Alabama


My Map This Year

This map from RVillage of the campgrounds/resorts we have checked into so far, 2016. To see our travel map live to zero in on each location, click here.

We’ve looked forward to returning to the quaint little town of Red Bay, Alabama. It is the home of Tiffin Motor Homes, and claimed by Tammy Wynette.  It is on the border of Mississippi and close to Tennessee. We really enjoyed our time here last year.  If you missed our posts, click here.

This year, we only had a short list of things we needed repaired  at the Tiffin Service Center (TSC). We also had a list of things to buy from the Tiffin Parts Store (they sell to us at wholesale prices). Of course, we only had a few things to go over with Bay Diesel and A/C, Inc. concerning the engine, generator and how the RV steers and bottoms out when going over railroad tracks, on concrete roads and bridges. We hoped all this would only take a week or less. And how great, it only took three four days for all the service, but since it was the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, we were more or less stuck in Red Bay an extra three days. And then the fourth day happened, more on that later. Continue Reading

Part 2, Chattanooga, TN


Lookout Valley

Lookout Valley, just one view from Point Park.

We were in Chattanooga, Tennessee from May 19 – 24, 2016. Continuing from the previous post, we are now on  our Day 3. We headed to Lookout Mountain, known for great views and hiking. We enjoy learning about history, especially US history now that we are able to get up close and personal as we travel full time.  The name “Chattanooga” comes from the Creek Indian word for “rock coming to a point.” This refers to Lookout Mountain which begins in Chattanooga and stretches 88 miles through Alabama and Georgia. We didn’t get a chance to learn more about the area since we focused on hiking – which let us to rich Civil War History.

In honor of Memorial Day, we want to include a reminder this is the holiday where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, in all wars on behalf of the United States of America.  Continue Reading

Chattanooga, Tennessee (5/19-24/2016)


Top of Lookout Mountain

Top of Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga and the Tennessee River

We are starting our second year in our motor home, Tiffany. What a challenge this trip started out to be! We are headed to Red Bay, Alabama for our yearly service.  Chattanooga was only about 200 miles from our last stop, Waynesville, NC, and then Red Bay is only about 200 more miles. So it made sense to stop here. But we weren’t sure we would be able to find a place to camp in Chattanooga, TN.  I was determined for us to stop here after reading there are 57 trails within 15 miles or so of downtown!  My kind of place! Continue Reading

Our one year anniversary….


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Site H3 in Pride RV Resort, Waynesville, NC

On May 14, 2016, we celebrated our one year
anniversary of the purchase of both our Phaeton Motor Home and Cadillac SRX.  We actually didn’t do anything to celebrate, in fact, we parked the Phaeton in Pride RV Resort, Waynesville, NC while spent the weekend with friends in their mountain cabin in Cullowhee, NC. Oh well, we’re not really celebrators….😞

But first, it will make writing about our motorhome if she has a name. So in honor of her anniversary, we are christening her “Tiffany” in honor of our dearly beloved dachshund. We’ll have to dig up a photo of her. She lived from 1982 to 1999. We had her for 14 years. She ran away from home and found us. More on her later…..

Let’s do a quick review of this year. We decided in January 2015, we were ready to upgrade from our XLite Cougar 28′ 5th Wheel. We bought a “For Sale” sign and began to advertise it at each campground. We only had a few people interested in it, so we Continue Reading

Mt. Airy, NC (aka Mayberry)


IMG_4698This was our third visit here. The first time was in May, 2014, then we returned in September 2014 and most recently, May 10-13, 2016. We’ve only managed to stay three days each time.  It is a great stop off on our way from our daughter’s home when we are going to the mountains. What we love is the good old fashioned hospitality and it does seem to operate a bit on Andy of Mayberry time!

Each time, we stayed in the Mayberry Campground, 114 Bunker Road, Mt. Airy, NC, Telephone: 336-789-6199. This is a Passport America campground, so the first two nights are very cheap ($16/night). If you stay longer, you can get the 10% Good Sam discount ($32/night).  The sights are pretty flat, but some have more space than others.  It is an easy in and out, but it is somewhat close to Highway 74 so you do hear some road noise. Click here for our review.

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The first and second time we were here, we had our fifth wheel and parked in the same spot each time.

In case you didn’t put two and two together, Mt. Airy is Andy Griffiths’s home town and his show, Andy of Mayberry, was modeled after the town. The town has exploited this in a good way and have so many things to help you relive that wonderful show. We liked the show when we were younger and now watch it occasionally to relive good old family values.

We really enjoy this campground and everything about the area. So for us, what makes a location great is the ease of finding great hikes/challenging walks and history.  And this place has it all.  The first time we came, we were the typical tourists and went downtown, where the highlight was visiting the Andy Griffith Museum. So I’ll share those photos, although they are a few years old.  But first, here are a few tidbits about Andy:

Andy Samuel Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the only child of Carl Lee Griffith and his wife, Geneva (Nunn).  Griffith was born the same day  as motion picture icon Marilyn Monroe. As a baby, Griffith lived with relatives until his parents could afford to buy a home. With neither a crib nor a bed, he slept in dresser drawers for several months. In 1929, when Griffith was three, his father began working as a carpenter and purchased a home in Mount Airy’s “blue-collar” south side.

Griffith grew up listening to music. By the time he entered school, he was well aware that he was from what many considered the “wrong side of the tracks”. He was a shy student, but once he found a way to make his peers laugh, he began to come out of his shell and come into his own.

As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school’s drama program. A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life. Griffith was raised as a Baptist and looked up to Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught him to sing and play the trombone. Mickey nurtured Griffith’s talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944.

He attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1949. He began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school’s Carolina Playmakers. At UNC, he was president of the UNC chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America’s oldest fraternity for men in music. He also played roles in several student operettas, including The Chimes of Normandy (1946), and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers (1945), The Mikado (1948) and H.M.S. Pinafore (1949).

After graduation, he taught music and drama for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he taught.  And then he was “discovered” and went on to become an actor, television producer, Southern gospel singer, and writer. He was a Tony Award nominee for two roles, and gained prominence in the starring role in director Elia Kazan’s film A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became better known for his television roles, playing the lead character in the situation comedy, The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968), and in the legal drama, Matlock (1986–1995).

After touring the museum, we learned about all the many many movies he was also in.  So we wanted to watch some of his movies afterwards, but the only way was to buy DVDs and we can’t carry around anything else in our RV!

Of course, we also walked around the town after stopping by the Visitor Center. It came right out of the 1950’s. So quaint and laid-back.

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A great navigational landmark

If  you watched the TV show, you heard them talk a lot about Mt. Pilot. So of course, that is real, but it is really Pilot Mountain and it is a State Park.  It is also known as a navigational landmark for centuries….and we get excited as soon as we see it!  And did we every enjoy this beautiful park with some great hiking and great summit views. We weren’t very original and hiked some of the same paths each time we visited.

 

 

They have made some improvements since we were first here. There now is a great trail up to the top of the mountain, but sadly, we didn’t have a chance to try it. We drove to the top each time we’ve visited. It is breathtakingly beautiful there. Next time, we WILL hike up to the top!

And there are many other places to hike and explore.  We loved the challenge of Hanging Mountain State Park. We climbed to the top of the mountain in September 2014. This was a real coup for Bill as he really hates heights, but he loves the mountains.  So he braved this climb….

I couldn't find Bill and suddenly saw him on an opposite peak from me! And that is a group of teens below him!

I couldn’t find Bill and suddenly saw him on an opposite peak from me! And that is a group of teens below him!

We’ll let this slide show speak for itself! What a fabulous place to explore and hike!

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This last visit, we decided we needed to try something different and travel a bit aways. We used the schematic of the mountains you could see on top of Pilot Mountain to pick out Fisher Peak, on the state line of Virginia and North Carolina. It’s elevation is 3,750′ and appeared to only be 15 miles or so away. It was actually farther and we never felt we were at that elevation. And of course, a storm blew in so that made us shorten our hike.

We had hoped to spend more time here, but we were meeting friends down the road, so off we went, knowing we still had more things to see and do. So we plan to return!

This was our most recent site.

This was our most recent site.

Each time we visited before, there really weren’t many others there. But this time, there were a lot more RVs. And most interesting, there was a North Carolina Chapter of “Campers on Mission” rally starting as we were leaving.  We hated to miss it as we know we have much in common with these campers and enjoyed talking to them as we prepared to leave. From their website:

Campers On Mission (COM) is a national fellowship of Christian Campers who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as they go. NCCOM is one of many state chapters offering Christians of all denominations the opportunity for fellowship and service beyond the walls of their churches. Though they go as missionaries from their churches, they utilize COM as the key instrument of organization, fellowship and training.

Nothing to complain about….


 


An update

Real life....

We are nearing the end of six weeks in our home away from home base.  We have been so blessed to be with our daughter and her family during this time.  They bought a new to them house nearly two years ago, when the oldest grandson was nearly one and the other grandson was only a dream. When we return in August, the oldest with turn three and the baby will turn one!

Bill is a handyman, jack of all trades, master of none (jk). When we come to visit, he likes to work, so he has been tackling all the repairs and refreshing the home. It’s the best of all worlds since both our daughter and her husband work full time.  And we are just carrying on the legacy our parents left for us. They also helped us when we bought our first home.

The major project this time…

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Fredericksburg Slaughter Pen Farm Battlefield (Hike)


Fredericksburg Slaughter Pen Farm Battleground

Fredericksburg Slaughter Pen Farm Battleground

Bill and I tried to see and learn as much as we could about the Civil War during the time we lived in Fredericksburg (1995-2004). Bill and I visited nearly every battleground in the greater Fredericksburg area (and even took a motorcycle ride to visit Gettysburg). At the time we lived here, I was a runner, so I never looked at the battlefields as places to get exercise.  Now that we are visiting our daughter here, we are looking for places to hike/walk (my running days are over).  People have said the battlegrounds are great places for that – but I remembered the walking areas to either be paved or asphalt. My knees prefer natural surfaces so we haven’t been back to visit them. But thanks to a national fitness organization with a local chapter, “Hike It Baby – Fredericksburg,” I’ve not only discovered a nice place to get in a good walk, I discovered an important battleground which we missed when we thought we knew all there was to know about the Civil War in Fredericksburg!  Continue Reading

Introduction to Fredericksburg, Virginia


Fredericksburg, VA

Nearly 50 miles south of Washington, DC and about 50 miles north of Richmond, VA

There are a few similarities between Sebring, Florida and Fredericksburg, Virginia. First, why do we care about these two cities? We’ve been (technically) residents of both! We were actually residents of the respective counties. (For postal purposes, we looked like residents of the cities.) And second, both are located in rural counties: Highlands County, Florida and Stafford  County, Virginia. We do like rural living with a college nearby (for our future dream home if and when we ever want to settle down 😁).

We moved to Fredericksburg in 1995 and then moved to Sebring in 2004. So we lived here for nearly a decade and did live in Sebring for a decade.  Both moves were part of my (Debbie’s) job relocation.

When we moved to Florida, we left our precious daughter behind. We really hoped she would move with us but she was 21 by then, just started a great career and had her eye on a guy, who is now our son-in-law and father to two of the most adorable little boys (ever)! At the time of our move, it was a dark day (also very cold and rainy) for Jessica and her parents. It was a tough move but in the end, we all agree it was for the best.

When we moved here, Stafford County was indeed a rural county. Very little shopping (only one little mall with some of the regular box stores like Sears and J.C. Penney), two lane roads and not much traffic. It is nearly 50 miles south of Washington, DC.  In the nearly 10 years we lived here, it began to grow and grow and grow, like a garden overrun with weeds. It was then the up and coming location for beautiful homes.

We don’t know what happened, but it now appears to be a suburb of Washington, DC and the traffic is just horrible. Our daughter was wise and she moved just a bit south to Spotsylvania County. It was also rural then and slow to grow. But in the past few years, it has the same disease, overgrowth and not enough roads for the traffic.  So I am saying all this to say, her dad (Bill) has decreed we will never move back here! But we now come to visit, averaging about five months a year, spread out over the year. And thus, our quest to travel and come here often….

So enough about our back ground with this enchanting city, what is it about this area we grew to love, aside from the fact that our daughter and her family live here? We have mentioned in past posts that we both love history and this is indeed a historical area. It’s so wonderful for a couple to share likes for different things and this is one area we both enjoy. I will admit, I never liked museums, but I do enjoy visiting battlegrounds and seeing history up close and personal. But on a few occasions, it was cold and/or raining outside and I discovered museums were fascinating! This area is rich in American history.

So to cheat, here are the basics from the official Fredericksburg website with hyper links to each era for others who also love history:

History of Fredericksburg

The City of Fredericksburg was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1728, on land originally patented by John Buckner and Thomas Royston of Essex County in 1681. (my note: The city was founded on land which was part of a tract patented in 1671.) It was named for Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51), eldest son of King George II of Great Britain and father of King George III. Its older streets still bear the names of members of the British royal family.

1607 to 1750: Settlement To Society

1750 to 1789: Colony To Nation

1789 to 1830: Early National Period

1830 to 1860: Antebellum Period

1861 to 1865: Civil War

1865 to 1917: Reconstruction and Growth

1917 to 1945: World War I to World War II

1945 to Present: New Dominion

I’m really being lazy, but am copying from another website to showcase more about this area, adding my notes in italics:

More significant history: In 1807, an overturned candle started a fire that ended up destroying half the town. In 1862, the Union forces suffered one of their greatest defeats here, in the Battle of Fredericksburg. The area was incorporated as a town in the year 1781. Fredericksburg was later chartered as an independent city in 1879.

Fredericksburg and nearby Attractions(this is such a partial list. I’ll add more in a future post):

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
Fredericksburg Area Museum
Ridderhof Martin Gallery
Twin Lakes
Shannon Green Golf Course
General Mercer Monument

Things To Do In Fredericksburg

The city of Fredericksburg provides easy access to a number of historic sites and museums nearby. Among these are the George Washington Masonic Museum, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg Area Museum, James Monroe Museum, and National Bank Museum. The city’s numerous parks and the Shannon Green Golf Course provide opportunities to participate in a variety of sports. The Twin Lakes, Hazel Run, Golin Run, and Fall Quarry Run (this also has one of our favorite hiking areas) are some of the stunning lakes and streams worth visiting. In addition, there are several shopping centers that offer amazing deals. Fredericksburg also hosts annual celebrations including the Art Festival, Fredericksburg Pow-Wow, Greek Festival, Mayfest, Music Festival, Oktoberfest, RiverFest, Shakespeare Festival, and Welsh Festival.

Fredericksburg Transportation

Washington Dulles International is the nearest airport. (So they say! We did use it a few times, but Reagan International Airport is a much closer drive; and, then when we moved to Florida, we discovered better flights between Richmond International Airport and Orlando.)

Fredericksburg Higher Education

University of Mary Washington (our daughter is a proud graduate) and Fredericksburg Bible Institute are the local institutes of higher education. Other institutes nearby include the College of Southern Maryland and George Mason University.

And just a few interesting facts: George Washington’s boyhood home is here, in the Ferry Farm area! President James Monroe, who studied law under Thomas Jefferson, practiced law in Fredericksburg, Va.

This is just a brief introduction to this area. Future posts will be a bit more personal and with photos.  And will tell about the various (and very few) places to camp. I do hope to relive many of the places we have visited – we did see a lot while we lived here. Our focus of late has been on our two adorable grandsons, but we want to keep our readers updated…and ultimately, this blog will help us in our old age remember what we did and when we did it….Geez, time is flying by so fast, we can’t keep up with ourselves!

I will close with appropriate scriptures that will sum up this post we we reflect back on our times in this historical area, and as we believe…:

I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
His power, and the wonders He has done. Psalm 78:2b-4

A Travel Day with a bonus!


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Bill is about to pull out. I followed in the car to the front of the campground, then we attached our toad (car in tow).

Our day started relatively early. The sky was so strange, as it if was mourning our leaving. Our backside neighbor was leaving today as well. He said he already missed it and hadn’t left yet! We were in Myrtle Beach for 22 days. It was a great time, but when it is time to go, we never mourn, unless we are leaving our grandsons! And then it only takes a day or two to get acclimated to our lifestyle back on the road.

Continue Reading

Wrapping up our time in Myrtle Beach


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Overflow between PirateLand and Lakewood Campgrounds

We’ll be leaving here in a few days. 😂 BUT what makes it really OK is that we are heading back to Virginia to spend the next month or so near our daughter and with our grandsons! 😍

We just counted up how many days we have spent here since we started we started traveling in September 2013. When we leave here, it will be 77 days. That was not really what we thought we would be doing when we started our adventure travels. But there is something about Myrtle Beach in the “off-season” that is very appealing to us.  And this month, March, is really Spring Break season but we never really felt the crowds. Although the locals did complain a bit about seasonal traffic. Continue Reading

The Tides at Myrtle Beach


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We’re even back on the same site as our last visit. Sunset with a family of ducks crossing the street in front of our home!

Yes, we are back! We can’t believe it’s our sixth time since we began our Adventure Travels. There is something comforting about returning to a favorite place. When we started our recreation vehicle (RV) travels in September 2013, we really had no expectations (other than adventure) and no real goals. Well, maybe a lofty goal of visiting all 48 states and parts of Canada!

We are a bit envious when we look at the fabulous travels of two of our favorite hiking bloggers, The Lowe’s RV Adventures (their latest update: They are celebrating five years on the road and “We’ve explored 45 states and 6 Canadian provinces during our journey since March, 2012, crossing the U.S./Canadian border 20 times.”)  and Oh The Places They Go, who started their travels in 2010. I’m not sure if they count their states, etc. But let’s just say they have been a lot of places! There are a few others, but these two couples are really living the ultimate full-timer RV hiker/adventure dream.

But then, I am sure there are many who are envious of our lifestyle! The grass is always greener on the other side, or better yet, what does the Bible say?

Proverbs 14:30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Ok, we are not envious, let’s say we admire their travels.  And we know people admire ours!

We are staying on the south-eastern part of the U.S. for now, just because.  While we want to see new places and experience new things, we find ourselves returning to two places which are really the ultimate for us in our quest to find adventure, fun and relaxation as we continue our full-time Adventure Travels. One is at the beach, Myrtle Beach, and one near mountains, Mt. Airy, NC (we’ve never written a post about how awesome it is. 😞)

If you are new to following our blog (and thank you to all who are encouraging us on by keeping up with our blog), here are the few posts about our previous times here in Myrtle Beach:

  1.  Our very first time in our recreational vehicle, in October 2013. Wouldn’t you know some of our first travels were to the beach!  We stayed in the Ocean Lakes Campground which appears to be the largest beach campground. Maybe too large for us….
  2. The last time we were here, we wrote a number of posts.
  3. The most popular one we’ve written, Horses on Myrtle Beach!

Why do we love it here so much? It’s all about the beach! Our site is just yards away from it, a short walk and the beach in front of this campground is the best one we’ve EVER found for long walks. In fact, we can walk five miles and have nearly each day we are here.  We also are next to the Myrtle Beach State Park which offers restrooms, a store, food, and a pier.

Using Map My Walk app

Using Map My Walk app

Sadly, we are “hemmed” in a little bit at the beginning of the walk and at the 2 1/2 mile mark where we turn around, otherwise, we’d probably go farther.  The term is called “overflow” water or “over spill.” Since we are into our walks for exercise, we wear shoes and the water temp is too cold to walk through it at this time of the year!

The first thing we do when we arrive, after setting up, is getting the tide charts so we can plan our 5 mile walking schedule. Yep, we are able to walk 5 miles on this fabulous beach daily!

The day we arrived, March 2, 2016, it was a long travel day, over 300 miles and 6 hours. We decided to push it to have an extra day here. I really didn’t think we would do much after setting up, but we checked the tides and guess what? It was low enough of a tide so we walked 3 miles. Phew, we needed it and slept great our first night here.

It was a cool 50 degrees so we bundled up! The sunsets here are amazing!

It was a cool 50 degrees so we bundled up! The sunsets here are amazing!

The first few days were were here, the daily highs were in the low 60s (15.55 C) and the lows hit about 37 F (2.22 C). But every day it has warmed up and now it really feels like spring. We are no longer wearing our winter gear (as of March 10).

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The tide is receding.

I’ve tried getting a few pictures of high tide so you can see how the beach disappears, but we just have a hard time being on the beach at that time. I only have the above one and this one:

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Use your imagination and see the water/tide line.

Then compare the beach to these pictures:

And finally, we like the diversity of this beach. It changes with every tide! Close to our site, the beach is almost always shell free. When we first arrived, there were a number of shells, then they all washed away. The other day, there were oodles of shells!

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And now that I’ve made you wish you were here, here is a bit of the beach for you to enjoy. First is about a minute long video as we walk to the beach from our motorhome.  And then a 40 second clip of just the waves and beach!

Our walk to the beach. 

And here are the waves as you listen!

As I sit here typing this, I am listening to the waves gently slapping the beach. And we hear them when we go to sleep and when we wake up.  And now, it’s time to hit the beach for our daily walk.

Next up, what a blessing RVillage is on our journey as we wrap up our time in Myrtle Beach!

Lake Wales, Florida (Part 2)


Hopefully, you can tell we made the best of the 21 days we spent in Lakeland, Florida while getting our RV repaired. And to think for 10 years we only lived 30 miles from here and never knew of these fascinating hiking areas as discussed in our last post.

This post is about the one hike we took on Friday, February 19, 2016, in Lake Wales. It was nothing like any hike we’ve ever done! It’s the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park. We looked on the official State Park website and were only able to determine it was an 8,000 acres preserve with six miles of mostly white sandy hiking trails. I wondered who the person was that it was named after, it was not mentioned. All we knew after seeing this picture was it was a place we had to visit:

When we do research to find local hikes, we like to read about the area, get an idea about the trails and just be prepared. But we didn’t see much about it on the Florida State Park website, nor did we see any thing about the trails, other than it has white sandy trails in the open, take plenty water, use sunscreen and wear hats!

We thought this would be a faith walk, having no idea how it would be marked and how lost could we get, anyway? I use a GPS tracker (Map My Walk app) so we always know how to find our way back to where we started – if we get lost. So far, we’ve only needed it to get us back on the right trail! 😁

What a relief as we really do want to have a plan when we hike. It’s really wise to know what you are getting into, but then, we didn’t really know what we were getting into!  Once we found the trail map, we saw there were three choices to hike: a short loop, about 1.9 miles, a medium loop, about 3.4 miles and then the long loop, 5.5 miles. The equestrian trail was marked with red and was 8 miles. Of course, we almost always take the long hiking trail, but didn’t want to be on the equestrian trail. All we had to do was follow the white markers, which were coupled with the red markers to start off.   Yep, this is also horse friendly! We never saw a horse, but did see evidence one had been in the parking lot after our return.

This is the only wildlife we were able to capture with our camera and enjoy. Such a beauty!

Florida Scrub Jay

We watched this sweet heart of a bird for some time. But never could get it to look at us! “A bold and curious bird, the Florida Scrub-Jay can become hand-tame in areas where it comes in contact with people. Unfortunately, it is restricted to the rare oak scrub community of Florida, a habitat under constant threat of development, and is classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.” Info from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Florida_Scrub-Jay/id

We only saw two couples on the trail, but also four rangers in three vehicles  monitoring the controlled burns. I’m so sorry I didn’t snap a picture of them as it was a convoy! Thankfully, all the fires were out. We talked with the one couple for a while as the rangers drove by. They were from Minnesota and in the area for only a week. They are “caregivers” for an elderly parent, so this was their week of respite.  They didn’t look dressed to hike, but like us, love the outdoors. They intended to only walk a mile but agreed it was so beautiful, they went farther. They said they made it to the statute, but made no other comment, other than it was a statue. I was hoping to see it, but wondered if it was of the person who the park was named for. They were excited as they saw a large buck, but that was it. We had hoped to see the buck, too, but we were fortunate to see a few beautiful scrub jays.

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We were really enjoying the beautiful preserve, but there was no doubt, it was a strenuous walk in the soft sand with the sun beating down on us. And it is on the Lake Wales Ridge, so there were some challenging “hills.” We had stopped for lunch right after walking around the pond. It was so serene and we knew there had to be other hikers or at least fishermen in the area as there were two cars parked in the parking area. Which was very nice, by the way. With a bathroom and a covered picnic table.

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While we never saw the buck, we found his prints. He was a good-sized one!

We did have to reference our map as sometimes it was unclear which direction to go. I knew I wanted to see the statue. As we approached the trail to it, we realized it would take us out-of-the-way of the trail we were on. But then, we never mind adding a little to our hikes. So up a hill we went to see it! And this was a hill!

Allen David Broussard Statute

Wildlife Biologist, Ecologist, a birder with few peers. Allen had remarkable insight into the workings of nature. Intelligent and innovative, he took a practical approach to problem solving. He was friendly and unassuming. Careless of creature comforts, smiling and non-confrontational. Beloved by family and associates. His death is a great loss to all living things. – Father

As we approached it, we only saw the backside was actually rather grim, so I didn’t even take a full picture. But we both became overwhelmed as we began to read all the quotes around it….and then we were just amazed as we saw the front:

Allen David Broussard

1961-1990. “We are experiencing a period above – average extinction rate because there are very few if any ecosystems on or planet that are not affected or destroyed by man’s activities. It seems unlikely that our own species is not responsible for this accelerated extinction….Allen David Broussard

Oh my! This YOUNG man was only 29! And when you see the front, you see what a handsome, curly-headed young man he was. With a bird perched on his shoulder. We just hung out there in awe of him, wondering, what was the rest of the story?

This park immediately began to take on a new meaning to us! We knew this young man had to be something special. We just couldn’t believe the other couple didn’t say anything about it when we asked. Maybe they didn’t get close enough to read the quotes? We knew we were impacted.  Then on we went, knowing we were only about 1/2 way through the trail….still thinking about him….

View from the top of the ridge!

View from the top of the ridge!

With only about a mile to go, we reached the highest point in the preserve. And we deserved a break! This hike was undoubtedly one of the most strenuous we have ever done. So as we sat and took in the beauty of it, I was still shaken by the life of this young man. So of course, I had to “google” his name and found The Allen Broussard Conservancy which tells his story. Please visit the site to learn more. But in summary, this young man went on with his education after fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 19. He Began to make a name for himself in his research and studies.  But the chemo and radiation ultimately damaged his heart. In spite of his health issues, he went on to do great things and was married. It was his dying wish to his dad to help save the land. And thus, this preserve and the conservancy were named after him…..

Pretty touching isn’t it? I can’t help stop thinking about him and his life….

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Next up, Can you believe we are back in Myrtle Beach….

Lake Wales, Florida (Part 1)


Lake Wailes

Picture from my walk around Lake Wailes (that’s the original spelling) and scripture from my Bible reading that day.

To be successful as a  full time RVer, you have to be flexible and have faith. Oh, and a good sense of humor goes a long way!  And so far in 2016, we’ve needed all of these and more!

Like most of us, we choose to “winter” in warm climates. But we’re not big planners – so we only had a few things we hoped to do the two months we planned to be in Florida. First, we applied to be volunteer work campers last January at TopSail Hill Preserve State Park and had hoped we would start the winter there for the month of January, and then visit friends in Ocala on our way to Sebring.  We didn’t get the position, so we headed straight to the Sebring area to be with family (and help my mom prepare her house to be sold after the passing of my step-dad).  We had planned to spend a few days in Ocala, Florida to visit with members of our “spiritual” family, our former pastor who re-married us and his large family. We also hoped to see our dear missionary friends in Miami at some point, possibly meet them around Sebring. And then I have a friend who has a complicated life. She can only be seen on certain days, so I had hoped to visit her on one of those days while in central Florida.  All we managed to do was spend the month in Sebring, plus more time with my mom; we couldn’t meet up with our friends from Miami or Ocala, but I was able to see my one other friend miraculously. Our initial planned date didn’t work out, so it looked like we would miss each other this winter. But due to the below circumstances, I was able to see her on Leap Day. That truly was a gift of a day!

As we have written many times before, we do love the beach and mountains. In the winter, the beach is a bit better than the mountains unless you are in the southwest (so we hear).  We do trust our fate to our Lord and He nixed the volunteer opportunity, directed us to our legal residence where my mom lives and then had us settle in Lake Wales for three + weeks to repair our RV.  We were then able to see mom a few more times before leaving Florida. (She will live closer to our daughter, so we will see her more while in Virginia.) Things always have a way of working out. But the city of Lake Wales is not near a beach nor a mountain. 😁

Now the good news is that we were camped in a parking lot with full hook ups for free.  OK, so that’s not so glamorous but the price is right. We were told it would take between five and ten days for the repairs.

ADDED info: The only thing they couldn’t do was repair or replace our MCD Wheel Cover Glide Trac.  Bill’s previous line of work (auto insurance adjusted) had him scouring salvage yards for parts. But this collision center couldn’t help us. We were referred to Visone RV Automart near London, Kentucky.  We made it there and got the part in June. Read about it here.

We finally finished all repairs on business day 16, and are VERY happy with them! And that was Leap Day, so it was really a gift.  But we couldn’t help but wonder why it takes so long for RV parts to arrive? And then we had a bit of an issue with our new dryer we had installed in October from Camping World, Myrtle Beach.  That’s a long story (more about taking so long for RV parts to arrive), so lets just say we were able to get a new dryer installed from Camping World, Bartow, just 15 minutes away from our parking lot! But the date that finally occurred  was on on February 26. In spite of it taking much longer than we were told for both the RV repairs and the dryer, things just couldn’t have worked out better.

For 10 years, we lived in Sebring, Florida, just 30 miles south of Lake Wales. It’s a direct route and we have actually driven through and around this area many times. Most notable were our visits to Bok Tower. We had no idea there were also three fantastic preserves/state parks in the area.

But first a bit about the historic Bok Tower. We first visited it while we were just visiting Bill’s mom one year, around 1996 or 1997.  Then we took our daughter during Christmas during one of her visits. And then we rode the motorcycle there for a day trip. We love beautiful gardens so we enjoyed spending an enchanting day walking around them. From the official website:

Bok Tower Gardens boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect. The meandering, historic landscape garden was designed to be a contemplative and informal woodland setting offering a series of romantic recesses and tranquil resting spots, picturesque vistas and breathtaking views of the Singing Tower. Acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines fashion a lush backdrop for flowering foliage and the spectacular seasonal color of azaleas, camellias and magnolias (a highlight of our spring peak bloom season) showcasing an ever-changing work of art.

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We actually thought that was it for Lake Wales attractions. Oh how wrong we were! While here for our 22 days, we hiked at the Tiger Creek Preserve five times, once at Lake Kissimmee State Park and once at Alan David Broussard Catfish Creek State Park. We also had some serious rain storms so we had to find a dry place to walk in between storms. We discovered a nice walking trail around Lake Wailes, so we visited it three times. The rest of our time here was going back to Sebring a few times, shopping and taking care of the issues with the dryer.

Tiger Creek Preserve – As a reminder, this Preserve “is named after the pristine blackwater stream that forms its spine, the preserve contains hardwood swamps, hammocks, scrubby flatwoods, pine flatwoods, sandhill and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat. Nature unfolds all year long – visitors may enjoy seasonal wildflowers and blooming grasses, or anticipate the return of the swallow-tailed kite.

“The Highlands Trail is a 7.2 mile, sandy loop trail that takes visitors through a beautiful, open pine woods area called the “central highlands.” Please allow 4 hours. A shorter side trail, the Patrick Creek Loop, crosses Patrick Creek and enters a forested wetland. Allow 2 hours.”

We wrote about our first two hikes in this amazing preserve, here. We had to return three more times after these two hikes.  What a gem! There are a variety of trails so we had five very different hiking days here.

We’ll share a few pictures from our attempt to hike one of many trails, the Patrick Creek Loop Trail, and then of our last and longest hike. On February 26, the day we tried to hike to Patrick Creek, there were no signs warning it was flooded. We hiked part of it, until we hit the part where the “bridge” went underwater. And then our final day hiking, February 27, we decided to go all the way and hike to and around the Highlands Loop again. (The first time was to me, our best hike in a long time!)  That’s when they finally put up a sign the Patrick Creek Loop Trial was closed due to flooding but also that the Highland Loop was closed for trail maintenance. The sign was dated March 2016, but since it was February 27, so we decided it wasn’t closed yet….

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Let’s now link the discovery of this preserve back to Edward Bok. It was part of his vision to create a preserve in this area, not far from his home in Lake Wales.  He created a sanctuary now known as Bok Towers and Gardens. Bok was born October 9, 1863 in Den Helder, Netherlands. When he was six, his parents immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. His life story is truly a rags to riches tale. His lucky break came at age 19 when he was hired by a relatively new publisher, Henry Holt and Company. He made several career moves and finally at age 26, he became the editor of the Ladies Home Journal, where he served for 30 years. Within a few years he married his publisher’s daughter and they went on to be a power couple in philanthropy and well known to appreciate music and all things cultural.

His accomplishments were pretty amazing, in addition to being a prolific writer, he was concerned with American homes. He not only wanted to see homes to have some form of style, he wanted to see homes that every family could afford. He crossed the lines of architects by promoting the idea of “bungalows” as an affordable home. Even President Theodore Roosevelt made this comment:

[He] is the only man I ever heard of who changed, for the better, the architecture of an entire nation, and he did it so quickly and effectively that we didn’t know it was begun before it was finished.

We loved our visits there and were sorry we didn’t go back to the Bok Gardens this time. We highly recommend it if you are ever in the Lake Wales area. They were only about 10-15 minutes away from where we were “camped.”

Lake Kissimmee State Park – This was 20 miles away and well worth the drive. Florida definitely has beautiful state parks. I’m not very original, so it is easier to just copy from the official website about all this park has to offer. All we did was enjoy the hiking!

Florida’s cowboy heritage comes alive with living history demonstrations of the early Florida “cow hunters” in an 1876-era cow camp. White-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and bobcats have been seen in the park, located on the shores of lakes Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. Visitors enjoy boating, canoeing, and fishing in the picturesque lakes. Nature students can hike over 13 miles of trails to observe and study the abundant plant and animal life. Six miles of trails are open to equestrians. A large, shaded picnic area with pavilions is available. The park has full-facility campsites, as well as a primitive camping facility. The youth camping area can accommodate up to 50 people. The dark skies make stargazing a popular nighttime activity for campers. Located off State Road 60 15 miles east of Lake Wales.

We hiked over 7 miles here. It was just an amazing adventure for us. We saw a number of armadillos, a few Sandhill Cranes and heard lots of turkeys gobbling! The Forest Rangers had been doing some controlled burns to help with the foliage growth (common in Florida’s dense forests) so that may have chased other wildlife temporarily away. The best way to tell about the hike is with this slide show:

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To be continued in Lake Wales, Part 2.

 

Sebring, FL (Part 2)


What can I say about the best 10 years of my life in a small city? We became residents here in November 2004. Then we became full-time travelers in 2014, but Sebring is still our legal residence.  Please note, this is really more my post than Bill’s.  For me, I have an emotional and spiritual connection with this precious city.  I’ve been trying to think how can I capture its essence, more than my factual based last post about it or about the County in general?

Family History. In 1996, we drove around the Sebring downtown circle with Bill’s Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey when we moved Bill’s mom here.  They loved living near Lake Jackson and showed us all the sights. Nothing really grabbed our attention at the time. They became snowbirds here in 1989 and full time residents in 1995. Then in 1996, we visited over Christmas break with our then 14 year old daughter – the Circle was decorated for Christmas (Carousel of Lights)  in all it’s glory! We began to notice a unique charm. Once we moved here, we made it a tradition to attend the yearly Christmas parade and when they “light up” the circle. We began to visit here once or twice a year for the next eight years – and slowly, we grew to love the area.

More Family. My mom remarried in July 2003 after being widowed for five years. She married a man that loved the RV life, as did my mom. They became full time travelers, until March 2005. One of my sisters and her husband also owned a motorhome, so they traveled some with them. They all came to Sebring to visit and my folks bought a manufactured home where they could also park their motor home for free! That meant they could still travel some.  Soon after, my sister and her husband sold their motorhome and bought a “snow bird” home here in Sebring. And then the month we sold our home to become full-time travelers, my step sister and her husband moved to Sebring. That was not planned as we independently didn’t know what the other was doing until the plans were finalized!

Sadly, both Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey passed within our first two years here.  In their day, they were the life of their mobile home park.  Norm said he knows moving here added five years to his life. They both were very active and loved helping others.  And like Bill’s mom and my dad, both were veterans of WW II. They were treasured and we are grateful they found Sebring for us!

Holidays. Holidays became a blessing for us as Bill and I never lived near family. We always traveled on the holidays but now, we had plenty of family for all the holidays. And with our new extended family, that brought more family to celebrate at various times during the year.

But we quickly realized how hard this move was going to be on our 22 year old daughter, and our only child. So I guess I can honestly say, it was very hard on me.  While looking through old pictures, I found an old letter I had written around this time. I said had we stayed in Virginia to be close to her, she would have fell in love with a Marine and moved away….wouldn’t you know, she had just met and was falling in love with a young man from the area with deep family roots?  They finally married and have now given us two adorable grandsons. And that propelled us into our “Full Time RVer” lifestyle! But I digress.  We were sitting in the airport with our daughter for her to return home to Virginia after her whirlwind her three day Christmas visit here in December 2004, Bill realized the two women in his life needed something to look forward to. His idea? A cruise in March 2005! Woohoo! The plans started. We also reached out to family members and invited them. Here we are on the cruise:

From left Bill, me, Bill's mom, Jessica, my mom, my step dad, my sister and her husband.

March 2005 Royal Caribbean Cruise, from left Bill, me, Bill’s mom, Jessica, my mom, my step dad, my sister and her husband.

Great memories. And then we began to enjoy Florida to the fullest once we got over the first big holiday. We will admit, initially, we were not impressed with cruising. But in time, we decided to give it another try.  Jessica and Shane didn’t get the honeymoon they wanted, so we offered to help them plan for a cruise to celebrate a few months later while we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We absolutely loved the Princess Cruise!

We also enjoyed every holiday by celebrating with family. They say once you move to Florida, be sure and have a guest bedroom as everyone will want to come visit!  And what a blessing all those visits were. My one sister bought a snow bird home here with her husband and eventually, our step sister and her husband moved here permanently.

I’m planning on another post to talk about all of the fun times we had those ten years! We can’t count how many great three day mini-vacations we took all around the state, riding our motorcycle.  Our favorite such trip was to Key West!  And then, we saw parts of the state many native born Floridians didn’t know existed, such as the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary!

Living in south central Florida was literally central to everything. We became regulars at the Orlando Airport after I retired. Before that, we used the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Oh, talking about planes, trains and automobiles, I had to blog about one of those crazy airport trips.

But where my heart became so attached was when I became involved in the community. First, it started with our church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, PCA. We became involved in 4M, Monthly Morning Mercies Ministry. We quickly appreciated the legacy of the founder of Sebring. He wanted to find a low cost of living place where pastors and missionaries could retire. There are a number of Missionary Retirement Villages in the county. And our church was blessed to have at least 25 of them from Serving In Missions (SIM) attend our church. One of our favorite places for 4M was to do things for these saints in there homes and around their yards. Oh, and we also learned, missionaries never retire! They continue to serve Him, our Lord and Heavenly Father!  What a rich experience it was coming along side these saints.

But after this work-a-holic was retired for a year and a half, the volunteer work and helping Bill with our rentals was not rewarding enough. So I took our Sheriff up on her offer to come work for her after I retired.  It was a match made in heaven as I began working part time as the Coordinator for Drug Free Highlands, a coalition for the stakeholders in the community to help keep teens off of drugs, which includes alcohol.  I began to meet so many people and truly found the heart of this community.  After four years, the funding ended for me to work for her, so I transitioned to some very part time work with the school district and became a volunteer with Youth for Christ (YFC). And then more volunteer opportunities came around.

Probably some of the most rewarding and significant work I did was help with the YFC Quarterly Prayer Vigils and Blessings of the Businesses with the Mayor of Sebring. More on that below.

City on the Circle. Here is a slide show that highlights downtown Sebring, known as the City on the Circle. Let’s drive there and then take a walk around it. I have so many great memories of fun events we’ve participated in downtown. And of course, love the Circle Theatre, stores and restaurants:

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Let’s now take a drive out of the city and go to Veterans Beach.  When we first moved to Sebring, the water in Lake Jackson was very high, but there was a beach. Then there was a huge drought and the lake waters were dangerously  low.  As a member of the YFC Prayer Vigil team, at a County Commissioner meeting, we requested the support of the County Commissioners for one of our quarterly prayer vigils. Coincidently, if you believe in such things, there was a presentation that evening about how hopeless it was to “fix” the low water levels in Lake Jackson. We presented soon after that presentation and said we had the solution! And it wouldn’t cost the small fortune predicted. PRAYER!  Ok, so we got a few smirks and polite nods from them. So guess what? There is hardly a beach left because the water is now so high! Thank you LORD!

Let’s continue our tour as we leave downtown and head around Lake Jackson to Veterans Beach:

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The People. There are so many people who made Sebring super special to me. One was such a privilege to work with on a variety of events for the betterment of the community, the former Mayor of Sebring, George Hensley. We met when I was the coordinator for “Drug Free Highlands” through the Sheriff’s Office. We held Town Hall meetings in each municipality, which enabled me to work with each Mayor.  The Mayor of Sebring and I really clicked and he invited me to work on another project, Blessings of the Businesses, and then we became partners in several more.  I came to love and respect him and his most amazing wife, Nancy. Here is a great article about them both:  Mayor George Hensley and his lovely wife.

And one other dear friend is Kevin Roberts. He is a mover and shaker for the children of the county. Again, I met him while the coordinator of “Drug Free Highlands.” He has so many dreams for the county and Sebring. One was to restore the historic Circle Theatre. And he made it come through against all odds. He wasn’t just satisfied with the one dream project, he wanted the ugly vacant lot next to it. And wow, I lost track, but what a great surprise to walk downtown last week and see another dream of his come true, the Garden of Joy!  Here are a few recent highlights about Kevin being honored:

The chamber’s 2015 Individual of the Year award went to Kevin Roberts, executive director of The Champion for Children Foundation.

“This man has a heart as big as the downtown Sebring Circle,” Elwell said of Roberts, adding that the Individual of the Year award was the highest honor the chamber can award any one person for a lifetime of excellence.” From Highlands Today.

“…the 2015 George Hensley Citizen of the Year Award went to Kevin Roberts for several decades of helping thousands of people through the Children’s Services Council, the Champions for Children Foundation, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Highlands County Domestic Violence Shelter and Lindsay’s Wish, and his work with the Garden of Joy, the Kids Tag Art annual fundraiser and the annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champions for Children Awards Gala.

“It’s incredibly touching — incredibly touching — that the chamber would choose to honor me,” Roberts said. “It’s because of so many people who surround me and guided me.”

Roberts said he almost didn’t attend the banquet. He was at the “Own the Stage” youth talent competition finals at Champions for Children Circle Theatre that night when his son-in-law, county tax collector Eric Zwayer, called and persuaded him to come.

“The Champions for Children would not be a success without the private sector being involved,” Roberts told the 255 business leaders and professionals gathered for the banquet. From the News Sun.

And that is as brief as I can be to share a little about the heart of Sebring and how special it was for me to live, work and volunteer here. And now I am so happy to be able to call it my home town!

But you may be asking, “how could you move away?” Lots of people asked that of us. All we can say is that our priorities changed when we had our first grandchild….

Next up will be more fun things to do while in Central Florida.

Our Best Hike (in a long time according to Debbie)!


Our second day. The weather was warmer!

Our second day at the trail head. They had trail maps and a notebook to sign saying which trail you plan to hike and how many in your party.

As we finished the trail yesterday, I asked Bill, “What we should name this post?” We usually agree on most things. But he said, “Central Florida’s Best.”  For him, this was a perfect day on a trail. So much better than Disney World, he continued. But maybe not the best. We’ve had a lot of GREAT hikes.  But for me, I thought it was the best, at  least in a long time.

We are currently in a location we would not have selected. We are here by chance. The tire blow out. GEICO Insurance. We’re in a “preferred” shop that happens to be an authorized Tiffin (our RV’s maker) repair facility.  But we do know Central Florida. We’ve lived in what is called, south central Florida. I wrote about it here.

But we never heard of this place, the amazing Tiger Creek Preserve, Lake Wales Ridge, The Nature Conservatory.  From the trail brochure, it tells us, “It is located on the edge of peninsular (their word) Florida’s oldest and highest land mass, the Lake Wales Ridge.  The ridge shelters some of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the United States…” It is “a high-quality blackwater seepage stream and the vegetation that falls into the creek colors the water….The preserve protects various Florida habitat – hardwood swamps and hammocks, scrubby and pine flat woods and sand hills…rare animals…including swallow-tail kits, bald eagles, gopher tortoises….”  And for us, it offers great hiking, up and down this high mass in Florida, on white sandy trails as well as other diverse trails and with very well marked trails. So we were all over it! Our first day, we did one of the main and most popular hikes, just over four miles. We decided to start with it, Heron Pond Loop Trail. There are 10+ miles of trails in this nearly 5,000 acre preserve.

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Entrance to the Heron Pond Trail with a memorial note honoring Ken Morrison

The day was overcast, a bit breezy and cool. So our photos aren’t the best. But it was so tranquil! And a bonus, we didn’t see any other hikers, although a couple had signed in earlier in the day.

While we had our camera ready, we didn’t see any wildlife. But we saw lots of deer and other wildlife tracks, hog tracks/mud holes and just serene nature at it’s best. It was a bit windy so we think that kept the wildlife hunkered down.

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Of course, we love history, so I had to look up Ken Morrison when we got home.  The few facts they posted only made me want to know more about this man. Oh, how I would have loved to met him! Here are a few excepts from his obituary:

….He thoroughly enjoyed life until his death of natural causes at age 92.
Ken was born April 1, 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He graduated from Carleton College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. In 1943, he married his high school sweetheart, Helen Curtis. The family moved from New York where he was the Editor of Audubon Magazine. They settled in Babson Park, Florida and for 25 years Ken was the second Director of Bok Tower Gardens. He was President Emeritus of the Florida Audubon Society and on the Board of Trustees of the Defenders of Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy’s Florida Chapter. His lifelong love of nature grew out of a childhood fascination with birds. With his enthusiasm and knowledge, he inspired many people to appreciate and protect Florida….

Ken’s love of the English language was revealed through his public speaking abilities, his writing skills and his great sense of humor. For 10 years he wrote a weekly column “Ask the Naturalist” for the Daily Highlander and the Waynesville, NC Mountaineer. He authored two books, Mountain Lake Almanac and the Tonic of Wildness. Ken was also known for his musical talents. Although he had no training, he was a singer extraordinaire in the Vaudeville style and enjoyed music gatherings. He was a long-time member of Babson Park Community Church….

Being a minimalist who also loves to read, I hope I can find copies of his books I can “borrow” since I gave up owning books. Wouldn’t you want to read his books or his column?  Anyway, we had to go back for more so the next day, we brought lunch and were prepared for a seven mile hike!

While we still had white sandy trails, we also had lots of diversity.

While we still had white sandy trails, we also had lots of diversity. Here are hog mud holes on the trail!

We were on all dry land the day before.

A website recommended wearing water proof boots. Of course, I did the day before when we were on all dry land. So I wasn’t prepared….

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At least there were some “bridges” to help over the swampy areas. And fortunately, we never got our feet wet!

We haven’t hiked this far in a while, so we felt we needed to pace ourselves.  While we started rather early for us (11:00), we decided to take our lunch break at 12:15, after only two + miles into the hike. What prompted it was the bench we found at the entrance of the Highlands Trail. We took a short break and then entered the trail ….

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We were not disappointed. In fact, on one review, it said don’t do this hike unless you want the miles, the rest of the hikes show off the area. But we disagree. Granted, we wanted the miles, but we just love serenity and tranquility as we wander around in nature!  And what made this so great is our conversation. I wish I had a recording of it! We talked about everything as nature prompted us….

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We saw so many deer tracks, we know they were out there.

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There was so much diversity! And what a fun sculpture by nature!

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Should we or shouldn’t we? We never read about this…..Oh what the heck, we’re adventurists!

Oh, this is where you want to take a lunch break!

Oh, this is where you want to take a lunch break!

Thank you Tricia!

Thank you Tricia!

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The view from Tricia’s Peak! Oh, to see an eagle or deer….We know they are out there….

We actually didn’t take many pictures we now realize. But we enjoyed every step of the way. We knew there was wildlife there. We saw so many different animal tracks. We recognized the deer, there were LOTS of their tracks, also birds, tortoise tracks and even snake tracts. We carefully looked to make sure we didn’t get a surprise.

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The brochure warned us the trails may change directions abruptly, so pay attention! From this picture, you can see the trail is not really clear in some places.

As we began to wind down, around miles 5.4, we noticed there were two directions we could go! The whole time, the trail was clearly marked. Long story short, we ended up looking for our own tracks as we seemed to get a little lost. We know if that happens, to go back to where you last saw a trail marker. They provided phone numbers in the brochure in case this happened. But I had my “Map My Hike” tracker going, so we used it to “guess”which direction to go. As it turned out, we found a detour around all the swampy areas so we only had to walk back through a few of them. This probably added another 1/4 mile or more to our hike.

And then the excitement begins!  Finally, Bill spots what may be an otter in the pond as we emerged off the trail.

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They are hard to catch! See the waves? He just dove down.

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Can you see him? He has his head up in the center of the picture. What a disappointment our camera was.

We watched for 15 minutes or more and enjoyed these gorgeous creatures. There we four of them.  They were so playful! I saw two of them kiss!  Up and down off the bank, on the other side of the pond. We just never got a descent picture. But what a treat it was! We always hope to see wildlife. So Bill said, “Oh just to see one more animal would be good!”

And then, SWOOSH! We saw two beautiful and rather large deer literally flying through the bushes beside us. And then SPLASH as they landed in the water….and then they were gone!  I’ve always said the Lord hears our prayers and desires!  I had just read this Psalm a few days ago and really meditated on it as I thought about all the answers to our prayers and what a wonderful lifestyle we have:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

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If you would like to learn more about the Tiger Creek Preserve, check out these websites, Nature.org and Florida Rambler, where we discovered this gem!

 

Sebring, Florida (Part 1)


SebringOur home town! I explained in our last post how we came to Highlands County, but I never really told more about Sebring, the county seat and our official residence. While I worked for the Sheriff, I claimed I was from Highlands County as I spoke to different schools, Civic Groups and Chambers of Commerce in the county. But Bill always said he lived in Sebring.

My heart was always in Sebring and that was the small town we grew to love after we started visiting here in 1996.  In fact, my mom and step dad came to visit us here in 2005. At the time, they were traveling full time in a Class A motorhome. They liked it so much, they ended up buying a manufactured home here. One of my sisters and her husband also bought a snow bird home here. And recently, my step sister and her husband also relocated here. And that is usually how it goes with us “transplants” to the county. But the “core” of this county and it’s residents are those who’ve lived here for generations. And Sebring in particular has a rich heritage.

Sebring, founded in 1911, is best known as the “City on a Circle.” The best facts I found about the founder, George Sebring, came from an newspaper article  published in 2008. I’ve taken some excerpts from it below.

George Sebring….upright, driven, high school drop-out who became a self-made millionaire and founded two towns was the heart and soul of Sebring from the time it was just an idea germinating in his head until his death in 1927.

When he died after spending 16 years of his life molding the town that was a pine forest when he bought it, Sebring had changed forever.

George Sebring realized that citrus could be grown successfully in Central Florida’s sand hills, and that could have been the basis of Highlands County’s citrus industry. He built Sebring’s roads, sidewalks, the first buildings, paid for the town’s utilities in the early days, strung telephone lines across town and installed telephone stations so that people didn’t need to have phones in their homes.

“If there was a need, he would get it done,” said Carole Goad, archivist with the Sebring Historical Society. “If there was no money he did it himself.”

He and his family, especially his son H. Orvel Sebring, brought the early settlers from Ohio and Pennsylvania. His unique downtown circular plan with roads radiating off the Circle piqued the curiosity of northern bankers, entrepreneurs and developers. Pete Pollard, the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency executive director, said in the 1910s only Sebring, Hollywood and Miami Springs were platted in that fashion in Florida, and Sebring’s Circle could have been the first.

George Sebring also left behind the City Pier and hotels like the Kenilworth Lodge that catered to prosperous Northern winter visitors. When he died, Sebring had less than 10,000 residents.

In Sebring, its founder saw a land of “sunshine, fruit and flowers.” George Sebring wasn’t trying to make a quick buck building Sebring. The town he had in mind was to be a “delightful, wholesome community,” where Christian workers, preachers and evangelists could retire, and sick people could recuperate in warm weather along pristine lakes with white sand beaches.

A thrifty man who is believed to have saved 10 percent of whatever he made, the city changed its founder, too. George Sebring went broke building Sebring, Goad said. After the boom times of the early and mid ’20s, the state was on the verge of the Great Depression when George Sebring passed away.

Who Was George Sebring?

A devout Methodist who frowned upon drinking, George Sebring gave away free lots to churches that wanted to build a sanctuary in the fledgling town, said Virginia Neel, who has lived in Highlands County since 1954 and is well-versed in local history.

Early deeds also contained a covenant that prohibited the sale of alcohol, and at one point the Sebring Town Council passed a resolution offering a $5 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone selling intoxicants.

George Sebring’s religious convictions may have influenced Sebring’s early days but the man himself was low-profile.

He refused to run for political office even when asked. If he had a message for city officials, it usually got sent with someone else, Goad said.

“He was not a man of great ego,” she added. “He was goal-oriented but did not want to be in the forefront.”

While in apparent semi-retirement after selling his share of the pottery business to his brother, he toured the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, according to “Sebring, City on the Circle,” by Stephen Olausen. George Sebring was not just into traveling. He liked to hunt, fish and was into car racing. It’s these past-times that brought him to Florida. While not fishing at Florida’s unspoiled lakes, he was promoting auto racing on Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach.

Born in Ohio, he married a second time after his first wife died. Pictures of the father of six show a well-dressed, medium-built man with kindly eyes. An obituary on him in the Sebring Daily News, dated Jan. 5, 1927, describes his “expressive face” and eyes that glowed with pleasure, twinkled with laughter or grew dark with “sudden sympathy.”

Here is a bit more about what you “must see” in Sebring from the Highlands County Convention & Visitors Bureau website:
Highlands Hammock State Park
Website: www.floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock
The Children’s Museum
Website: www.childrensmuseumhighlands.com
Allen C. Altvater Cultural Complex
Located just off of Circle Park in Historic Downtown Sebring
Highlands Little Theatre
Website: highlandslittletheatre.org
Highlands Museum of the Arts
Website: highlandsmota.org
Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce
227 U.S. Highway 27 North
Sebring, Florida 33870
Phone: (863) 385-8448
Fax: (863) 385-8810
Email: information@sebring.org
Website: www.sebring.org
Downtown Sebring Websites
Events and Businesses in Historic Downtown Sebring
downtownsebring.org and destinationdowntownsebring.com

There is so much more to say on a personal note, I’ve decided I will have to write this in several parts!

Below is our dream Sebring, Florida retirement and pool home. We absolutely loved the lifestyle we had here. Little did we realize what having grandchildren would do to that dream. Being parents of only one child also had an impact, I am sure. As I mentioned in our last post, we never fully understood the ramifications of our daughter not moving to Florida with us….but in the end, it is working itself out.

Barcelona

We sold this home in July 2014 and ended up buying a motorhome, which is now our new dream and retirement home. The views change constantly from orange groves, lakes, mountains and beaches!

Highlands County, Florida


We moved to Highlands County, Florida in November 2004. It’s located 80 miles south of Orlando and is located dead center in the state.

Our gently rolling hills, orange groves and charming small towns make this a relaxing country getaway…

HighlandsCounty

We first learned about this precious county in 1989, after Bill’s Aunt Posey and her husband, Norm, bought a “snow bird” home here. They became full time residents in the fall of 1995. All we heard about was the beautiful lake (Lake Jackson), great weather, friendly people and a low cost of living.

In February, 1996, Bill’s dad passed away. Posey and Norm invited his mom to come visit them for a month, so she did. Soon after, Bill got a phone call, “Bill, what would you think if I moved to Highlands County? Would you come visit me?” Bill’s dream before our marriage was to move back to Florida. He not only said “YES” he said he would help move her there. So within months, her home was sold in Pennsylvania and Bill drove her and her household belongings down here.  I flew down here with our then 14 year old daughter to help her get settled in.

The area seemed pleasant enough, but we thought all the houses were trailers/mobile/manufactured homes. And, Jessica couldn’t believe EVERYONE in church had white hair. It was not love at first sight for us and our daughter was not really enthralled with Florida. But things got better for her when one of her childhood friends moved to Clearwater, Florida. Whenever we came to visit his mom, we arranged time for them to get together. We had a great relationship with her parents – he was the Pastor who performed our re-marriage ceremony.

As we began to visit here regularly, once or twice a year, we begin to find beautiful neighborhoods and our love affair began.  Eventually, Jessica’s friend and family moved back up north. She then began to dread the visits other than special time with her grandma. We tried to do something fun with her each time she came. Bill’s dream to once again live in Florida became very strong and to make a long story short, we finally decided to move to Florida in November 2004. Actually, I was able to get a job transfer to Miami, but the real estate market wasn’t very good. Sadly, by now, Jessica had a good job and was in love….needless to say, she wouldn’t move with us. That was a very tough decision – to leave her but she was over 21 after all. We never knew how complicated it would make things eventually….

We ended up buying a home here in this county and I began a year long commute to and from Miami. Then I would retire and start my dream of being an early retiree. We had always wanted to become involved in our community, outside of church. We began to become more involved in the community. It was a great fit.

So now a little bit about Highlands County and from the Convention and Visitors Bureau website:

The Heart of Florida… Highlands County. Here in the center of the Sunshine State, you’ll find crystal clear lakes for fishing, boating, skiing and sailing, and more than a dozen golf courses. Our gently rolling hills, orange groves and charming small towns make this a relaxing country getaway – and our central location provides easy access to Florida’s best attractions without the hustle and high prices of the major tourist areas. It’s the best of both worlds – within two hours of most major attractions yet removed enough for that get-away-from-it-all feeling. Come discover Highlands County for yourself!

We took advantage of the central location to visit nearly every part of the state on our motorcycle.  Our favorite trip was to Key West. Hopefully, I will write a post about it, but that was before we began blogging.

Heading out on our 36th Wedding Anniversary

Heading out on our 36th Wedding Anniversary. Going to Melbourne Beach, FL

But a little more about the county. It is a rural county, population roughly around 100,000, so it doesn’t have all the shopping “shoppers” may enjoy. We are not shoppers – that never bothered us. When we first started visiting here, US Highway 27, a major north/south road (for truckers especially because it is free as opposed to the turnpike), was just a four lane highway with two or three stop lights.  Now it has doubled in size and there are more stoplights than I can count.

The “gem” of the county is Highlands Hammock State Park. We had friends from Miami who camped there every January for years.  We then got to see it from a campers standpoint. They loved it. We weren’t into camping then, but it sure seemed ideal. Our church had it’s annual picnic there for a few years and we really enjoyed it. We found out they have a trolley ride with a State Park Ranger as the tour guide. We’ve found the best tour guides are Rangers! Here is from the above website:

Home to a park system that wows with outdoor wonders, Highlands County naturally allures visitors. Otters, alligators and deer take shelter in our hardwood forests, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps, giving visitors a glimpse of wildlife along our nature trails. Boat ramps, fishing piers and swim centers provide easy access to our waterways from public parks. You’ll also find playgrounds, cycling paths and plenty of room for picnics within Highlands County parks.
Located in Central Florida, Highlands County occupies the southern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, a 100-mile-long range of sand hills, scrub and freshwater lakes.
Once a group of prehistoric islands, the County is home to dozens of rare species of plants and animals. (To learn more, visit www.archbold-station.org)
Wildlife, including alligators, deer and wild hogs, can be observed in different parts of the County.
Birds, including scrub jays, swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, osprey and sandhill cranes, all in their native habitat, can be seen and heard.
The county has extensive bikeways, including several routes through the very beautiful and popular Highlands Hammock State Park, as well as routes from 10 to 100 miles long on other scenic roads.
There are hiking, canoe and equestrian trails in the State Park and on the grounds of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Archbold Biological Station, the Avon Park Air Force Range and the Royce Preserve – all large conservation management areas covering thousands of acres. (For more information: www.avonparkafr.com)
The County’s Blueways, Greenways, Trails and Bikeways Comprehensive Master Plan, completed in 2002, calls for expanding and connecting these trails, thus making all of them more accessible to County residents and tourists.

As I read this, I wonder why did we have to leave the county? Aside from the motorcycle, we could have just enjoyed all this county has to offer!

This county has three distinct municipalities. The county seat is Sebring and that was where our residence was from a post office viewpoint. We really lived in the county.  To the north is Avon Park and that is where our motor home is currently parked.  To the south is Lake Placid.  I was so privileged to form relationships in each of the municipalities so I could always say I was a resident of the county….not Sebring. There is a High School in each one and that has created real sports loyalty to each “part” of town. It was always safe to say I just lived in the county.

I only remained “retired” for 1 1/2 years. I had met the Sheriff before I retired. She was a guest speaker in Miami. I couldn’t believe I could met “my” sheriff in Miami, so after her talk, I introduced myself. She said after I retired, if I ever wanted a job to come see her. So I did and I worked on a community project for four years. Needless to say, I was in each part of town on a regular basis so now you may better understand why I was just a county resident!

We really grew to love Sebring as that was our orientation. Everything was five minutes away and there was never rush hour (except when all the snow birds double the population from January to March). But we also bonded and felt the special “love” in Sebring. I will dedicate a future post to my official “hometown”.

A little about Avon Park:

Whether you enjoy fishing, boating or other water sports; golfing at one of the area courses; hiking, biking, or just relaxing; you are sure to find just what you’re looking for here in Avon Park our “City of Charm.” From its mile long mall highlighting the downtown, to the business and activity along US 27, Avon Park people always take the time to welcome visitors and to lend a helping hand. Ours is a growing city … one that grows on you!

Avon Park is really a low profile community (from my standpoint). It proudly houses South Florida State College. It’s highlights are to visit the Avon Park Depot Museum, 3 North Musuem Avenue 863-453-3525; The Museum of Florida Art and Culture at SFSC Website: mofac.org; and SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts Website: performances.southflorida.edu.

Lake Placid on the other hand, has made a national name for itself as “America’s Most Interesting Town” in 2013.  You can watch the video here that explains how this happened!  This is a must see stop if you are in our county. We never really appreciated it until Bill’s brother and wife came for a visit. We had a blast taking Bill’s mom around to the larger than life murals. But to really appreciate them, one must start by visiting the Chamber of Commerce (info below). But it has bankers hours more or less, Monday – Friday, 9-4, except they are extended from January to March.  Here is the list of “must sees” in this quaint small town:

Henscratch Farms and Winery
Website: henscratchfarms.com

The Murals of Lake Placid
Website: www.htn.net/lplacid/murals

Toby’s Clown School Museum and Gift Shop
Website: tobysclownfoundation.org

Caladium Arts & Crafts Co-op
Website: www.caladiumarts.org

Lake Placid Historical Society Depot Museum, Inc.
Website: www.lphsdepotmuseum.org

Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce
18 N. Oak Avenue
Lake Placid, Florida 33852
Phone: (863) 465-4331
Website: visitlakeplacidflorida.com

Coming up next, our official hometown, Sebring, Florida!

Taken while walking around our former neighborhood.

Taken while walking around our former neighborhood.

Week 2 off to a great start!


Once, after proofreading one of our posts, Bill commented, “This is really good!” ONCE. Then I began to take Blogging 101 courses to improve my blogging. I’m now proof you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Our last post reflected our mood, so to speak. We were still reeling from our blowout, the weather was either dreary, raining or cold. And every day was “work” except for the day we took off to attend the Florida RV Super Show. And that was a real treat! And perhaps when things began to look sunnier!

I am enjoying time with my sister. Especially when we get to walk together. But we are so glad we have each other to help mom clean out her house and prepare for a new adventure in life (a drastic lifestyle change).

Day one of week 2 started off with a tremendous rainstorm. And we had a 9 am appointment with our GEICO Insurance Adjustor. We were really nervous about them as an insurance agency for our motorhome. You never know how good it is until you need it and then you pray you never need it! All I can say is so far so good! From the initial phone call (Is everyone OK?) to our adjustor’s arrival….and departure.

Here is our disclosure, though. Our daughter works for GEICO as an insurance claims adjustor. And she’s good! No brag, just fact, based upon her performance appraisals, etc. Whenever we need to look at our insurance policies (we normally use USAA since we can), I always get quotes from GEICO and she gets a credit for it. Whether we insure or not. And the few times we have switched, we have saved a ton of money. And these have been for hard to insure things – like in Florida, rental properties are very hard to insure if you have seven properties in the same county! They say it increases their exposure….if you understand such things. And then our motorhome. Both times, we were most surprised and have been very pleased.

OK, this is getting boring but I do want to give GEICO some kudos! And if you’d like a quote just to compare your coverage, let me know so I can give you our daughter’s associate number so she can get credit for it.

Bill had two plans to fix our motorhome. The first plan was to do most of it himself. After all, his background and training meant he could do it. Back up plan was just to take it back to the factory at Red Bay, Alabama. We did love our time there after we first bought it. But the timing would be an issue in the middle of winter. Maybe we would have to wait until May?

For nearly a week, Bill tried to get the part in to repair our steps. That is really the biggest concern. After my glorious three mile walk around our campground, we decided to take some pictures of this issue.


Our adjuster gave us another option after Bill’s attempts to get the part needed failed. Oh the RV industry is not an easy one to deal with. I guess I should mention that Bill used to also be an insurance claims adjuster, was an auto body man and ran an auto body shop among a few of his past jobs. He KNOWS how to get parts. But not RV parts….

We learned there is a GEICO “preferred” repair shop not too far away! That spoke volumes to Bill. I went on over to mom’s to work while Bill went to check out the shop. He was so impressed and excited. First the bad news, they are swamped this month. Then the good news, they can fit us in on February 8, the day we hit the road from here. And it’s only about 45 minutes from mom’s home! So hopefully, I can still have time with her and my sister.

And more good news! They can sell us all the tires we now need, fix the steps AND do the body work. We will then have peace of mind as we really don’t know if our wheel is really safe. On our way back from the RV show, we clocked how far we drove on it after the blowout. At least 1/2 mile (.08 kilometers). We planned to take pictures of that drive, but it was dark when we returned home.

So below is a photo gallery of my three-mile walk around the park on Saturday.

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Love the palms, the blue sky, and the pleasant environment, between an orange grove and a freshwater lake! These photos are not in the best order, took them as I walked from our site and back.

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Week two continues….and we can’t wait to attend church in the morning!

Week 1 at our Southern Home Base (a diary)


As most everyone knows, we limped into our current “home” for the month. We are now in our official home residence county, but we are trying out a new campground – for us. Normally, when we arrive in a new place, we are excited and I start taking pictures of the entrance and all the cool things in our new “home.” But not this time. We arrived exhausted and right before dusk. We had a glitch in our GPS, which took us into a golf course. Initially, I’m imagining a gorgeous campground…and then we realize the address was wrong. We have to unhook the car in order to turn around. Most of the people were kind to us. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture as it was a beautiful setting…..And it would have been funny with the golfers pointing at us and laughing!  😁But we were anxious to set up camp which was close to the golf course. And it was getting late….

As we settled into for the night, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful sunset on the lake. But I was just unable to capture its beauty. Here is where the previous post left off:

Imagine the blow out also took out the electric outside stair mechanism.

Imagine the blowout also took out the electric outside stair mechanism.

As you can see from these dreary pictures above, we are not on a flat site, compounded by the fact that our steps aren’t working. The tire blowout damaged the mechanism for them to extend. A neighbor has lent us auxiliary steps. We were not happy with the site and are trying to get moved, but that has additional issues – there just isn’t a site big enough for us. They have offered us two sites to pull into, but it will be an ordeal to maneuver into them….

But there is good news! This is the friendliest and most helpful group of campers we have experienced in our two and 1/2 years of camping! And this quaint “village” is nestled between a lake and an orange grove. We can’t wait to enjoy the beauty….hopefully, soon.

Friday, January 8  First thing we discovered when we got in the car to go to my mom’s home was a cracked windshield,  across the driver’s line of vision! Is this a sign of things to come????

Bill took me to mom’s and had a nice visit. Then he had to to start working on tire replacements (we’ve decided to replace them all), he needs to figure out how to repair the exterior steps, and he decided to level the motor home better since the jacks had to be fully extended, which isn’t good. And of course, we also had to call in a claim for our windshield.

One of my dear friends dropped in to meet mom and pray with us. Then I started helping mom with the millions of things one must do after the death of a spouse, as well as begin preparing her to relocate. We ran some errands and then I brought her by our motor home. She has wanted to see it since it is finally here in the county. We had been offered a different lot, so I had hoped Bill moved it there so mom could see inside. But no, he didn’t feel it would fit. So mom was only able to see the outside since the entrance was a bit high for her to try to climb! She’s a former full-timer herself, also in a motorhome.

Saturday, January 9 I had the energy to start my day with a walk. I wanted to explore the campground so I went for a little over a two-mile walk. It was still overcast, so no pictures yet!

My sister and I met at mom’s house and we rolled up our sleeves. So much to clean out and to prepare her for an upcoming move. It’s hard selling a home as anyone who has been through it knows. But for mom being legally blind, it is even harder. Thankfully, mom has three daughters who are willing to do all we can to help. 💖

Sunday, January 10 It was wonderful to return to our home church! Mom came with us so that was a bonus. Neighbors of hers attend our church, so they enjoyed seeing her and giving her a hug. One husband helped take down the Christmas decorations outside. The community mom lives is known as a “Christmas Village” so there is a lot of peer pressure for everyone to fully decorate – and they help each other.

The sermon was just what we all needed as well. As usual! I really like the life of Joshua. He was mentored by Moses and became a great leader. But he was very insecure. So we hear several times, the Lord assuring him:  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) And we, too, need not be afraid for the Lord our God is with us wherever we go!

We went out to eat after church. We are so unoriginal, we went to Bob Evans. We are now in “peak” season here in Sebring. The population really grows January through March and you notice it most in the long waits at the restaurants.

My step-sister and her husband came over to mom’s house after they got off work. They are semi-retired, so trying to match our schedules wasn’t the easiest. We were looking forward to playing Trivial Pursuit with them, my sister and her husband, as well as other friends, enjoyed playing last year.

Monday, January 11 Marsha and I started our day walking together. It was so refreshing and a great way for us to strategize as we see we have a lot of hard work still ahead. But at the same time, we want to take some time for exercise and for quality time together. We took mom out to eat at Panera Bread before we started working. We are trying to not work her too much, nor ourselves.

My sister and I ready to take a long walk.

My sister and I ready to take a long walk.

We had Safelite come to the campground to fix our windshield. What a great service! Bill also continued to try to figure out what parts he needed to fix our steps and trying to decide what tires we should go with. We’ve decided all the tires must be at risk, so we are replacing all of them.

Tuesday, January 12 Marsha and I again started our day walking together. We’ve made some progress on the house. We are in a very boring routine, but it is still a great time of bonding as we work together. We are trying to keep it light and laugh as much as we can. And for us, there is a lot to laugh about as we see how forgetful and clumsy we are!

There is one fun thing we enjoy when we are here in the winter. My sister and our step-sister live in a golf course community. Every Tuesday evening for 6 or 8 weeks, they play Trivial Pursuit. We were looking forward to it….but sadly, we had to miss it due to unforeseen circumstances. Hopefully, next week.

Mom at the Jacaranda

My beautiful young mom at 92, enjoying Christmas decorations still out at the Jacaranda Hotel.

Wednesday, January 13 Marsha and her husband took mom out for the day, so the above picture was from that outing. Mom had a blast and was happy to not think about moving. We have been pushing her a bit and didn’t realize it. Mom can only go but so fast with this major life transition.

We had planned to attend the 2016 Florida Super RV Show in Tampa. We’ve attended it the past three years. And since we need a few parts and need some ideas, we took the day off to attend the first day of the event. Mom had wanted to come with us as she also loves the RV life. But she had an appointment that she couldn’t change so Marsha took her to the Jacaranda after her appointment. And as it turned out, it would have been too cool for her to be outside all day. And we pushed ourselves, walking about five miles. We did learn from the past visits to bring our own lunch and some snacks.

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The last thing we thought we needed was a Tire Monitoring System. But we stumbled upon a presentation and realized, had we had one, we may have been able to head off the blowout. So we invested in it. But we couldn’t decide if we should add it to the car as it is towed. Anyone other RVers have any suggestions?

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My iPhone is nearly three years old and has been giving me some problems. For some reason, they just don’t make them to last. It’s been sluggish and the battery only lasts a short time. I had to keep an external battery attached on a day like this. Wouldn’t you know Verizon had a booth and were offering GREAT deals! So early in the day, I spend some time getting educated on the specials. I then thought about it most of the day and ran it by my daughter. She recently upgraded, too, so she was very encouraging. So we stopped there at 4:30 on the way out….

But since we were there until 6 pm, we were desperate to find a place to eat, knowing we still had a two-hour drive home. We also don’t like eating that late and had hoped to eat somewhere special. But knowing the crowds, we ended up in a food court in a nearby mall. How pathetic. But the good news was that there was a Verizon store in the court! And I needed a few more pointers with my phone….and I forgot to mention, Bill also upgraded his nearly 10-year-old flip phone.  To a modern flip phone. It turned out the battery in it was borderline dangerous….it was “swollen.”  And we couldn’t figure out a few things with it.

So off we headed for home. We were surprised there wasn’t much traffic. We were pleased we were making such good time.  It was pitch dark as we got close to our park. Suddenly, we realize we’ve made one wrong turn. We added about 20 minutes to our ride…and are we ever tired. We realized we really hadn’t recovered from our journey here!

Thursday, January 14  We can’t believe we’ve been here a week and haven’t even checked out the campground. I needed to use wifi to transfer all my data and apps to my new phone. So I headed off to the community center to use it and hoping I can get a good walk in. But the wifi was slow so it took me an hour just to back up my old phone to my computer (using iTunes). My new phone needed updating so I decided to take it to mom’s and use her better wifi. Marsha and I meet over there and continued to clean out while I updated my phone and transferred my data. We also had an appointment with a realtor to talk about listing the house. All in all, a productive day.

And Bill had been waiting all week for the needed part to be in to repair the external steps. And sure enough, it arrived in the late afternoon. I picked the part up on my way home – only for Bill to say it isn’t the right part after all! He’s waited nearly a week for it.  It is not easy “hoisting” ourselves into our home….But finally after dinner, we take a walk and begin to see the serene beauty which surrounds us!

Next up, how GEICO responded to our incident. You never know how good an insurance company is until you use them….

Oh my my my….


We had planned on writing a fun and exciting blog about our safe and relatively uneventful trip from Virginia to Florida. Sort of like our blogging friend, Ingrid’s post. But, “oh my my my,” to quote our favorite detective, Lt. Joe Kenda!


It was just one of those journeys. We were fleeing the cold of Virginia, heading south to Florida to start our winter wanderings. Our destination was 858 miles (1380.82 kilometers), or a little over 13 hours if you drove the speed limit and made no stops (in a car, not a motor home 😁). We decided to stop overnight at two campgrounds on the way. While we needed to get to Florida to help my mom, we were also in a hurry to get to warmer weather.


But we will not travel foolishly and we always hope take little time enjoy the journey. First stop was Florence, South Carolina, which is a tad farther than we prefer at about 337 miles (542.349 km). The second stop was in St. Mary’s, Georgia, approximately 263 miles (423.257 km) and our final leg to Avon Park, Florida at just over 260 miles (418.429 km). As most full-time RVers will say, we prefer to only go 150-250 miles a day. Periodically, we make an exception. And every morning, we do have prayer time and ask for travel mercies on our journey (along with a few other requests)! So here is how the trip went:

Monday, January 4 We are starting 2016 with our RV odometer at 24,633 and our car at 38,837. (As an aside, we bought both in May 2015. Both are used. The RV reading was 21,958 and our car was 23,000. So in seven months, it’s easy to see we’ve about gone 2,675 miles in the RV and 15,837 in the car, which included a trip to Illinois and back to Sebring without the RV.)

Remembering we only bought the RV seven months ago, not driving it or tearing it down the six weeks we were in Virginia meant we were a bit rusty.  Thankfully, on January 1, we had a “shake down” trip. We had to drive it to “The Tire Shop” at a Flying J Travel Center in Ruther Glen, VA. It was not too far away and we had to figure out why one tire was going flat. It was a valve stem issue. They also checked the air pressure on all tires, inflating them evenly at 110 pounds and confirmed all looked fine. In fact, every time we have it in for service, we ask for opinions on the tires since they were five years old. We also decided to get weighed on the CAT scales. We actually weighed less than the original owner, who only used it for recreation. These scales don’t weigh each axle, so that is something we hope to do in the future at one of the rally’s where it is offered.

This “dry” run to the tire store helped our confidence on starting the journey and tearing down camp. Now we just had to remember how to hook the car up. Note: it was very cold at 34 degrees as we were hooking it up. We realized we were leaving just in time as it had been a mild winter up until this week and was to get down to 16 that night. We just had weather in the low 70s.

Long story short, Bill was behind the RV waiting for me to pull the car up. I drove as close to him as he directed me – for the tow arms to reach the car. I was waiting for him to tell me to pull closer or back up a bit. It looked like it was ready for him to hook it up. So I jumped into the passenger seat to do something. But not realizing I was on a slight decline, I put the car in neutral (that’s how we get it ready to “flat tow.” Can you guess what happened next? The car began to roll into Bill! Poor guy thinks I am driving it into him (my my my)…and then he sees me jump out from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat to put the brakes on! Not a good start to our journey. Was this a sign of things to come?

We arrived at the Swamp Fox Campground in Florence, SC in about five hours and 40 minutes! Hardly any traffic, so an uneventful trip so far.  The weather was much colder than we had hoped for, but we were ready. We now have a heater hose attached to our water hose in freezing weather and we took other precautions for a possible freeze.  We didn’t unhook the car, which is a real time saver.  We were both exhausted and it was just too muddy and cold out to take a walk. That is never good for me, Debbie. I need my daily walks!

Tuesday, January 5 The next morning, as we broke down camp, we started the car to warm up for at least 5 minutes as the directions say.  And off we went. We are really praising God as we moved down the road as the traffic was minimal both days. And what a surprise, it was still so cold! And sadly, we had agreed to accept a 30 amp site as we didn’t think it would be so cold. That means we have to watch running too many things at the same time, like an electric heater, Keurig and toaster!

Since we stayed two nights, Bill unhooked the car at the office check-in area. And guess what, the car battery was dead! Not to name names, but  the person who started the car said he had trouble turning it off. It’s a keyless start ignition….AND we always turn everything OFF whenever we stop it, radio, heater/ac, whatever. Once he got it charged up (which turned out to not be an easy task as there was no 110 power close by for his battery charger), the wipers and radio were both on! Strange…

So we begin setting up. We needed to run an electric heater as we began carefully preparing dinner. We then ate and took  a walk! Soon after coming back inside, the circuit blew. We thought we misjudged the amperage. We began using more caution as we proceeded to move around inside.  Then the circuit blew again. Bill went outside only to learn the entire camp was dark. There was a campground wide problem, but we all were told it would be fixed within the hour. Brrrr, it was so cold and we were grateful we could run our generator. And in an hour, all power was restored and off to sleep we went.

Wednesday, January 6 Our day off from traveling. Bill lived in Jacksonville, Florida before we were married. He loved Florida, after relocating from Pennsylvania for the warm weather. He has many fond memories there, so whenever we get the chance to stop there, we do. So our plan was to go have lunch at the Metro Diner, visited by Guy  Fieri. Bill saw that show and knew he had to try it. We visited it soon after. We had to go back….well, he had to go back. We are not foodies but I am less than he is….and he is on the hunt for the world’s best hamburger. He didn’t try one the last time there, so this time, he did. His opinion?  He said if only the bun had been grilled, otherwise, one of the best ever.

Sadly, the weather was not conducive for a walk on the beach at Little Talbot Island. We have walked on it when it was cold and when it was windy. We just weren’t in the mood to do it again on this day. So we searched for a place inland, with no success. We did know we could get a decent walk in around the campground, so we returned home and took a good walk. We just ran out of daylight! So this was a relatively mild day with a great meal out. And there was time to hook the car up, so it would be ready for the morning.

Thursday, January 7 The weather wasn’t bad, so we managed to start off without incident. We ran the car and were careful to warm it up, put it in neutral and turn it off properly. Traffic was not bad again. Since we had driven to Jacksonville the day before, we knew the better route to take to avoid construction. We hate traveling exclusively on interstates, but to make time, we had to on this journey south. We have traveled on I-4, around Orlando, many times. We knew we had to be on it in midday to avoid any type of “rush hour.” We did pretty well, but the road construction seemed extra annoying this time. The road was so torn up with “detours” around patch work. And going 60 mph while not getting blown off the highway by the big rig trucks who manage to go much faster!

They day was still very overcast but we were starting to feel warmer. We had worn our winter coats at the last rest stop. We made it off I-4 and onto US Highway 27/98 for the last leg of the journey. The sun actually started to burn off the clouds. We are actually “cruising,” just enjoying how smooth the actual driving was going. No real traffic issues!  I’m on social media and posted this picture, saying how great the trip was going:

And then it happened:  BANG! Bill hollers, “what happened?” Then, “I can hardly keep the RV on the road!” And I’m praying out loud, ‘Lord, help us!” My ears are ringing, it sounded like a shotgun went off right at my head.  Oh my my my….

Blow out!

Our tire….Blow out!

Bill was driving 60 mph on this north/south rural highway which is heavily traveled by tractor trailers. But they seem to come in groups. We were approaching an overpass and by now we realize a tire blew. I am so serious, we need divine intervention as Bill is hanging on to the steering wheel for dear life.  There is nowhere to safely to pull off the road – if he could even pull off and the fear of stopping right over a blind spot is terrifying.  But over the overpass we go and he’s still on the road. And miraculously, there is a turn lane!

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Let us count the miracles this day: This happened on an open stretch of road. The traffic seemed to clear off the road for us. Bill kept the rig on the road. We didn’t fall off the overpass. We weren’t on I-4 or I-95 for that matter! A professional driver on his day off saw us and came to offer assistance. He checked our rig over and said we only needed a new tire. We should be good to go – at least to our destination which was about 20 miles away. The damage was minor. The weather was beautiful!

I had read Genesis chapters 22-24 on this morning. One story really stuck with me, about Abraham when the Lord told him he would have to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The Lord was really just testing him to see if he would obey him completely. When the Lord stopped him at the last minute and provided a ram, “Abraham bowed down and worshiped the Lord.” And this scenario was repeated. Every time the Lord answered his prayers, Abraham bowed down and worshiped the Lord. That was about all we could do….

For tips on how to handle a blowout, check out this site which has links to a few videos:

http://www.safe-t-plus.com/tire-blowouts-myths-truths/

PS  Our car looked fine after the incident. The next morning when we came out to get in it, the windshield was cracked!

Anyone else every live through a blowout? I actually had one in a van.  That was an interesting story, but later….

2015 TumbleLees Blogging in Review


I saw another blogger, Christina, share her report and liked the idea! What I plan to do is focus on my most active commenters and encouragers to thank them and give them a shout out! The rest of the report is below and it is a bit interesting.

Vibrant – I just wrote about Anand on my personal blog, so won’t repeat…just visit that blog to see how this amazing man from India and I connected!
placestheygo – Pam and John, two retired teachers living the full-time RV dream, traveling, hiking and enjoying life to the fullest!
Wandering Dawgs – This couple calls themselves life-long Bull Dog fans! They don’t travel in their RV full time, but they sure have a lifetime of great traveling they have done!
Ingrid – She and her husband are also full-time RVers, living the full-time RV dream! Ingrid also has a personal blog with cooking tips and healthy recipes and she is one amazing photographer. They enjoy hiking as much as we do, too!
littlenuggetbignugget – this sweet mom, Jasmin, captured me as she counted down to the birth of her second little nugget! She caught my attention as I watched my own daughter doing the same.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2015 Year End Summary Review


boomerang

Boomerang

We haven’t been as good at blogging the second half of this year. At least we can catch up with a review of our year. The main thing we’ve learned is that we probably misnamed ourselves, The TumbleLees. Perhaps the Boom-a-Rangers would have been better! We had high hopes of visiting many more places and states by now. Instead, we have re-visited some of our favorite places. Much of our travel this year  included trips to help family, especially to our daughter’s home to help welcome to the world our second  grandson in August 2015; selling our first RV and buying our second one in May 2015; and, exploring many state parks in Florida. In spite of not traveling to more states, we have had a GREAT year.

Here are some of our stats:

In 2015, we slept in an RV 331 nights (several family visits for a total of  34 nights away from our RV) for a total of 697 nights in a camper since we started in September 2013.  We moved in and out of 31 campgrounds in 2015 with a total of 70 since we started. We hit a glitch in keeping up with the mileage as our truck was wrecked and we didn’t get that mileage before it was turned over to the insurance company as a total loss. Wow, that sure doesn’t happen every year – but it was very timely as we had just sold the 5th wheel it towed. We can guesstimate we drove the truck 10,000 miles between Jan and May 2015. We know we towed our 5th wheel a total of 12,000 miles from September 2013 to May 2015.

Our biggest hike ever, 9 miles in Callaway Gardens, Georgia

Our biggest hike ever, 9 miles in Callaway Gardens, Georgia

If you know us, you know we love to  hike! But we haven’t been very good at keeping a written journal of our hikes. But I do use the Map My Walk (or hike) app. While it didn’t work for every hike (either battery went dead or we were in an area without any cell phone towers), it calculated we hiked or walked on at least 220 occasions, for at least 608 miles in 10,686 minutes! Sure wish I had kept the stats of our hikes for the past 12 years. ;-{

Our 28' Keystone Cougar XLite 5th wheel and F-150 Ecoboost Ford Truck.

Our 28′ Keystone Cougar XLite 5th wheel and F-150 Ecoboost Ford Truck.

The first half of the year was pretty wild as traveled and we tried to sell our 5th wheel to upgrade to a motorhome on our own. Whew, that was a real chore, but it all worked out perfectly. The full details are here and here. Traveling in our 5th wheel, from January to May, we visited 20 private RV campgrounds/resorts, one KOA, and 8 State Parks (in Florida). Of these, seven were repeat stays. We learned we love camping in state and county parks as this was the first year we managed to do so. We also figured out there are some state parks with sites to fit a 40′ motorhome.  County parks may be a different story as we have learned. You can’t accept the word of the person who answers the phone…..

We bought our Class A motor home, a 2010 Tiffin Phaeton QTH 40′, in May 2015 as well as our flat tow, a 2013 Cadillac SRX. As of December 31, 2015, Bill drove it 2,613 miles. We slowed our pace down considerably, considering we were averaging 2,000/month in the 5th wheel!  We visited 11 campgrounds total: eight private parks and then three unique experiences in the 40′ bus, one more state park in Florida, one County Park in Tennessee and one Sevice Center in Red Bay, Alabama.  We stayed in two repeat campgrounds, near our daughter and at Myrtle Beach.  While we did fit into the County Park, we realized it may be more of a challenge than we thought. We were told they could handle a 40′ motorhome, but the lots were not very level as depicted in this photo:

Lake Marion County Park, Jasper, Tennessee

Lake Marion County Park, Jasper, Tennessee. Normally, we don’t need that step!

We also had many family visits, which were both good and sad. We spent time with Bill’s mom, with Bill helping his brother select an assisted living facility for her in Illinois near his brother.  This visit is not in the map since we didn’t take the RV. We visited my mom and stepdad three times in Sebring (home base) as he battled cancer. Sadly, he lost the battle on December 2, 2015. We are so grateful we had the flexibility to spend as much time with him as we did! And the good and best family times were with our daughter. We were there for her last months of what turned out to be somewhat of a difficult pregnancy, then we were there for the birth of our second healthy grandson. Our daughter stayed home with him for three months. We traveled some during this time. Then we returned to watch him for six more weeks.  He was 4 1/2 months old when he went into daycare and we had to head south. That was a lot of family time. And we managed to visit some dear friends along the way.

Click below read the posts about some of the exciting places we visited: (The numbers signify the campground stay since we began.)

68) Pirateland, site 158, 5401 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29575 Dates: 10/7-11/11/15 (34 nights)

65) Waynesboro North 340 Campground, Eastside Highway, Waynesboro, VA 22980 Campground office: (540) 943-9573.   6/22-24/201

62)Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL 6/11-6/18/2015

53)Talbot Island State Park, 12157 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32226. Phone: 904-251-2320. Site 16. 3/21-25/2015 (4 nights)

52)Torreya State Park, 2576 NW Torreya Park Rd., Bristol, FL 32321. Site: 008. 3/17-21/2015. (4 nights)

51)Ochlockonee River State Park, PO Box 5, Sopchoppy, FL 32358. Sites: 024 & 027. Phone: 850-962-2771. 3/14-17/2015 (4 nights)

50) Blackwater River State Park, 7720 Deaton Bridge Road, Holt, Fl 32564 Phone: 850-983-5363. Sites 024 & 020. 3/8-14/15. (6 nights)

49) Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl 32459 Phone: 850-267-8330 Site, Loop: 083, 102 3/4-8/15. (4 nights)

48) Fallings Waters State Park, 1130 State Park, Chipley, Fl 32428 Phone: 850-638-6130. Site 017 Dates: 2/27-3/4/2015 (5 nights)

47)Florida Caverns State Park, 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL 32446 Phone: 850-482-1228. Site 006, BH1 Dates: 2/23-27/15 (4 nights)

46) Crystal Isles RV Park, 11419 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429. Phone: 888-318-1243
Dates: 2/19-23/15 (4 nights)

44) Tampa East RV Resort, 4630 McIntosh Road, Dover, FL 33527 (866) 786-6298. Dates: 1/13-20/15 (7 nights)

In spite of all these great camping and hiking experiences, we have had to rely more and more on the Lord for our strength as we met the many challenges this year. We were blessed to be able to attend church nearly every Sunday, missing only two or three times due to our travel schedule. The last time we had such a challenging year was in 1999 when not only my dad succumbed to cancer, but I also lost my dear brother in law, who was truly like a big brother to me.  He entered my life when I was a struggling 7th grader. He tutored me when I was failing English. During that year, the lesson we learned was that God was in control even when life seemed out of control! These verses became more and truer to us this year:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9