Midway Into Our 2018 Winter Travels (warning: Cute photos overload)

Continuing our journey, now along the Florida Panhandle and along the Gulf of Mexico. First stay was at the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Gregory E. Moore Campground, then onto Fort Pickens Campground. While it was only 65 miles, it took nearly two hours due to construction, stop lights and general traffic along Highway 98.

Wow, it’s been a month since we last updated our winter travelogue! As we said in an earlier post, click here if you missed it, we really weren’t sure what our travels plans would look like this winter – so we’re glad we didn’t set any expectations. This past month has been a whirlwind.

We love the beach and knew we wanted to spend a month on the beautiful beaches off of the Gulf of Mexico. This much we knew and planned back in July. My mom lives in the panhandle with my oldest sister so we knew this was a primary destination in January. To get good sites for the two weeks in each location, you have to reserve six months ahead. First stop is Topsail Hill State Preserve Park Gregory E. Moore RV Campground.

Our first day here! It was a cool 51 degrees with a nice breeze. This is the walkway over the sand dunes from the campground to the beach. It’s nearly a mile walk from our campsite. They do run trolleys from the campground to the beach – but we aim for walking 5 miles every day.

This year, we arrived on January 16 and stayed until January 30, 2018. Two weeks is allowed per camper in the Florida State Parks. Once I get as old as Bill, we can stay for a month here, two weeks under his driver’s license (proof of Florida Residency and our age) and two under mine. But no rush! LOL

Here is a slide show to put things in perspective a bit:

So now you may see why this is a favorite destination for us! We fell in love with it our first visit in March 2015. We talked to a couple there who were work campers. It sounded like something we would like to do. My mom would only be an hour or so away so we could spend a month or two or three here! We interviewed for the job and it looked like we were in….but then the Ranger who “hired” us (it’s a volunteer job with free “rent” in exchange) ended up changing jobs before we could cinch the deal. We’ve pretty much decided it probably wouldn’t have worked out for us….😢

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park beach on the Gulf of Mexico our second day here.

This year, we had a real treat – something we have wanted for a while, to bring a grandson on another road trip! We had our oldest grandson, Colin, with us for ten days in Myrtle Beach soon after his brother, Bryce was born. We wrote a little about that wonderful time here, in case you missed it.  We cherished that time with him and look forward to another journey with him. Our decision to go get our youngest, he’s nearly 2 1/2 years old now, was a bit spontaneous. We had to have a luxury car just for situations like this. So the biggest downside of Topsail for us is it’s a LONG way from our grandsons (and their beloved parents)! So this month, we drove our car 2,300 miles to get him and return him, taking us 36 hours of driving time! But it was so worth it. Both of our grandsons also love the beach so we look forward to many more fun travel days ahead!

We were on site #66. Bryce felt right at home!

We really weren’t sure how Bryce would travel.  Thankfully, he did great as long as we let him out to stretch his legs every few hours. He’s potty trained so it helped us make sure he got his exercise. He is also a GREAT sleeper, needing 2 to 3 hour naps and he sleeps 10 to 12 hours a night. So we got the rest we needed as well.

This one pictures says it all!!! It was a bit cold, but so sunny and this kid loves it!!!

Bryce’s response when he realized we were leaving the beach for the day!

But he was easy to get back on track! He loved riding around the park on his trike

There was a playground near our site so of course, Bryce had to go every chance he got!

Bryce wanted to “touch” every dog he saw! He made lots of friends as he learned how to safely approach a new dog! He’s probably a dog whisperer…

What little boy can resist climbing a ladder? He loves helping his papa!

Bryce was actually only at this location for one week. Bill and I had a week here by ourselves when we decided to go get him. Then it was time to move closer to see my mom and sister, only about 65 miles away, still on the Gulf of Mexico.

On January 30, 2018, we moved onto Fort Pickens Campground on the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. We stayed here last year, but didn’t discover it until near the end of my time with my mom. We wrote about our time in the Florida Panhandle – when we discovered this treasure – written about here.

I drove Bryce in the car and we left ahead of Bill so he could disconnect everything without a little “helper.” If you know what we mean! Bryce and I stopped in to see my mom, sister and her dog Ruby before we met Bill at the campground. Bryce is my mom’s 7th great grand child. It was time she met him.

Bill and Bryce checking out our new homesite. We thought it was longer than in reality. We just fit. And now having Bryce on a blind corner will mean he must not be out of an arms length. Thankfully, the speed limit was 5 MPH and most every drove very slow.

We arrived here in Fort Pickens on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Our reservation was for two weeks, ending on February 13. My mom saw Bryce twice, but fortunately it was before she was contagious. Mom wasn’t feeling very good our third day there, so I went to see her alone. Sadly, my mom had contracted the flu and was hospitalized that night. The hospital was close by, so I spent two days visiting her there – and then I came down with it! What a miracle neither Bill, Bryce nor my sister caught it.

Our walking here was on the nature trails. This entrance was right by our site. Bryce enjoyed our nature walks and especially all the dogs who were also out for their exercise.

Bill is compelled to walk at least five miles every day. Bryce accompanied him everyday, by giving Bill an “extra” good workout once Bryce’s legs needed a break.

This campground had lots of doggies! So of course, Bryce got to meet each and every one!

Boys will be boys! Bryce managed to break the kitchen sink sprayer connector, just being a boy! Thank goodness for Amazon, we found the replacement part and Bill repaired it quickly. While Bryce was napping!

Bryce loved riding around the campground, checking out the other vehicles. This one sure caught his attention!

Bryce kept asking to go to the beach. It wasn’t as convenient from our campsite to get to the Gulf of Mexico. But this trail was close by to the sound. It was sandy, so he was happy!

We were just exploring so we didn’t know what to expect. Bill took him back another time with his bucket and shovel

There wasn’t a playground at this campground. But we found something just as much fun. A hill of pebble gravel when it was too cool for the beach.

But he asked daily to go back to the beach. He loved playing in the sand.

The water was crystal clear on the sound side as well. Much calmer, too.

So how did I get sick while Bill and Bryce were OK? As soon as my symptoms started, I saw a doctor and was put on Tamiflu – was told to rest for a week and wear a mask. It was recommended Bill get on it as well, so his doctor got him started. And then I wore a surgical mask to keep the germs to myself. I also wore it in the hospital, but I must have contracted it before she was in the hospital. (Do you think I rested? Oh how I wanted to….)

Ugh, the first time I’ve had the flu in decades! So this was how I kept from spreading it.

Bryce had to get into the act and copy his MeMe! He was so funny wearing it and it helped him not be afraid of me!

We arrived here in Fort Pickens on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Our reservation was for two weeks, ending on February 13. She had two days to see Bryce, but fortunately it was before she was contagious. Mom wasn’t feeling very good our third day there, so I went to see her alone. Sadly, my mom had contracted the flu and was hospitalized for five days. The hospital was close by, so I spent two days visiting her – and then I came down with it! What a miracle neither Bill, Bryce nor my sister caught it.

Using FaceTime, Bryce spoke to and saw his mom, dad, brother and his doggie, Ollie, every night. He especially was excited to talk to Ollie and kissed him good night! He really loves dogs. All good things had to come to an end, so it was time to get him home. Since I was still sick, our daughter decided to fly to Atlanta and we meet her there to return him. Bryce enjoyed the airport and was so happy to see his mom. He wouldn’t let go of her for a minute – except to hug us good bye! We loved our time with him in spite of me being sick.

We knew we needed to extend our time here so I could see my mom more. Sadly, this very popular campground was booked, but miraculously we found a really good site back in Campground A – where we stayed last year. At first, only two nights were available – then we checked it the next day and managed to get three nights in a row on the same site.

We stayed on this site from 2/13-16/2018. It’s in Campground A, site #16. It’s a smaller campground as you can tell. Our neighbors had moved out. We have more room on the right because the nature trail path is there, but not shown in the picture. The dump station, dumpster and bath house are only a few hundred yards from any site. Very convenient, but smaller sites and the trees can interfere with your parking.

Mom was finally feeling good enough for a little outdoor time. So I brought her over to see our new campsite.

There are a few of downsides to Fort Pickens. Mainly, it only has water and electric, no sewer. Last year in Campground A, we were close to the dump station, so Bill just carried a five pound bucket of gray water over each day. And we were right by the showers. But in Campground E, we were as far as you could be from the dump station. So he broke down and bought a blue tote tank. Sadly, the weather was so cold here our first week or so, we didn’t use the bathhouse – besides it wasn’t that close to us either.

This is a National Park, so they honor the “America the Beautiful” Passes. We didn’t mind only paying $10/night last year, but the price doubled this year. And it’s really a drive to go to the grocery store. But there are a few restaurants nearby. We haven’t tried them, but others said they were good. Here is the link to the campground for more information and reservations:  Recreation.gov< strong>After that whirlwind of a month, we headed Montgomery, Alabama. We stayed here last year and decided we would return for 10 days on our way to the Tiffin Service Center for a few minor repairs to our home.

Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly….Proverbs 17:6 

2015 Year End Summary Review



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