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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Bugging Out to a New Place

Well, we’re in a new place.  In fact, we left Triple Creek a day early.  The weather was great over the last week of our stay. But Wednesday morning, we woke to overcast skies and a wind picking up from out of the southwest.  I hadn’t done much in the way of getting ready to leave – about the only thing I had managed to do was to clean out the cooler, take out the trash and put a load of wash in the laundry.

We were in the Nutshell … Frank snoring away on the sleeping bag and me sitting in the doorway, looking at the skies … when the phone rang. It was Mike in Houston. “Hey, Jeff. I read on Facebook that you’re planning on leaving tomorrow, but I thought I’d let you know that the weather’s turning here.  Given that dirt road, have you thought at all about leaving early?”

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I told him that I’d been looking at the skies myself and was vacillating between bugging out and staying. But given his update from Houston, it was probably a good idea to leave early.

It took less than 30 minutes to have everything packed up!  Man, what a difference.  If we had still been in the tent, we wouldn’t have been able to leave before dark. As it was though, I got everything stowed in the Nutshell and actually had to wait for the load of clothes to finish in the dryer!  We told Rick that we were bugging out and he agreed it was probably a good idea.  I paid our electric bill for the month … all $3.10 of it … and headed down the road.  It was just a little before 4 o’clock.

I had found an RV park about halfway between Woodville and Dallas that was only $11/night, but decided to pass it by and keep heading onward.  The sun set as we were nearing Dallas and we were treated to an unbelievable lightning show as we continued to approach the city.  Lots of air-to-ground strikes in the distance.

We didn’t arrive in Lewisville until almost 9 o’clock.  The campsite was closed, so we spent the night in a nearby Motel 6.  In retrospect, I’m glad we did.  We weren’t in our room for more than 10 minutes when the skies opened up.  Frank was huddled on the bed next to the pillow, wrapped in his thundershirt.  He had a much easier time dealing with the thunder in the motel than he probably would have had in the teardrop.

We got to the campground about 9:30 am the next morning.  We were lucky – our reserved spot was vacant so they let us check in early.  It took a little more time to set up than at our previous campsites.  I had wrapped the galley in one of the comforters to protect the contents (especially the coffee pot and the lid to the crock pot).  Everything survived just fine, but there were a couple of items that still fell through into the cabin.  It turned out for the best though!  While putting things back up in the galley and in the storage space underneath the bottom shelf, I realized that if the storage space was rearranged a bit, I had room for the C-Pap machine and could run it from there! So after re-laying the two comforters down for padding, I switched the sleeping bag around so that I’m now lying with my head at the back of the cabin instead of the front.  That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s made it much easier to navigate in at night and out in the morning.  I can just throw my legs out the door instead of having to turn around in a tiny space first.  It’s the little things in life, right?   :o)

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Sunrise over the lake

Our new campground is beautiful!  In my opinion, it’s the best one we’ve been in to date.  Granted, the RV’s are pretty packed in, but I lucked out with my spot.  Our site’s set up so that our little lawn and the picnic table are behind the Nutshell and from there, we have a wonderful view of the lake.  There’s a pull-through site right behind us, but the hookups are situated where the RV that’s in there now is on one side of the driveway, giving us an unobstructed view of a little cove, the day use park on the other side, and a huge expanse of the lake in the background.

The site itself is well shaded and the Nutshell blocks the late sun from our little grassy area.  I’m interested to see how long the cooler will retain ice in these conditions. I’ve staked Frank’s lead so that he has a fairly nice section to run in … the only thing I’m waiting for is for a ranger to come by and tell me that he’s not supposed to have more than 10 feet of lead.  Knock on wood that doesn’t happen.  Right now, there’s no one in the spot to our north. If someone comes in, that’ll probably be when he have to be a bit more restricted in his movement.

I have a nice neighbor.  Wanda’s from Louisiana.  She’s 70 and in a big RV by herself.  Her family came in to join her today.  Our doors are about 25 feet apart, so it’s a good thing she’s pleasant, otherwise I’d have to be using the door on the other side!  My site doesn’t have a barbecue and she volunteered hers if I wanted to grill anything.  (She said that any cooking she did would be inside, that the grill is “too nasty” to suit her taste!)  :o)

Yesterday was a jam packed day!  Frank had a vet appointment.  We’re finally near a PetSmart with a vet and he was 2 months overdo to check whether or not the imiticide treatments he received for heartworm last year had worked.  I am grateful to say that he is heartworm free!!!  I know I’ll have to face it sooner or later, but I dread the day when he has to go his separate way.  But it won’t be because of heartworm, I’m glad to say!

While there, he had a teeth cleaning done.  They had to put him to sleep for that, so he wound up spending most of the day there.  While that was going on, I had my own “cleaning up” to do.

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Two Old Vagabonds

I got what I think is the best haircut I’ve ever had.  I haven’t been traveling with a razor, so come haircut time, I have to find an old-fashioned barber who does straight razor shaves.  I found a guy at the Lovers Lane Barber Shop … Ivan, who said he’s been cutting hair for over 20 years.  He trimmed about 2 inches off the beard … gave me an incredibly relaxing neck shave and then trimmed a bit off the top while keeping it tapered into the ponytail I’ve been nurturing.  It was worth the $10 tip I gave him, trust me.  Now if he could have just done something about my face!

After that, I had lunch with the same guys I ate with when I was in town for a quick stopover last July … plus one!  Pat, a former pilot, was able to come this time and it only added to the rowdiness of six guys enjoying Mexican grub and alcohol.  I had fish tacos … in line with Good Friday … and they were delicious! The only thing better than lunch was the conversation.  We talked about everything from vacationing in Aruba (John wants us to all take a trip together next year), to grandkids, to ribald discussion about “size mattering”, to high school memories, to the 2nd amendment!  I appreciate that they put up with the “token liberal Yankee” they’ve allowed into the circle.  I’m pretty sure any one of us, if it was ever necessary, would put “bat to skull” for any of the other guys sitting at that table.  Lunch ended with a photo session and hugs all around.  i’m going to miss them – I don’t plan on being back in town until next March and Facebook posts will have to suffice in the meantime.

Today has been a relaxing day, lake side.  The crock pot is cooking up a big batch of stew right now.  Frank has been alternating between sleeping in the grass and sleeping on the picnic table while suffering through my trying to get back in the swing of things with the guitar.  My finger is healing nicely … the scab is gone, replaced by a big scar. The face of my finger is still quite swollen and there’s a decent amount of scar tissue that I’m going to have to break down in order to regain dexterity.  As it is, I’m covering up strings that should be open while chording and it’s going to be a long process getting back to being able to play like I was before the accident.  Frank says it can’t come soon enough!

Here are some photos of the Nutshell in camp, nestled among all the grown up RV’s. After watching four people take 40 minutes to park a 30 footer  in a nearby spot, I’m extremely happy that I only  have to deal with my little home.  Size does matter after all!  :o)

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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Travels

 

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East Texas Catch Up

We’ve had an “interesting” time since our last post.

Saturday a week ago, old high school buddy Mike drove up from his home in Houston and spent the afternoon in camp.  I can’t speak for him, but I had a wonderful time.  Mike brought barbecue brisket and sausage with him, along with some IPA beer from around Texas.  I’ve visited wineries and sampled a variety of wines before, but this was the first time I ever did a flight of beers.  He also brought up his guitar and while I was still unable to play because of my bandaged finger, I had a great time learning some new chords and watching him play.  I would love to be able to play guitar like Mike.  I’m fairly limited in my style of finger picking and my musical knowledge.  Mike’s given me something to shoot for.

The only thing better than the food, beer and music was the conversation.  All in all, it was a well spent afternoon and I am eternally grateful he took the time to come up for a visit.

It’s a good thing Mike came when he did … had we made plans for this past Saturday, he wouldn’t have been able to reach camp.  Starting last Monday, we had three solid days of rain.  When it finally stopped, the rainfall gauges in camp said we had gotten 14 1/2 inches of rain and the road was completely washed out.  I tried going out on Thursday afternoon and only made it about 200 yards before having to turn back around … the rain had washed a gully right across the road that was at least 2 1/2 foot deep and more than a yard across, and there was no way my little Hyundai was going to make it.

We did get out on Friday and took some photos of the road as they were working to repair it.  They’re posted below.  I’m sure hoping we don’t have any issues like that next week, when we’re scheduled to leave for Dallas!

Right now, we’re back to sunny days again.  I’m sitting out at our picnic table with Frank right next to me and there’s not a cloud in the sky!  These posts have become a bit difficult to write. Hell, doing anything on the laptop has become a bit difficult while sitting at the picnic table!  Frank has decided that the table is there for one reason – so he can sit right directly in front of me and get scratched!  It’s pretty funny.  He starts out sitting on one side og me and then starts moving his head over between me and the screen.  I’ll push him back … which is difficult in and of itself because he puts all his weight into resisting my push.  And once I take my hand away, he’ll wait a few seconds and then do it again.  I’ll move my head over to try and see around him, but he’ll keep coming … and then comes the foot.  Most days, I just give up and move the laptop away. And then he just smiles and moves all the way in front of me, putting the crown of his head on my chest and wagging his tail a mile a minute.

You’d think he was starved for attention, but I son’t know why because he gets a helluva lot of it.  Not just from me, either.  We get at least three or four visits a day from other folks in camp … and I’m pretty sure they’re coming over primarily to see Frank!   Bob (from Oklahoma) comes by every morning with his dog, Rufus.  He and I share a bit of coffee talk while he makes Rufus jealous by showing a lot of attention to Frank.

Bob’s a bit of a challenge – he wants to talk politics while I keep trying to steer him into different conversations.  I figured that was the best tact to take since he came over on March 1st and asked if I had voted in the Texas primary (I had).  “Who’d you vote for?” he asked in a manner that almost seemed like he was demanding an answer.  “Bob, I don’t share my vote with anyone,” I replied. “That’s why they have a curtain on the booth.  Besides, I used to get really worked up about it and part of the reason for this trip is so I can get away from all that political bullshit. I want to see the good in people, even when we don’t agree politically!”  He accepted that, but not before offering up a racial epithet that pretty much summed up his feelings about our current President.  The only thing I could think of saying was, “Bob, regardless of how you feel about who is or who isn’t in office, we need to start pulling together as a country, otherwise things are only going to get worse.  Now tell me, do you follow baseball?”  Like I said, Bob’s a bit of a challenge!

Rick’s son, Ricky Jr., comes by every now and then. He’s not very talkative, but he sure loves Frank!  And when Frank sees him coming, he starts getting excited because Ricky always brings him a dog biscuit.

Bob from western Pennsylvania’s driven by on his golf cart a few times.  He stopped by with his wife Peg one afternoon to get a tour of the Nutshell.  They’ve been on the road for the last 15 years, in everything from a camper on the back of a pickup to a 35-foot RV.  Peg loved the Nutshell and lamented about how they didn’t know about them when they were younger.  She said it wouldn’t suit them now because he’s 82 and she’s 76 and she didn’t think they’d be able to manage getting in and out of it too well.

I have to say that I had no idea they were that old … you sure couldn’t tell it by looking at them, or by how well they got around!  Maybe I’ll be able to keep this lifestyle up longer than I was originally thinking.  Which sort of brings me back around to one of the conversations I had with Mike when he visited last Saturday.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads.  I’ve felt that way since picking up the Nutshell a few weeks back.  I told Mike that my original plan when I started this little journey was to keep going until my funds ran out. I’d then find a home for Frank, drive to the west coast and jump off a bridge or a cliff into the Pacific.  But that’s not how I feel now.  I’ve been able to find enough peace on the road that I want to keep going.  The idea of suicide has left me … if anything, I owe it to the people who helped fund the Nutshell purchase to keep going (to which he replied, “You damned sure do!”)

But along with that comes the recognition that deciding to keep going bears a responsibility to take better care of myself. To eat healthy. To get in more exercise. To lose weight … none of which I’ve done to any great degree, especially since leaving Colorado.

So, I’ve started.  I’ve not had fast food for the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been using the crockpot on a routine basis.  Knowing the storm was coming last week, I cooked up some seasoned ground beef and a chicken and rice dish to have on hand.  I’ve also made up chili and stew … and portioned them out in plastic containers … in order to get back on the right course.  Frank and I have been taking two walks a day (except for the storm days).  I know I’ve lost a little bit of weight – I can feel it in how my shirts are fitting. We’ll see how it goes.  All I know is that I’m in a pretty good place right now, mentally. I’m more at peace than at any time in recent memory.  And I don’t have this sense of “dread’ hovering over me … the one I used to have when things were going good and I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Knock on wood.

Here are the road photos … note that these were taken after they had been working on repairs for a day.  They were taken while heading back into camp, having made it out earlier. The last photo was taken the closest to camp and was where I had to turn around the day before because that gully was all the way across the road.

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Posted by on March 14, 2016 in Travels

 

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From Doctor Rants to Itineraries

This was supposed to be a long, angry diatribe about the medical profession.  Everything  I hate about doctors, insurance companies, Big Pharma and the like was going to be addressed in one endless rant.  At least that’s what I threatened on Facebook a couple of days ago.

Then my buddy Mike … the same Mike from Houston that helped us navigate around the toll road fiasco last week … offered one of his short, to-the-point, smart ass replies to that threat.  It resulted in a phone call and a realization that ranting just wasn’t worth it. Especially after having made some real progress towards letting things go over the past few months.

Mike’s first words after seeing my number come up on caller ID were (with a laugh), “So did I piss you off?”  I laughed back and said, “You are a piece of work … you know exactly what to say to ground me, don’t you, you S.O.B.?”. Or something to that effect.  And we both started laughing all over again.

The discussion went from doctors to title offices to gospel music to coffee beans to CNC machines.  A complete non-sequitur from start to finish.  So y’all should thank Mike big-time that we’re moving on to something else.  Say it with me now – “Thanks, Mike!”

As an aside, the finger is so-so.  Looked good after the doctor visit.  But later that afternoon, as the skies got dark and the wind picked up, I tore the scab and opened up the gash while lifting a heavy supply box off the top of the Nutshell. No blood or anything. It’s just that the skin’s no longer together on half the wound.

I reapplied some gauze, splinted and taped it so that I can’t move it. If the skin’s not healing together in a couple of days, I guess it’ll be time for a superglue approach.  In the meantime, I’m reduced to using my index finger on the left-hand part of the keyboard. Such is life, right?

And yes, I typed “y’all” a couple of paragraphs ago.  The aftermath of being in Texas for almost five months.  When I first moved down here in 1968, “y’all” was the first thing I picked up.  It’s just too damned easy to let slip out of your mouth … at least it’s a lot easier than “youse guys”.  But I digress … (face it, what would a “Frank and Jeff” blog post be without a digression, right?)  :o)

Anyhow, on to better things …

The Nutshell’s opened up some travel possibilities that weren’t really practical in the tent.  Setting up and breaking camp is nothing compared to what it involved only a few weeks ago.  What took hours and hours can now be accomplished in 20 minutes.  Very cool, indeed.

So with that, I decided to purchase a membership in Thousand Trails, a camping service that was first introduced to us last summer by Donna, one of my New Jersey friends.  The two main issues I had with the program aren’t a problem anymore:  1) you can only stay at one of the member camps for a maximum of two weeks; and, 2) you must stay somewhere else for seven nights before returning to the same, or another, member camp. I can handle that now, given how easy it is to pack up the Nutshell!

The service has five regions throughout the country, with anywhere from 15 to 25 member campsites per region.  The user buys a region and then has access to all its campsites for a year, subject to the above constraints.  The main consideration was whether we could find places to stay during the in-between weeks that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I spent yesterday afternoon researching the Passport America campsite list and think I addressed that pretty well.

I was also able to negotiate a couple of concessions from them that sealed the deal.  Where they normally do not allow reservations more than 60 days in advance, they’re going to reserve my stays for the next six months. They’re also going to throw in an additional region for only $100 (additional regions normally cost about $800, with the first region costing $550).  Based on that … along with what I figured out on Passport America campsites … I’ll be able to cut my “rent” expense to a little more than $325 / month for the next 14 months.  That’s about $100 less than what we’ve averaged since leaving Charleston last May.  That’s a big deal for us!

So here’s the plan through April 2017, which mostly sees us up and down the east coast:

March 2016:  We’re at Triple Creek until the 24th, after which we’ll head to Dallas.  I’ve reserved a place on Lake Lewisville for two weeks.  A lunch date has already been planned with the same guys that got together in July and there are a lot of other folks I’m looking forward to seeing.  Two weeks is going to open up a lot more opportunities for that compared to the two days we were in town last summer.

April 2016: I wanted to see Colorado this year, if only for a quick stop.  We’ll risk the chance of snow and head back to Pagosa Springs in the first part of the month.  I discovered only recently that one of my New Jersey classmates lives a mile or so from the campsite we stayed at last summer … he even knows TJ and Stacey, the Last Resort’s owners and buys his eggs on a regular basis from them.  He sent an email about the time I was looking for help acquiring the Nutshell and offered up his home. After talking with him on the phone a few times,  I’m going to take him up on that offer and spend 10 days.  Looking very much forward to visiting with you, Keith!

After that, we’ll head north to Colorado Springs for a week to visit another friend. This time it’ll be Warren, who spent some time with me when I was in Colorado last summer.  This will give us more chance to visit than the two brief afternoons we spent together back then.  I’m looking forward to that as well, Warren.  :o)

May 2016: I intend to make a quick stop up in Denver to visit the Hiker Trailer plant where the Nutshell was built.  After that, we’re going to head east.  I’ll stop in Fort Wayne, IN for a couple of weeks to see my brother and hopefully meet a niece and nephew that I’ve never seen before.  After that, we’ll start in with alternating between the Thousand Trails and Passport America campsites.  The first one is in Amish country, near Lancaster, PA.

June 2016: It’s a return to New Jersey, first time I’ll be back since leaving in early 2014.  It’ll be in the southern part of the state, unfortunately … not near my old stomping grounds in Passaic County. Hopefully I’ll still be able to see some old friends. Perhaps they’ll be interested in a day trip “down the shore”.  Knock on wood.  We’ll stay at two Passport America camps along with a club camp near Cape May.

July 2016: We’ll start the month out at a club camp in the Poconos.  My uncle used to have a place there and I’ve always loved the area.  From there, we’ll head to a Passport America campsite in the Hudson Valley (another favorite place) before heading east to a club camp bordering on Cape Cod for a couple of weeks. It’ll be close enough to Boston that I might try to take in a game at my beloved Fenway while we’re there. Hopefully Frank won’t bitch too much about being baby-sat for that first Sunday when the Twins come to town!

August 2016: We’ll head north, with a visit to the club campground on the Maine coast, sandwiched between two Passport America campsites – one in New Hampshire and the other in Vermont.  The leaves won’t be turning before we head back south. Still, it’ll be wonderful to see that part of the country again.  The odds of any future visits to New England are pretty low, so I’d like to make the most of it. I’m planning on doing some lake fishing while we’re there, too.

September 2016: With Fall approaching, we’ll start heading back south … first to a club campsite in the Catskills.  After that, we’ll spend a few weeks in New Jersey again.  I’ve found a couple of Passport America sites that are less than an hour drive from Passaic County. Hopefully that’ll give me a better chance to have breakfast with some of my old Cornerstone brothers from the Wayne Parish and perhaps catch a Pompton Lakes High School football game before leaving.  I wonder if they’ll let an old fart bring his beagle in for the game?  Knock on wood.

After that, we’ll head back to the Cape May campground for a couple of weeks. I’m hoping it’ll be nice and quiet, seeing as how school will be back in session. I’d like to take a couple of rides over to the coast and spend a day or two staring out into the Atlantic!

October and November 2016: Frank and I will gradually work our way down the east coast, continuing to alternate between Passport America and Thousand Trail campgrounds.  The plan is to stay:

  • On the Delmarva peninsula (1 week)
  • The Williamsburg, VA area (2 weeks), visiting the home of my ancestors
  • A yet-to-be-determined site on the North Carolina coast.  Hopefully it’ll work out where I can see old friends Dave and Val from Pompton Lakes, who have retired to the area. (1 week)
  • The mountains in west South Carolina, near the Georgia border (2 weeks)
  • The Daytona Beach area.  Hoping I’ll be able to take old friend Jeanie out to lunch one day.  (1 week)
  • Central Florida (2 weeks)

December 2016: We’ll start heading back to Texas for the rest of the winter.  I plan on staying at two Passport America campsites along the way: one in the Florida panhandle and the other one yet-to-be-determined … either near Biloxi, MS or New Orleans. Someplace within easy access to the Gulf of Mexico.

After that, I plan on staying at a Thousand Trails campsite outside of Houston, where we’ll be for both Christmas and New Year’s. Knock on wood that it won’t be too cold!  I’ve already figured out how to put a little shelf in the back of the Nutshell, on which to place the little heater we’ve been carrying around with us.

January – April 2017: I’m not planning on heading back to extreme south Texas like this past winter.  There just wasn’t enough to see or do down there.  We’ll spend January in campsites within a couple of hours of Houston, maybe even going back to Goose Island State Park.  February will see us return to Triple Creek.  This place has been fantastic!  Even though we’ve only been here a week, I know I’d like to come back.  This time, I’ll be able to join in the music festivities and am really looking forward to that.

Frank and I will head back up to north Texas in March. We’ll hopefully stay on Lewisville Lake again, along with stays at two Thousand Trails campsites – one just west of Fort Worth and the other on the Texas side of Lake Texoma, which shares a border with Oklahoma.

So that’s it. Those are our plans for the next year, barring any health issues that force us back to Texas or hurricanes that chase us inland from where we currently plan on going.  Hopefully we don’t have to deal with anything like that over the next 14 months.  Based on what’s happened to us so far, I know something unexpected is going to crop up, but I’ll just have to rely on that sign on the dashboard:  “It’s all worked out before. Trust that it will again!

If our travels take us anywhere near you and you’d like to get together for lunch (or would like to spend an afternoon sitting out in the fresh air at one of our campsites), drop me a line. I know Frank would love the extra attention.  I’d enjoy the company, too.  :o)

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in 2016, 2017, Itinerary

 

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