Monday, September 18, 2017

The Nature of Full-timing

When we started on our full-timing in April of 2015, we were of the mindset that we would be landing in one awesome spot after another.  Our excitement was overtaking reality!  We knew we had to pay bills along the way, but there's been medical stuff to attend to, annual visits to Texas for truck and RV registration and inspections, then we purchased our truck in NJ this spring and had to deal with that, and so on.  

Well, we have learned that in this nomadic lifestyle, we have very little control over what may or may not happen.  It could be health, weather, or some other factor.  For example, we planned a great route to Colorado, scheduling a departure over the weekend of September 8th.  However, it didn't happen.

I have a "bad back" that has plagued me since my teens.  It's been looked at a few times over the years, but other than physical therapy, nothing much was done for it.  As time has gone by, and due to my getting (a bit!!) older, my back has become more of an issue.  Add to this one three-year old hip replacement that pains me to this day and my other hip becoming painful, I haven't been feeling on top of my game.  Walking even a short distance often hurts, so hiking has been out of the question.  Needless to say, my mood goes up and down.  This all is pretty discouraging, so we finally decided it is time to do something about it.

We had been in Livingston for several weeks camping at the Escapees RV Campground, where we also experienced hurricane Harvey.  A luxury in that we we had full hook-up, electric, water and sewer.  But, it comes with a price, and we knew we had to find free camping.  So, we are back in the Sam Houston National Forest, at our favorite quiet and beautiful spot.  Upside: lots of butterflies and dragonflies, beautiful surroundings, and hummingbirds at our nectar feeder.  Downside: no hook-ups.  Therefore once a week we have to hitch the trailer up to the truck, and go into Livingston to dump our waste tanks and fill our fresh water tank.  The trailer battery is being charged by solar and luckily we are having bright sunny days.  Due to this we can watch a little TV or a DVD, use our lights, and the water pump (to pump water from the fresh water tank to the toilet and faucets).  But no air conditioning.  And it has been hot!

Pine needles everywhere after camping through Hurricane Harvey.

Looking out as 30" of rain fell!

More rain at Escapees RV Campground.

Driving into Sam Houston National Forest.

Because we have had some great weather, we set up our canopy and enjoy sitting outside.  To a limit.  There is a bug, known as a love bug, everywhere!  Mostly, they are mating as they fly around!  When in flight, they look like black confetti and they land on us and everything else!  They make me crazy whereas Michael deals with it pretty calmly!  We laugh that we are in training for the bug population we'll confront in Alaska next spring and summer!  Right now I am failing miserably!

Love bugs!

Not the prettiest pic, but evidence that the love bugs are here and plentiful!

A highlight of our stay is having our friends, Charlene and Alan with their dog Precious and their cat Cody, here with us.  They showed up about a week after we got here and we love having their company.  As an aside, this friendship began over a year ago when we met at the Escapees campground where they too are members, as well as full-timers.  It exemplifies how easy it is to meet wonderful people all over the country as we travel!

Charlene and Alan


Some of the highlights at the national forest:

Gorgeous beauty berry!

Meanwhile, I have found an orthopedic practice in Houston and am being checked over with an MRI of my back.  Fortunately, I don't need surgery, but do need 6 weeks of physical therapy.  So our travel plans have come to a halt for the time being. We are frustrated and disappointed, but realize it is only temporary.  We'll begin planning a new route for travel after Texas and head west and south rather than north.  Plus we will work on our Alaska itinerary.

So that's where things stand at the moment.  We watch the birds -- had three red-shouldered Hawks in flight above us, and lovely blue-gray gnatcatchers flit around the campsite!  We hear a pileated woodpecker regularly, but no sighting.  Butterflies are numerous: various sulphurs (orange, clouded, cloudless, and another small one we haven't identified yet), giant, black, and tiger swallowtails, checkered whites, and a really cool long-tailed skipper.

We believe this is a Texas green anole.

Not a good picture, but this was a small blue dragonfly with green eyes that we can't ID.

If you look carefully to the left of the red, there is a ruby-throated hummingbird there.

Michael birding:

The camera in my old IPad isn't the best so we are looking at a better set-up.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Have to share some cute camping cat pics!

Nevelle (white) and Rice having some interaction!

Rice loves being outdoors on a tie-out!

Curry chilling out!

Curry eyeing bugs flying outside the door!

Nevelle and Rice bonding!

Should I climb this tree??

We will touch base again soon with updates!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Texas or Bust

Well, we have finally pulled ourselves away from New Jersey!  On Sunday, July 9, we had a "see you soon" dinner with family and headed out on the 10th to begin our next phase of travels!  As much as we loved our long stay with Michael's mom, it was definitely time to hit the road again!  

After visiting a free dump station at a rest area near the Delaware Memorial Bridge to empty our gray and black water tanks, we headed to the bridge and crossed over into Delaware.  Crossed into Maryland and then into Pennsylvania.  We chose to take back roads and ultimately reached our first night's destination, York, PA, and the Cracker Barrel parking lot for our overnight stay.   We chose York because it was east of Gettysburg and Gettysburg National Military Park was one spot we wanted to visit.

Backroads are definitely the way to go!  The scenery was so pretty, with loads of soybean and corn fields and lovely old barns.  We traveled from York to Gettysburg on Tuesday the 11th, through a couple of small towns. Lots of rural charm!

Gettysburg (the area and the park) was beautiful.  We headed into the battleground complex to stop at the Visitor Center for information.  Guided tours, the museum, and the film were all a bit costly, so we opted for the self-drive auto trail.  Our first stop was at Soldiers' National Cemetery.  This was the setting for Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered at the cemetery's dedication on November 19, 1863.  Standing where Lincoln stood was pretty thrilling, and perhaps a bit emotional.

After the cemetery visit, we continued driving around:

We made it into VA on Tuesday.  Again beautiful scenery and amazingly, smooth traffic and no hang-ups on interstate 81.

The kitties are traveling well in the new to us Toyota Tundra, finding comfy spots in the backseat.


Rice and Curry

Wednesday the 12th, we left the Woodstock, VA Cracker Barrel restaurant to keep heading west.  We have nicknamed this part of our travels the Cracker Barrel Tour, as we have hit them three nights in a row so far and are aiming for one in Nashville on Thursday.  It's great that they allow RV'ers to stay overnight for free.  Of course, we eat in the restaurant so we end up paying in that way!

On Wednesday night we stayed at a Cracker Barrel in Bristol, VA, and Thursday rolled into the outskirts of Nashville!  Found another Cracker Barrel, of course!  But, the heat has really hit with the temps close to 100.  The cats felt it and we were really uncomfortable too.   Since we weren't able to use AC the fan got a real workout.  

Thursday, we drove into Nashville.  Due to the heat, we couldn't park and leave the cats without any air conditioning.  This is one of the limitations you run into when traveling with pets.  It was a bit frustrating to be so limited in what we could see, but it goes with pet-parenthood!  One spot we wanted to see was the Grand Ole Opry.  Although we couldn't take a tour, it was cool to see.

By the afternoon, we got onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, a two lane road that runs 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, cutting through a tiny bit of Alabama.  It is part of the National Park System and was completed only in 2005.

This natural corridor dates back many centuries.  It bisected the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.  As the US expanded westward in the late 1700's and early 1800's, growing numbers of travelers made this rough trail into a clearly marked path.  Certain sunken areas of the trail can still be seen today.  In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson designated the Trace a national post road for mail delivery between Nashville, TN and Natchez, MS.

Some of the famous Americans known to have traveled the Trace include Gen. Andrew Jackson, John James Audubon, Meriwether Lewis (who died on the Trace in 1809), Jefferson Davis, and Ulysses S. Grant.  Most travelers were working people.

Today the Trace creates a greenway from the southern Appalachian foothills in TN to the bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.  Many historic sites are found along the way, clearly marked by park signage.  One site is the Emerald Mound, a national historic landmark and one of the largest American Indian mounds in the US.

We ended up doing half of the Trace, Nashville to Tupelo MS.  The Trace passes through four distinct ecosystems and eight major watersheds.  It is habitat for nearly 1500 species of plants, 33 mammal species, 134 bird species, and 70 species of reptiles and amphibians.  The Trace is a two lane road with 50mph the max speed.  It is very lightly traveled so the ride is quite leisurely.  We stopped at historic sites and scenic overlooks along the way, and there are picnic areas and restrooms situated along the route as well.  We look forward to completing the other half as we continue our travels.

Bear Creek mound.

Double Arch bridge over TN Highway 96 won the 1995 Presidential Award for Design Excellence.

The Gordon House.

Pharr mounds.

Pharr mounds, a total of eight burial mounds built 1800 to 2000 years ago.

We ended up getting onto I 12 to I 10 to head into Texas.  But first, we drove by the Atachafalaya wildlife management area, an area in Mississippi we really want to explore.

We arrived in Livingston, Texas on Tuesday, July 18 to camp at our home base, the Escapees RV park.  We are here for a week or so, tending to some personal business, before we head further west!   

Gas at $1.88!