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

 

The Journey to Bristol, Tennessee and beyond….


We have to include a selfie of us enjoying this day to the fullest!

We have to include a selfie of us enjoying this day in Bristol to the fullest!

We have embraced the full time RV lifestyle. And we appreciate being retired, not being in the daily grind. But for whatever reason, it seems we have been in the daily grind since May 2, 2015 (day our truck was totaled).  However, on April 24, we also received very sad family news. The news helped us keep things in perspective….A dear relative was given the news of a terminal illness with only months to live.  We were so blessed to be in the area twice since then, so we were able to go visit him. And of course, we’re praying for more opportunities….

But since May 2, while it has been all a constant stress and strain, it’s all working out to the good: buying and selling our homes on wheels, having the insurance claim settlement over the wreck of our truck (no injuries), learning how to drive a 40′ Class A motor home, buying a car that can be “flat towed” and not being able to find anyone to configure the car to be towed, taking a two week “side” trip in our car up to Illinois to visit Bill’s family to help begin the process of his mother moving into assisted living…and then about 10 days of our motor home being in and out of the shop for repairs.

So with all that stress, we had hoped after we left Red Bay, we would enjoy our travels to our next destination, and in our dream motor home….And as with most RVers, we prefer to only go 200-250 miles a day. And we’d love to stay at least a week at each location. But there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for this luxury. We at least kept our drive at our limits while we strategically stayed in locations on the way to enjoy the journey.

From Red Bay, AL, to Jasper and Bristol, TN, to Waynesboro, and finally Fredericksburg, VA

From Red Bay, AL, to Jasper and Bristol, TN, to Waynesboro, and finally Fredericksburg, VA. Allegedly 780 miles.

We were heading back to Fredericksburg, Virginia to spend time our grandson, await the birth of our next grandchild (due August 15, 2015) and help our very pregnant daughter and her husband prepare the nursery.

As we wrote in our last blog, ““No More Doubts” we thought we were now comfortable with our new home on wheels. Well, maybe we spoke to soon! Let’s just say, the trip to Bristol was pretty harrowing because of a terrible weather system, coincidently a tropical depression named “Bill.”  Heavy rains and high winds.

After about 100 miles on our way from Jasper to Bristol, Tennessee, we stopped to fill up while we also sought refuge from the weather.  So we also  desperately looked for a campground nearby. It was too grueling to drive in the heavy rains and wind. But we were also short on time….we wanted to get to Bristol as we knew it had lots of great places to hike and explore….so the rain finally let up and Bill said, “let’s press on.” So we did and we were so glad. We found a real gem in Bristol!

We love learning about the history of our nation but also about more current things to help make our country, and it’s landscape, better. We had no idea what we would learn or stumble on in Bristol, Tennessee. Of course, we knew about the National Forests (so great hiking) and the speedway, but fortunately, while Bill is a “car guy” he’s not really into watching races….We love nature and the outdoors, so that is where we focus.  Tennessee is famous for it’s great hikes and water falls. Sadly, there weren’t any hikes close enough for us to try during our short stay. But we discovered something interesting about the Tennessee Valley Authority and where we went, we had a blast!

Bill discovered there was an island nearby – how could we resist seeing an island near mountains? So off we went to Osceola Island….not realizing, it was near a dam and that’s where we found a real gem! So after a stroll around the island, and looking at a strange sight, we learned so much…The strange sight was an earth and rock dam, 285 feet high and 1,600 feet long, with a generating capacity of 38,500 kilowatts.

We had no idea we were in such a strategic location, either.  The South Holston Dam is located 50 miles above the South Fork Holston River’s confluence with the North Fork Holston River (which forms the Holston River proper). The dam site is situated in an area where the river descends out of the Appalachian Mountains and enters the upper Holston Valley. The dam and the Tennessee half of its reservoir are surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, and the Virginia half of the reservoir is surrounded by the Jefferson National Forest. The reservoir includes parts of Sullivan County in Tennessee and Washington County in Virginia. The city of Bristol straddles the Tennessee-Virginia border a few miles northwest of South Holston Dam. So what is unique about this dam?

In 1991, TVA built a weir (a unique structure that if you arrive at the right time, you will see multiple ‘water falls’ ) below South Holston Dam to add oxygen to the river when the hydropower plant isn’t generating electricity. Oxygen-rich water helps create a sustained habitat for aquatic insects, vegetation, and fish.

South Holston Reservoir is on the South Fork Holston River in northeast Tennessee. It extends 24 miles east of the dam into Virginia. Construction of the dam began in 1942 but was halted in favor of other wartime construction efforts. Building resumed in 1947 and was completed in 1950.

South Holston is operated for several purposes, including flood damage reduction, power production, aquatic ecology, and augmentation of the flow of water during drier periods.

The South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Locals say that when the serviceberry and dogwood bloom, the white bass run.

A footbridge from the parking lot below the dam leads to Osceola Island and its one-mile-loop wildlife trail. Early in the morning or late in the evening are the best times to sight waterfowl, deer, and other wildlife.

We said we will have to come back to this area….we were only there for two nights.  Here are a few pictures from the Shadrack RV campground (and our review), the view when we left church on Sunday, our drive to Osceola Island and finally the South Holston Dam. To see more, click here to see more photos of this beautiful location on Flickr.

After this quick stay, we then headed to Waynesboro, Virginia, approximately 245 miles, where we again stayed for only two nights. Fortunately, even though we traveled on Interstate 85, the beautiful weather made this leg of the journey more tolerable. But Bill has decided he hates being the slowest vehicle on the road and being passed by other vehicles as big and bigger than we are.  At least, this is another great area, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Mountains. So he had to focus on the prize!

While we thought the campground was pricey, and no discounts, it was satisfactory. To read our review, click here.

This time, we were close enough to some great hikes, so we just decided to look for the best possible hike. We absolutely love the Virginia Appalachian Mountains, because we are so familiar with them and there are such great views and usually great water falls. We selected White Rock Falls Trail, which would be a 5 mile round trip hike. We didn’t realize it also met up with the Torry Ridge Trail, which is where we ended up hiking to. These trails were off of Mile Post 18.5 off the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). We learned you have no cell service or GPS on the BRP so I couldn’t use our “Map My Hike” app.

We have no idea how far we actually hiked as we went beyond the initial Falls Trail we started on. We had a great hike, but the falls were disappointingly small, in fact, we went beyond them because we couldn’t imagine they were the 30′ falls we read in the description of the hike.

We had to find something beautiful, after all, we were in the Appalachian mountains! So up we went and what a work out in the end. And the reward was well worth it. Here are a few pictures of this hike:

 

We didn’t mention, this whole journey also included numerous conversations with Tiffin Service Center. One of the main reasons we felt we needed to upgrade to a motor home was to have a washer and dryer. We are so active and on the go, we need to not waste precious time waiting for washers and dryers! And we had seriously downsized our wardrobe for our “extra lite” and very small 5th wheel. So long story short, while we paid too much to have a 5 year old washer fixed, Tiffin was only trying to save us money. In the end, the aggravation and the fact I did have to wait to do laundry, they refunded us all our money on the repair. We’re now waiting on our special order and we sure hope it works out!

So now our focus is on our arrival to the Fredericksburg, VA area and at least two months with our grandson and his parents! We will help get the nursery ready for his sibling, paint the guest room, and just help around the house while we enjoy our little lad, Colin!

Normally, he comes running when we pick him up from day care. This day, he wanted to keep climbing!

Normally, he comes running when we pick him up from day care. This day, he wanted to keep climbing!

Next up, we will celebrate our one year anniversary as full-timers. We sold our “dream” Florida pool home on July 16, 2014. We don’t miss it at all!