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

 

Little Talbot Island State Park, 3/21-25/2015


Miles of beach

Miles of beach

Our experiment is over, seven Florida State Parks in about a month’s time. And it was hugely successful, well, sort of. All but one were in the Florida Panhandle. Since we love the beach, we had to finish up at one close to the beaches of Florida. And this State Park has way more to offer than we can ever hope to enjoy.

We came mainly for the solitude and beach walks. It’s best to look at the official website for a little about this unique and very diverse State Park: “With more than five miles of beautiful, white sandy beaches, Little Talbot Island is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. Maritime forests, desert-like dunes and undisturbed salt marshes on the western side of the island allow for hours of nature study and relaxation. The diverse habitats in the park host a wealth of wildlife for viewing, including river otters, marsh rabbits, bobcats and a variety of native and migratory birds.”

Seagulls

Seagulls

How I wish I was a birder because this is an excellent location for it:  “You can see buntings, and its hammocks are good for migratory songbirds in season. At trail’s end on the north point, loafing Black Skimmers and terns are common. Large numbers of Piping, Wilson’s and an occasional Snowy Plover feed in winter on 5 miles of pristine beach. Other beach birds include seven sandpiper species, four plover species, Red Knots, Dunlins, Marbled Godwits and occasionally Long-billed Curlews.” I tried to get some good photos, but it was too windy and overcast. But the seagulls were out in full force!

As well as for fishermen, more from the official website, in excepts: “With literally miles of beach, Little Talbot is a surf fishing paradise.” “Surrounding surf and tidal streams present excellent fishing for bluefish, striped bass, redfish, flounder, mullet and sheepshead.”  “Pick up a copy of the local edition of Fishing Connection at the Ranger Station to get the inside scoop on nearby angling.”

“The coastal salt marsh on the ‘back’ side of the island offers superb light tackle angling. From tailing redfish to bottom hugging flounder, ambushing trout to hard pulling black drum, you are sure to find something to ‘stretch your string.’ Bait fish like mud minnows and finger mullet may be caught using a cast net in the shallows. Shrimp, fiddler crabs and artificial lures are also popular options. For a real experience, try a guided fly fishing or flounder gigging trip.”

“Other popular park activities include hiking, kayaking, beach combing, surfing and picnicking….A campground is located along the eastern salt marshes of Myrtle Creek. Kayak rentals and guided paddle tours are available at Kayak Amelia, (904) 251-0016.” Another opportunity to try to kayak, but again, the weather didn’t cooperate.

As campers, we were welcomed “to visit all seven of the parks which collectively comprise Talbot Islands State Parks: Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Amelia Island State Park, Fort George Island Cultural State Park, Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park, Big Talbot Island State Park and George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park.” Oh so much to do and see and so little time! This was our third visit here and we had no idea what all was available – not until we became registered campers did we learn all this.

The weather for this stay on the island was less than optimal. While our site was very private, it was narrow and began to feel like a “rain forest.” Because it rained on and off during our stay. BUT we didn’t let that ruin our fun, much. And that’s what we love about living in a recreational vehicle. We just can’t let the weather spoil things for us. 

Soon after we set up, we set out to explore the campground. While we walked 1.52 miles, it included a .8 mile nature loop. We learned so much about the area on this loop, as it is full of interpretive signs that provide information about the natural surroundings: live-oak hammock, rolling dunes, salt marsh, Myrtle Creek, open vista of the sea islands and shorebirds, red cedar, resurrection fern, rushes. Some people see Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, Opossums, bobcats, raccoons and fiddler crabs. It was so dreary, we think we were the only “animals” out there! Here are some pictures of our site and this fabulous little enchanted nature trail:

We had a lot of rain our first night. But it seemed to clear up enough for us to head to the beach. But looks like our beach chairs, umbrella and suits will stay at the camper.  (I wore jeans and a flannel shirt.)  Our first full day here, we took a walk to the north end of the island. It was a great 4.7 mile walk to the northern end of the island. We could see Amelia Island in the far off distance! A few pictures of this walk:

Our last long beach walk was at the southern end where we can now say we have walked the entire Atlantic Ocean side of Little Talbot Island. This was our third time to walk this beach, first time in January 2014, second time in January 2015 and now March 2015. Here is a slide show:

We’ve enjoyed great beach walks, enjoyed the campground and ended by eating at Safe Harbor Seafood Market, a fresh seafood market in Mayport, by the Naval Air Station. We don’t eat out much when we travel, we prefer our “kitchen” and Bill prefers his own cooking! But he doesn’t cook seafood much….so it was a real treat.

There is not much else to report other than we were hit with some challenging family news while here. We appreciate prayers for Debbie’s step dad and mom. We are thankful for their great faith and for family, friends and a strong church support system to help carry them through these challenges. And we are so grateful for the Easter Season as we had little reminders of our most holy holiday!

We’d like to share details about the campground in our review on Campendium campground review site.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself.” I needed a prompt to blog during our “down time” to handle the mundane tasks of life.  Today, I am supposed to finish preparing our taxes for our accountant. We’re due a refund so I don’t need much motivation, but being a full-timer now, makes it so hard to sit inside the camper while it is a GORGEOUS day outside. I’ve already put it off enough and today is my deadline.  So after reading Ingrid’s awesome post this morning, I decided to take a quick detour and join this weekly photo challenge!

There are four things in this world I love as we travel. So first, the foundation of our marriage began walking on a beach in Jacksonville, Florida 40 years ago, just about to the month!  We were “falling” in love and discovered we both love the beach. So here are just a few snaps of our recent walk on Little Talbot Island near Jacksonville.

Little Talbot Island

The way to the beach is almost as good as the walk on the beach

The walk to the beach

The walk to the beach

Fabulous beach

Fabulous beach on Little Talbot Island

Cool dunes!

Cool dunes!

Bill lived in Jacksonville, FL soon after graduating from a technical training institute. He fell in love with the beaches and vowed to never move north….then he met me (Debbie), who was from the north. And like the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, it looks like we’ve been wandering that long too!

We decided to travel full time because we no longer know, or really care, where we live (in a stix and bricks house). Because as much as we love the beach, we’ve decided it’s not the place to live…permanently! We love to visit and during the off season! We just bundle up a bit!

So the next thing we discovered about each other is that we love to visit historic places, museums and gardens. So while in Jacksonville, we went to a garden/museum we had not visited before, the Cummer Museum, a garden and art museum. Now this was a bonus visit as it also had a great water feature, the St. John’s River! I just couldn’t caption these as it depicts a few things. One is a very old and huge oak tree that has become art itself. Much like life, as it grows, it adapts to the environment! My words just can’t do it justice! And then this fabulous urban museum overlooks the St. John River where I captured a boat gliding by with a bridge just peeking through my pictures. This was once a sanctuary for a family to express themselves, entertain and eventually help rebuild Jacksonville after the great fire of 1901.

And then our third love, we discovered we had was in July 2003, hiking! After we moved to Florida in 2005 (the Bible says God will give you the desires of your heart, so this was after 30 years of marriage), we thought our new found love of the mountains was never to be revisited.  But alas, in November 2013, we discovered we could easily find ways to hike. We just take our mobile-home with us and go to the mountains. And have we ever!  Here are a few snaps of our most recent visit to the mountains, near Franklin, NC.

We discovered our love of hiking goes back to our childhoods. Bill played in the hilly woods growing up outside of Pittsburgh, PA. And I spent a glorious six years in Colorado Springs, CO as an adventurous little girl.

So this brings me to our last great love of things on this earth and it is because of this, we have become full-time RVers! So we praise God for whom all blessings flow for delivering to us the next best thing in life, next to our own child, is our grandson! You see, when he was born, we lived 800 miles apart. And we were in Florida where Bill had yearned to return after our marriage nearly 40 years ago! So here I sit in the warmth of Florida while I blog, and thinking on these things that really help express who I am!

One year old birthday pic

We’ve entered the promised land!