Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thoughts and On the Road Again!

When we decided to hit the road in 2015, we really had no idea how our routine and travels would unfold.  We had lots of tent camping experience but had never towed a travel trailer.  Confidence wasn't a big issue, until I jackknifed with the teardrop, our first trailer, and put a sizable dent in the 4Runner.  That shook us up a bit.  The teardrop survived unscathed, but ultimately became too small for us when we adopted a cat in New Mexico!  Not part of the travel plan, but we couldn't resist Nevelle!  And then we happily traded up to our 20' Rpod travel trailer and adopted two more kittens!

So our first year brought those unexpected surprises.  It also taught us that there's more to consider living full-time on the road then traveling to really cool destinations.  Foremost, finances.  Never having done full-time traveling, we had no idea how to budget for expenses.  With so many variables, we had to travel for some time to learn what our costs would be.  Fuel, campground fees, entrance fees, recreational costs, medical needs, food, repairs, and on and on.  Expected and unexpected expenses are faced every month, just like you all experience.  We resolved the questions over time, although fuel and medical expenses still challenge us!

Secondly, thinking of resources that are national, not regional, like banks, vets, and pharmacies.  

Third, surprise medical issues, of which we've had a few!  We have used hospital emergency rooms and care clinics which can add up financially.  We do return to Texas in the winter for regular medical check-ups.  Health insurance has also presented its challenges!  Being Texans, I had to go through the ACA, and only one insurer is available, and this year my previous PPO is now a more restrictive HMO.  Michael has had the stability of Medicare.  Hoping for a healthy 2017.

Overall, we are still so happy with this lifestyle.  When we drive, we often take back roads so the scenery is mostly pretty.  Even on interstates we often pass through beautiful spots.  We like seeing all of these unfamiliar places!  But we're getting itchy to broaden our horizons.  For the last two years, we've followed a similar route so we could be in Melbourne, Florida in November for the Native Rhythms Flute Festival.  Then south to travel back to Texas for the winter.  It's time for a change!

We're skipping the flute festival this year, however we are in Florida, heading to Ft. Myers to visit Michael's father who is quite ill.  This weekend of March 17th we are meeting up with Michael's two brothers to spend a few days visiting.  We are then planning to head north up the east coast ultimately to northern New England.  Then we will travel west, either through Canada or the upper tier of the US. Canada's 150th birthday is this year and as a promotion a pass for free entry to their national parks is available (at no charge).  I received ours recently so we plan on visiting Canada at some point.  After that, who knows!  We have several travel options to choose from.

Recently, we were in Texas for annual responsibilities such as auto inspection, physicals, etc.  We had plans to work/camp at the Escapees campground in Livingston.  Without going into details, let's just say it didn't work out.  After several days we packed up and left for the Sam Houston National Forest, to a favorite spot where we have camped previously.  And an added bonus was having our friends, Charlene and Alan, camp with us!  They, too, are full-time RV'ers, whom we met last year in Texas.

It was both fun and relaxing so we stayed for about three weeks.  In addition to walks and drives around the area, we began hearing the songs of birds as they began to migrate through on their way to breeding grounds.  On the sunny, warmer days we felt spring had already arrived!  We also had our share of chilly and rainy weather which reminded us that we were still in the clutches of winter!

Black swallow-tailed butterflies were everywhere!

Curry getting used to being on a leash outdoors.

Last Thursday we departed Texas for our trip east to Florida.  We reached Florida a few days ago.  Along the way, we camped in a small RV park in the panhandle to charge up the trailer batteries and hook up to what's referred to as city water (great for long showers in the Rpod!).  We had noticed our batteries were reading a low voltage which could indicate a problem.  We posed some questions to the fantastic Facebook Rpod group and got lots of feedback about potential resolutions.  It was recommended that we get hooked to AC electricity to see if we could successfully charge the batteries.  Happily it worked.  Since we often stay a night at Walmarts and Cracker Barrel restaurants for free, we have to depend on our 4Runner to charge the trailer via a seven pin plug that runs from the car to the trailer.  Since this hadn't charged the battery, Michael checked around under the hood and thinks there might be a fuse issue.  We will be looking into this further when we depart Ft. Myers and reach Tampa for a visit with my sister.

For now we are camping in the Ocala National Forest (for our second time!) and with sunny skies we are getting a great solar charge for the trailer.  A beautiful spot!

Michael keeping our kittie Rice warm!  It was around 40 degrees this morning!

We'll be in touch soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Long Time No See!

It has been some time since I have posted, and mostly due to the fact it has been a relatively uneventful period of time.  I also spent much of December "under the weather", so my ambition level was low.  But, in this new year, I do feel better and wanted to catch up!  Belated happy new year wishes to you!

We traveled through Biloxi, Mississippi, parking overnight at Harrah's Casino for free.  About five other RV's were parked with us for the night.

In Biloxi, we met up with a wonderful man who makes fantastic Native American style flutes, George Dyson, Jr.  I already own one flute by George, a beautiful cedar key of G.  George had another flute for me that I had ordered from him back in November in Florida at the Native Rhythms Festival.  This one is a beautiful key of low C, made out of river cane.  George incorporated some malachite that I had bought months ago in Oklahoma and he did a wonderful job using it.

Welcome to Louisiana!  

We found a great little neighborhood spot for lunch called Fiorella's, in East New Orleans.  The menu offered Cajun and Italian, and we had a terrific meal there.

One highlight was visiting Baton Rouge in Louisiana where we spent a few hours at the Museum of Art and Science.  We were lucky to find parking for the car and trailer, along a river walk by the Mississippi River.  At the museum we went to a planetarium show and walked through exhibits.  It was a great place and only cost $9/per person.

The Red Stick

The museum and planetarium dome.

A feast at a local restaurant!

We are now in Texas.  We have returned to a wonderful spot in Sam Houston National Forest where we have camped before.  Upon arrival, it was cold!!  Temperatures went into the twenties and teens at night with ice accumulating on the car, grass, and even on our windows inside!  

Dressing warmly!

We are happy our trailer has a heater.  Without electric hookup we ran the thermostat low, but it was enough to take the edge off the chill.  

Nevelle and Rice cuddled for warmth!

Homemade corn bread by Michael!

We will be here for a couple of weeks more.  Although temperatures rose into the seventies, and we had sunny weather for a few days, it is very rainy now.  Won't see sun for another day or two.  Passing time in the local library!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

To the Florida Panhandle...and beyond!

Somehow we manage to find little jewels for camping and Saturday night, December 4th was no exception.  We stayed at a Cracker Barrel the night before in Lake City, Florida after departing Tampa.  Once again Allstays app got us there!  After a good breakfast Saturday morning we headed to our next destination.  

We knew we wanted to camp in Apalachicola National Forest, and Michael ended up finding Hickory Landing within the forest.  The ride in was pretty, and the campground itself was beautiful.  Not too big, which always appeals to us!  A few sites were occupied and all were within walking distance of the scenic Owl Creek. The bathrooms were the cleanest vault toilet set up we have seen to-date!  This campground only charged $3 per night, and with the appropriate national parks/forest pass, the fee is only a mere $1.50 per night!!  If we didn't have reservations elsewhere we would have stayed several days!

On Sunday morning, we headed to our next campsite, St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, outside of Port St. Joe, Florida.  The ride was only about an hour and was pretty.  Route 98 is a scenic route along the Gulf, however, we veered into Port St. Joe on 30 A to do laundry since it was too early to check in to the campground.

Our first view of the Gulf!

Route 98 west.

We stayed at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park a year ago and loved the Gulf Breeze Loop which is situated behind sand dunes separating us from the Gulf of Mexico.  The beaches offer 9.5 miles of white sand and clear waters.  We took our chairs up and just sat watching shore birds and letting the water lap at our feet.

View from our campsite toward the Gulf.

A very friendly shorebird, a sanderling, kept visiting us!

A beautiful gray and breezy day with spotty rain showers.

Walkway from campground to the beach.

Campsites had water and electric.  They are mostly close together with minimal privacy.  We lucked out - no neighbors!

We had one day of high winds and heavy rain, with a tornado watch as in effect, but luckily nothing materialized except thunderstorms.  Having the travel trailer rather than the teardrop was fantastic as it was an indoor day!  Michael made pizza in the convection oven and we watched TV and read.

Wednesday, the 7th, we departed the peninsula and continued west through some neighboring towns.  

We found a Walmart in Lynn Haven for a free overnight, and a Camping World to have our propane tank filled and to buy Dicor lap sealant to seal around the spoiler on the roof.  We haven't had any leaks but since we have heard that this spot can be a potential problem, we are going to be proactive and seal it now.  We also bought some caulk to put around the sink edging where the factory caulking has come unglued.

Onward to Alabama and the Conecuh National Forest, on Open Pond, for 5 nights camping.  We found a non-hook-up site for $4/night overlooking the pond.

The campsites are roomy and there are loops with hook-ups.  We just decided to go without, and use solar.  Look forward to some hiking.  Meanwhile, temps are cold, freezing at night, and 40's during the day.  We have used the trailer heater for the first time, running it to take the chill off!  We are happy to have it.  A heatwave of 60 degree temps is due to arrive tomorrow!

Town square of Andalusia, the closest "big" town.  Very small!

Hope you all are having fun this holiday season!