Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Journey continues. . .

We continue our trek toward the Rio Grande Valley. Being fulltimers, it is never our plan to travel 10 hours a day. We cover between 200-300 miles per day. Coming out of Florida, we actually did over 300 miles two days in a row, but they were easy miles, mostly interstate, so no problem. We have slowed down a bit now.

The last two nights we have been at cousin Gary and Jo's in Zachary, Louisiana. We always have a great time with them. They are campers, bikers, boaters. . . you name it. . . they like to have fun like we do. Last spring when we saw them, we met in New Orleans at a state park and ventured into the city for a day of fun. We will do that again some time. But this time we mainly kicked back and relaxed and visited. Jo's daughter, Kristin stopped by with her three boys and we enjoyed seeing how they had grown since we last saw them. She has a six-month old baby and we had not seen him before. It was great to see them.

Yesterday we did a little shopping for the road food. We like to pick up stuff we can easily heat up or put on a plate so we don't spend a lot of time fixing food when we stop. We usually stop in a rest area for lunch and walk the dogs. We never eat out when we're on the road. We really have to watch Terry's salt intake and eating out is the worst thing for that.

Tomorrow we will be driving through Houston. It will be my second time this fall. Nita, my sister, and I drove Mom and Dad down to Texas last month and passed through Houston then. I hope the wind dies down by then. It was a bit of a problem today with high gusts. It isn't supposed to be as strong tomorrow. We will spend tomorrow night in Victoria, Texas, and then on Tuesday we will be home at our lot in the Rio Grande Valley.

Till next time. . .


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Westward Ho!

We left Collier-Seminole State Park on Sunday morning. We were hoping some of the other campers would clear out before us to give us a bit more room for our exit. We were not disappointed and we made the sweep just fine. We hitched up and pulled out around 9:30.

The day's drive was all interstate because we wanted to get further north to Bradenton to set up and watch the last Nascar race of the year. We accomplished that goal and set up in a very nice Encore park called Manatee. It is close to the interstate and reasonably priced with Passport America.

We set up a breakfast date with Terry's colleague and his wife from his working days . They live in Valencia Lakes near Bradenton, Florida. What a beautiful place! We drove over in the morning and met them at their house. The community has everything retirees could possibly want with a lot of activities and pools, ball courts, garden plots, dog walks, etc. It is really reasonably priced for the amenities, but as you know. . . we like to change the scenery around us every few days. LOL We hopped into their golf cart and drove over to the clubhouse where we ordered breakfast from the Bistro. It was very good and we sat outside near the pool and enjoyed our breakfast. Afterwards we were treated to a tour of the grounds by Shaun and Jennifer. It really is a nice place with plenty of facilities and activities for the senior set. I could be comfortable there, but it is too far from any of our kids. We went back to the house and we got the tour of their lovely home. It is very nice with lots of extras. As with most senior communities, the lawn and all the grounds are kept perfectly manicured by a crew and they don't have to do anything. Very nice.

We eventually made it back to the motorhome and found we had a call from Terry's classmate who lives in Bradenton. We met Suzie and her husband the last time we were in the area and wanted to hook up again. Stan was out of town on business, but we met Suzie at Starbucks and spent the afternoon catching up with her family and other people she and Terry went to school with. A great time.

We left Bradenton on Tuesday morning and drove north about 330 miles. We spent the night west of Tallahassee, Florida, in a small campground that just caters to overnighters. It was pleasant enough and was nice and quiet. We left the next morning and spent the night at Waveland, Mississippi. I don't know if our kids remember this park. They certainly would not recognize it. We were probably here the first time about 25 years ago. We had one of our older Class C motorhomes and towed our Dodge Colt. I know they probably remember the saga of the broken timing chain on the Colt over in Bayou LeBatre. That was a night I thought we would all going to be murdered and no one would know. But we weren't, we were actually taken good care of by a Cajun who drove us to the airport to rent a car, then had our Colt repaired at the shop where he worked.

But that's another story. We stayed at Buccaneer State Park then. Over the years, the park added a water park and maybe a wave pool. Then Katrina happened. Bay St. Louis, just down the road, took the main hit from Katrina and all the homes and businesses here were totally wiped off the map. The bridge at Pass Christian was damaged and part of it missing. The state park was demolished as well. We were back through here a couple years later and the only change we saw were the addition of FEMA trailers all over the place. A bit of rebuilding up on 90, but not much else. It has to be terrible trying to recover from such devastation.

But, things are different now. The park has been rebuilt. All sites past the gate house are FHU with 50 Amp. Many bathhouses available. . . all new. . . all elevated. In fact, everything built in there is elevated, including all the power centers, etc. So the likelihood of total devastation like they had before from Katrina is not likely. Another storm would cause damage, but it looks like the plan is to be able to recover more quickly. All the roads are paved, all the sites are paved. We had no trouble getting Phaeton Place in. There are some sites we wouldn't try, but for the most part, big rigs have plenty of sites available. The water park is rebuilt, the wave pool is rebuilt, but those were not operating when we were there. Not sure they are quite ready, but things are looking up. So if you are in the area, be sure to stop by and patronize this jewel in Waveland, Mississippi. We paid $24 for FHU, 50 Amp, good power. Bathhouses are very nice and clean. The park is gated and has a live-in on site manager. There are W/E sites available out front which are ocean view for $35 if you prefer. Since we were just there for overnight, we parked back in the park. The best way to get there is to take Lakeshore Drive off 90 on the west end of Waveland because that road is wider and the railroad track is flat. There are some new houses going up, mostly on east of the park toward Bay St. Louis. The Firedog Saloon is gone, though. It was destroyed by the hurricane and I hoped they would rebuild, but it appears to have been torn down.

Once we left the state park, we headed on over to cousin Gary and Jo's in Zachary, Louisiana. Any time we head across country on I-10 through Louisiana, we have a mandatory stop here. It's always a good time with family and this time is no exception. We met Kolt last night, the newest member of the family. He's six months old and has his two older brothers to look up to. A cold front is coming through today. . . it's already hit the Rio Grande Valley, where we are headed tomorrow, but it still is better than the freezing weather up north. So tomorrow we hitch up and head out. . .

Till next time. . .


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Another great day with great friends!

Here in the park is a "walking dredge" set up in a permanent display. This was an actual dredge used in the building of the Tamiami Trail, otherwise known as highway 41. This dredge was built in Michigan and sent down to Florida in the 1920's to build the road.

We have met so many people in the eight years we have been fulltiming. Many we remain in contact with and continue to visit on occasion when we are in the same area. We have exchanged correspondence with Al over the years on one of the RV forums. Today we visited him at his home in Port of the Islands outside of Naples. We were here last night, but it was dark and we wanted to see it in the daylight. It is a community of single family homes, condos and townhouses. A canal runs from the homes all the way to the Gulf. Many and probably most of the homes are waterfront with dockage available for a boat. Al has a boat and offered to take us out for a ride. As we would never turn down a boat ride, we all hopped in and we started out. The community is built with the one long canal that goes to the Gulf and other canals off to both sides of the main canal with homes built around the water inlets. Some have swimming pools. It is quite a unique development and I haven't seen another one like it.

We rode out all the way to the Gulf where it was a bit rougher with a light chop to the water. We puttered around a bit and I got a picture of Marco Island. It is a long way off and in the haze and overcast skies, it looks very hazy, but you can see it.

We saw lots of birds as we passed through the canal. I got some great pictures of osprey and one large blue bird that I originally thought was a great Blue Heron, but it is not. Perhaps someone will recognize it. We saw what we are sure was an alligator, but he was in hiding by the time we got to him. We drove back into the dock and offloaded. What a great afternoon and boat ride with our new friends, Al and his daughter Debbie.

Al suggested a restaurant down in Everglades City. We were in that town several years ago, but it has changed a lot since we were there. Course, a couple hurricanes have gone through and stuff needed to be rebuilt, etc. The restaurant where we ate years ago is gone now, but we were able to eat at the City Seafood and Restaurant and it was very good.

Once back at Al's house, we said our goodbyes and promised to come back again to visit. We have made more good friends this trip and explored more of the U.S. in the process. It just doesn't get any better!

Till next time. . .


Moving right along. . .

Hard to believe we were at Brandon's for a week and we are gone again. I hated to leave that new little baby. She is such a sweetie and Grandma sure loves holding her. Even if she's fussy and squirming, she is still a delight.

We generally spent our evenings at their house catching up with them and the baby and Jax, the dog. We tried to bring our two new dogs into the mix, but they would have none of that. Believe it or not, our little wheaten Scottie, Butterscotch, may have previously been known as a "sweetie wheatie," but she nailed Jax twice on the nose. We tried a couple techniques that I thought would allow the dogs to coexist compatibly, but she wanted to tear into Jax. We can't let that happen, because Jax is part pit and he is way too strong. He is a very sweet, mellow dog, but very excitable and he would definitely be the victor. As it was, even after being nipped, he just wanted to play. Duchess, I believe, would be in harmony with the situation were she by herself, but she was terrified of the excitement. So there were no fights and we immediately removed the girls back to the comfort of our motorhome. I certainly did not want to stress either of them and they were happy where they were. We had hoped we could have them all together so we could spend a longer window of time with the kids, but it's okay. I am going to research the dog behavior and hope to work on socializing the girls with other dogs. In the Texas park, we have lots of dogs that get walked daily, so we are hoping they will learn to like the company of other dogs. If it doesn't work, though, not a problem. We love them dearly just like they are. We are enjoying the many walks we take them on every day. They love people and insist on being petted by people they meet!

We went to eat last Sunday with the kids and Megan's parents. We usually try to see them for dinner at least once when we are there. We always enjoy getting together and having good food!

The kids asked us to babysit on Monday night since it was their second anniversary. Wow. Hard to believe two years have passed since we all went to Florida for the wedding. What a happy time that was because of both the wedding and because we had found out not long before that Jocelyn and Tom were adding a second child to the mix. Little did we all know what route little Aenea would take into the world. . . being born at 28 weeks, etc. But she is now one and a half and absolutely perfect.

Megan and I went down to the outlet stores in Vero Beach one afternoon and did some shopping. She got some bargains for the baby and I got some ideas for Christmas. Of course we took Brynlee so I got to help with her as well.

Yesterday we packed up and headed out for the Naples area. We planned to meet up with a former fulltimer with whom we had exchanged correspondence over the internet. He and his wife had traveled with multiple complicated health issues and he had a lot of information for people like us who were just starting out our travels and dealing with health issues on the road. He lost his wife a couple years ago and no longer fulltimes; instead he has settled into a condo in Naples at Port of the Islands. What a lovely place. We drove down to Collier-Seminole State Park and yesterday afternoon, he and his daughter came by and picked us up. He gave us the tour of the Naples area and took us passed multi-million dollar estates which I'm sure rival anything Hollywood. Eventually we worked our way down to Marco Island where we had dinner at Porky's. It was a lovely restaurant and good times with good people. Afterwards, we went back to his condo and were treated to pumpkin pie for dessert. We are going back over today to see what Port of the Islands looks like during the day. It was too dark to see the development last night and I have only seen it from Google Maps, but it looks spectacular.

The state park here is pretty crowded with trees. At first glance at our site, I said I was sure we couldn't get in there. Nothing else was available so I took another look. Terry is always the one who parks with me directing. I told him I could get him in there. . . wasn't sure if our slides could be deployed, but we'd give it a shot. Well, we are GOOD, what can I say. We slid into that site like a knife through warm butter and had room for the slides as well. Pretty good tree cover, so we were totally blown away by the satellite coming in on all 3 satellites. Whoo hoo. Life is good.

Till next time. . .


Friday, November 08, 2013

We made it to Florida!

We drove 800 miles in three days. I know. . . that's slow going for most of you, but in Phaeton Place, that's par for the course. We typically drive 2-300 miles a day in the rig. We had good travels each day and "uneventful" as well, which is the way we like it.

We arrived at Wickham Park in Melbourne around 2:30 p.m. and set up camp. We used to come here regularly and the best service they had was water and 30 amp electric. They have upgraded their sites now to all FHU with 30/50 amp. We liked camping here until the Irish travelers took over the place and then school buses came through to pick up their children for school, etc. They trashed the place up and we quit coming. Things appear to be different now and we are giving it another go.

Last evening we ran down to see the kids. Brynlee was asleep . . . SCORE! Grandma got in some good baby time holding her till she woke up, then feeding her after that. She is a cutie, as are all my grandkids. We are meeting them for breakfast this morning, so will get to see her early today. I think they are coming back here to meet the dogs then.

More later with pictures!

Till next time. . .


Monday, November 04, 2013


I don't remember when I have seen more beautiful colors in the fall. Well, it's been about 8 years since I have even "experienced" a fall season where the leaves change colors and fall. Since we spent the summer "gone" from our business, we stayed a bit later into the fall to give our managers a break. But we have run into some cold weather and we know the time is right to leave the frozen north behind. We still have kids to see, however, so our total departure is delayed while we fuss over the grandkids one last time. . .

Terry loves taking pictures of "my nemisis," the hill known as Sandstone Mountain in West Virginia, starting from Pluto Road at the summit. There we always pull off to the mandatory truck brake check lot and start our decent from a slow crawl. Even then, it requires constant vigilance and transmission adjustments to keep Phaeton Place rolling at an acceptable speed. It is a 5 mile 7% grade and not fun for the driver. But Terry has fun joking about our "brown pants" we don at the top of the hill, changing back into the white ones at the bottom. LOL

The colors coming through West Virginia were gorgeous and no camera shooting out the front window of the motorhome or car can give it justice, but the memories are stuck in our heads for sure. The colors here in the Shenandoah Valley have been spectacular with plenty of reds giving way to the yellows and rust colors.

We took time Saturday to go with the kids to a vintage apple festival which featured some of the oldest kinds of apples to ever be grown in Virginia. Me? I just buy what tastes good, I don't care if it's a vintage breed or a newer one. We did buy some pink lady, suncrisp and york. Apples have enjoyed a bumper crop this year and the fruits are huge. We also bought some cider but at $7.25 a half gallon, we feel we are drinking liquid gold. LOL

Today is our last day with the kids and grandkids. The little ones are so sweet and cute. I just can't get enough of them. But I am anxious to see Brynlee in Florida as well. We will miss them for sure.

Till next time. . .


Saturday, November 02, 2013

Grandkids meet new Scotties!

Yesterday we went in to see the kids and ended up shopping at various places with Jocelyn and Ronan. We got MORE stuff we don't need or have room for. . . . this has GOT to end. The good news is that we are eating up a lot of leftovers and eating pretty well. Prior to getting here, we had made some dishes up with extra so we would have some decent meals that could be reheated quickly. That seems to be working out for us. Yesterday at World Market we got Terry's "almost" sodium free pizza crusts. We both love pizza, but that is what sent him to the hospital the last time (3 years ago) due to sodium overload, so we are extremely careful with any food now. We count every milligram of sodium for him. We still do pizza, but it is a different version that most people. Still, it can be very good and actually healthy!

Once we got back, we headed back to camp because we had left the girls for five hours and we are trying not to go over four. But they were very good girls and got an extra treat and a nice long walk when we arrived. Camp had filled up while we were gone and the game people are here. UVA plays Clemson this weekend for their homecoming game and the camp will be totally full. Lots of campfires, etc.

Later the kids came out because they wanted to meet the Butterscotch and Duchess. I knew they would be a hit and I wasn't disappointed. Butterscotch wants everyone to pet her and wants on everyone's lap. Once Jocelyn's lap was free of kids, Butterscotch moved in. She didn't waste any time! LOL Aenea loved Butterscotch and Butterscotch got a lick in or two. Aenea wasn't quite sure about that, but she survived! Even Ironman paid a visit!

Duchess is not the social butterfly that Butterscotch is, but she still got a lot of loving from everyone. Jocelyn had brought popcorn, so the dogs were into that. We didn't "feed" them, but there was an occasional kernal "dropped" so they got a good taste.

Today we are all going to a fall apple festival south of town. We will drive separately as it is down the road from where we are camped. It should be fun and may be able to buy a few apples or cider.

Till next time. . . 


Friday, November 01, 2013

It's grandkids time!!!!!!

Leaving northern Indiana did not go as smoothly as we had hoped. The rear furnace in Phaeton Place went out and we were having problems with the water delivery system. So the day we pulled out of camp, we took her in for repairs. One check valve replaced and a totally rebuilt furnace later, we took her back to the condo where we spent the night and finished loading the next morning before departing.

We made it to Charlottesville yesterday, Thursday, which was also Halloween. We visited with the kids shortly after our arrival because they had a busy afternoon and evening planned. We were so excited to see the grandkids and they seemed equally excited to see us, which is every grandparent's dream.

Aenea is still her adorable self and willingly goes to anyone who offers to hold her. I held her most of the time we were there and she fell asleep in my arms. Ronan showed me his farm he built on the iPad and then explained the things he is learning in homeschooling. He is learning quite a lot of math it seems and is working on reading and writing as well. His friend Stella goes to public school and is already bored with it, but Ronan seems to have fun learning and his parents are conscientious about teaching him.

While we were there, Ronan got dressed up in his Halloween costume because from 4-6, they go onto the UVA campus for Trick or Treat. The university/community participate and the children have fun gathering on the lawn and then can go room to room in the "historic" rooms to get candy. Each room is sponsored because there are thousands of children and Jocelyn said the sponsorships run in the range of $3-4,000, but each child receives treats and it is a fun and safe environment. University students dress up in costume and mingle with the visitors. It is a great time. We elected not to go because we are trying not to leave our "new" dogs longer than four hours at a time. But we got to see Ronan dressed and later when Aenea woke up from her nap, Tom got her into her costume and followed Jocelyn and her group to the lawn.

All is well here this morning

. It was raining here earlier, so we had to bring the dogs in early from their walk, but I am about to take them out again.

Till next time. . .