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Category Archives: Itinerary

Back in Business … With a New Copilot!

It’s time!

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Sunset, Kingman Wash, Lake Mead Recreational Area

Actually, it’s long past time for another blog post. But I have to admit that I’ve been struggling over it. It’s taken a few months of trying to figure out how to move forward with the blog in order to get to today.

It’s not so much dealing with grief. Frank comes to mind all the time. And I’ve gotten to the point now that whenever I do think of him, it’s more with a sense of gratitude where the time he and I shared than it is about sadness. Still, there are the occasional little things that happen which hit me like a brick. Like today.

I’m staying for a couple of days at the Thousand Trails campground in Las Vegas, where we stayed just 3 weeks before Frank passed. One of the maintenance workers stopped by and said, “Weren’t you here just a little while back? You were camped over by the grassy area. I remember you and your little trailer. But weren’t you traveling with a different dog?”

Instant tears!

There’s something inherently wrong about seeing a 6’, 350lb, old, long haired hippie with tears streaming down his face. There are times when I just can’t help it, though. Fortunately it’s happening less and less over time.

But getting back to that worker’s comment … yes, I have a new companion. Let me hold off just a bit before I talk about him, though.

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Along the way, I’ve discovered That the New Mexico Roads Department has gone a bit existential!

Other things have contributed to my lack of blog posts, which really began months before Frank passed. Other than the “In Memoriam” post announcing Frank’s death, I hadn’t done a post since we went to see the eclipse back in August.

It’s funny, but I think it started when the blog received recognition with that award back in the summer. On the one hand, it was very much appreciated. But given my past bouts with low self-esteem, it gave me something to deal with. Quite honestly, I was shocked and overwhelmed by so many people appreciating our story. It was sort of like, “How the hell do I top this?”

I’m still stunned by the outpouring of love and support I received in the wake of Frank’s sudden loss. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s not really about topping anything. It’s just continuing on and telling a story. A story about forward movement. And experiences. And growth.

A few weeks after Frank’s passing, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night. It was a voice coming out of a dream that kept repeating, “Your journey. YOUR JOURNEY”, over and over. I thought about that for quite a while before coming to a conclusion about what the message meant. At least what I think it means.

Call it my guardian angel, spirit guide, inner self, whatever. I think the voice was telling me that this Vagabond Journey has been mine from the get-go. Frank was an important part in it, but ultimately, this journey is mine alone. Various people … including all of you readers … have been included and in some cases have played a major part in it. But when it comes down to it, the journeys we each take are ours alone. Frank’s journey on Earth ended. Mine continues. And hopefully I’ll still have plenty of experiences you will enjoy hearing about.

The other part of the struggle has been more about logistics. After all, the blog’s title isn’t relevant anymore. Hence the title change. And as the new subtitle indicates, future posts will involve a bit more discussion about the role this lifestyle has played on my healing of the depression and anxiety I had to deal with for most of my life.

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This photo says it all. Manny is the “manster”!

Now, about my new traveling companion. Let me introduce you to the “manster”, a nickname he was given by one of my dear high school friends, Margaret. I don’t think I could have come up with a more appropriate nickname! : o)

Manny is an Australian Cattle Dog. He and I met at a rescue place in Prescott, AZ. They gave him his name and he responded to it, so I didn’t see any need to change it. Besides, it has a special meaning to me, given that I am a longtime Boston Red Sox fan. It’s help me laugh off some of his bad habits as simply, “Manny being Manny!”

Their information said that Manny had been picked up on reservation land. He weighed less than 25 lbs, about half what he weighs now. He had been covered in burrs and pieces of cactus, one of his ears have been partially torn off in a fight and he had sustained hip damage. As an aside, I’m about to find out the extent of the hip damage tomorrow, when he has his first Banfield veterinary visit. I’m putting him on the same Wellness Plan that Frank was on, which includes his shots, a couple of x-rays a year, one teeth cleaning a year, and various other benefits. Knock on wood.

Manny is nothing like Frank! As sweet and calm and happy as Frank was, well how do I put it? To say that Manny is exactly the opposite would be the understatement of the year! He is one talkative, ornery, and scared little son of a bitch LOL

The first two weeks we were together, Manny reacted negatively to almost everything I did with him. If I called him? He’d growl and snarl. Same reaction when I would pet him, or if he had to move at night when I climbed into the Nutshell, for example. Even when I went to give him a treat … more snarling and more growling.

A friend introduced me to a woman that had been a dog trainer before she retired. She billed herself as a dog whisperer. After spending about 20 minutes with Manny, she said that he had been trained using some very harsh techniques designed to break him. “That won’t work with this breed!” she exclaimed. “Any dog can herd sheep. Hell, a dachshund could herd sheep. But it takes a certain amount of swagger for a dog to herd cattle.”

She went on to say that all of his posturing was out of fear and gave me a few techniques to use to help him adapt to his new living situation. And that if I was patient and kept up with kindness … and more patience, that it would hopefully pay off.

It has! Manny has bonded quite well with me. He still has a lot of socialization work that needs to be done. But we’re making progress everyday. He’s even gotten to the point where he’s allowed a few other people to get close and pet him, although they’ve been few and far between. Still, it’s progress.

Now, on to other things.

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One thing I’ll say – Manny sure enjoys traveling!

A lot’s changed in the journey besides traveling with a new companion. A lot! For one thing, we’ve not been staying in organized campgrounds like we were last year.

During the first three months of 2017, I stayed almost exclusively in Thousand Trails campgrounds. In fact, with the exception of a weekend get together with other members of a teardrop trailer owners group I belong to, I hadn’t camp anywhere but a Thousand Trails campground. This year, that’s almost been reversed!

One of the biggest blessings that came in the aftermath of Frank’s passing, besides the realization as to how many people were touched by our story, was the opportunity to spend some time with Pat, a fellow who administers one of the full-time camping groups I joined on Facebook. I mentioned in the last post that Pat had invited me to stay with him over the holidays and I’m so grateful to have taken him up on his offer!

There are two people that were instrumental in giving me the confidence and ability to do what’s called boondocking, or dispersed camping … where you camp off-grid, without relying on any organized campground to provide electricity and water hookups. Michael, a friend that I made early last year and who I stayed with over the 4th of July holiday, gave me the confidence that I needed to say, “I can do this!” Pat is the one who taught me how to do it!

Over the two and a half weeks I spent camped next to him, Pat showed me everything from how to switch from a reliance on electricity for cooking to propane; what I needed to store and carry my own water; and what supplies and equipment I needed to make the switch … and so much more! It was like going to boondocking school and having a private tutor! I’m grateful to call him … and Michael … my friends and will forever be indebted to them!

The result? Since January 1st, I’ve only spent 11 days in Thousand Trails campgrounds. The rest of the time has been spent camping entirely off-grid. And what a difference! It’s one thing to use a campground is a home base from which you go out and see the sights. It’s another thing to be camping amongst this sites. LOL

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Our setup at Kingman Wash, Lake Mead Recreation Area

Since leaving Pat, Manny and I have camped in Quartzite, AZ while attending the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of vandwellers, nomads and vagabonds that brought in almost 4,000 people this year; Tonto National Forest, first with Pat and then with a small group of other folks who belong to his Facebook group; in New Mexico, where I finally had a chance to visit Silver City, a place I’ve decided we will ultimately land if and when Manny and I leave the vagabond lifestyle; extreme Southeastern Arizona, where I had a chance to meet other full-timers with whom I had only recently made friends on Facebook; and finally in Tucson, where I got the chance to spend time with a 23 year old niece that I had never met!

The other big news is that we’re now outfitted with solar capability! Manny and I are now proud owners of a 100 watt solar panel, an 80 amp-hour solar battery, and a high-tech controller that interfaces between the two, automatically turning the power feed off from the solar panel when the battery is fully charged and turning off the power feed from the battery when too much of its capacity has been used.

Thanks again to Pat, who gave a huge amount of help in getting everything set up and to a different Michael – my niece Emma’s significant other, who helped quite a bit with configuring what I needed.

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Our first set up using solar – Tonto National Forest, an hour east of Phoenix, AZ

At the moment, the only thing I really need power for is to charge my phone and Wi-Fi device, but I have so much additional capacity that I’m actually struggling with trying to figure out what else I might need! In the near future, I’ll be adding some low voltage, LED lighting inside the Nutshell and possibly some similar lighting for outside. I’m also thinking about adding a 12-volt Crock-Pot or rice cooker, something that will augment using the propane stove. It’s just nice to know that I have additional capacity for down the road. Pun intended. LOL

So Manny and I are all set up for new adventures. It’s interesting how things work out. Especially when you let go a little bit and allow room for God, Creator, the Universe, whatever you want to call it, to step in and provide a clear view of the path you are walking.

I’ll stop now. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll catch you all up a bit. I’ll go back and talk about the adventures that Frank and I had traveling from Kentucky to Arizona. I’ll also fill out the details about what’s gone on so far this year … what I glossed over a few paragraphs back. It’s been such an incredible time, what with all the beautiful places we’ve stayed and all the wonderful people that we’ve spent time with.

Stay tuned.

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Manny and me. By the way, a 105lb LIGHTER version of the “me” who started out nearly three years ago!

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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Itinerary

 

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Travel Plans 2017

Now that you’re all caught up on where Frank and his chauffeur have been, here’s an idea of what we have in store for 2017. We’ve got the year planned out through the end of August. Actually, it’s the second itinerary we’ve created! But I’ll talk about that down a ways.

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Our last encounter with the Atlantic – Avalon, NJ

First stop, Flagler Beach, FL. We’ll be there for a week. This little town supposedly has some of the nicest dog beaches on the Florida coast, so Frank and I plan on staring into the Atlantic as much as we can while we’re there. We’ll also get a chance to visit with Jeanie, whose family lived around the corner from my old house growing up in Pompton Lakes. We’ve communicated online for almost 20 years now, going back to the old Classmates website. But I don’t think we’ve actually seen each other for 50 years. So that will be cool!

Next stop will be at Lake Hartwell, on the South Carolina / Georgia border. There’s a Thousand Trails campground on the north side of the lake, where we will be staying for almost two weeks. While there, we have plans to connect with Gary, a former business associate up in New Jersey, who recently relocated to the Atlanta area; and Mark, a Facebook friend who I’ve only “met” online. I actually don’t remember how that came about, or who our mutual friend is.  But I’ve enjoyed talking sports and current events with him quite a bit . As an aside, it’ll be pretty cool, putting faces to names. That’s going to happen quite a few more times over the next year.

By the way, it’s a bit of a juggling exercise in managing our length of stays at each campground. Ideally, whenever we stay at a Thousand Trails Park, we would stay for the full 3 weeks we’re allotted per visit. But because we have a couple of “fixed” items on the calendar, that simply wasn’t doable. So I’ve tried to manage the itinerary where we aren’t feeling rushed while staying at any particular place.

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Backroads are so much better than Interstate!

The other thing we’ve decided … Frank had a lot of influence in this … is that we’re going to hold our drive time to no more than six hours a day. This allows us to travel back roads as much as possible. It also helps keep me in the “present” rather than the future. I want to focus on enjoying the moment and not feeling in a hurry to get to some particular place by a certain deadline.  That’s become my personal goal for 2017.

With that in mind, there will be a number of times along the way where we’ll be taking advantage of a Walmart parking lot for an overnight stay. For you RVers out there – most of you already know that Walmart parking lots are a great place to stop while en route to an end destination. What you might not know is that not all Walmarts allow this! The ones that don’t are typically located near tourist attractions (like Orlando or Anaheim, for example), or are at a natural stopping-off point (like Homestead, FL, the last town in Florida before heading out into keys).

I plan ahead because I’m on a tight budget, and it gives me the illusion of control. So when I made our itinerary, I figured out which drives would take more than 6 hours between campgrounds and then found Walmarts in between where we could potentially stay. I also called ahead to find out if that particular Walmart was cool with overnight campers. For the record, I batted  about 90% – there were places that actually said they didn’t allow it. That’s something for you RVers to keep in mind. Even if you’re not planning out your trips to the degree that I am, I’d strongly recommend you call ahead while you’re driving to make sure the Walmart you selected for that evening will let you stay. It would be a real pain in the ass to get rousted at 10 p.m. and be told, “No overnight parking” and then have to scramble to figure out what you’re going to do. (You can buy an online guide that gives you this information. But it costs something like $50. My genetics includes a bit of Scottish DNA, which means I’m a cheap bastard- there’s no way in hell I’m paying $50 to be told something that I can find out myself with a phone call!)

Anyhow, back to the itinerary. We’re going to drive cross-state to get to our next stop – Myrtle Beach State Park. I’m really looking forward to this three days because we’re going to be camping with another old high school friend from New Jersey – Val and her husband, Bill. They purchased an RV last year, but weren’t able to use it as much as they wanted. So they’re going to drive down from Wilmington, NC with their three standard poodles and camp alongside the two of us!

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Easter, last year – at Lake Park Campground, Lewisville, TX

From there, we’ll drive up to Littleton, NC, and the Lake Gaston RV campground, another Thousand Trails Park. We needed a place to light for Easter and this seemed like the best location for that. My birthday happens to fall on Easter this year, by the way. Frank wanted to make me a treat for my birthday. But after asking me, “Where does one purchase poultry by-product meal and dry beef pulp anyhow?” as he was reading the back of his dog food bag, I figured I’d cut him some slack and told him that a treat wasn’t necessary!

Once we leave Lake Gaston, we have two more 3-day stays that I am really looking forward to! The first is another Tearjerkers event – this one at First Landing State Park, near Virginia Beach, VA. Frank and I had a great time at the Florida chapter’s get together in February and if this one is anything like that, I’m sure we’re going to have a great time.

From there, we head out to the North Carolina headlands for a stay at the Bells Island Campground. We’re going to see another old friend. Dave lived around the corner from me in Pompton Lakes, across the street from Jeanie. He and I used to walk to school together and talk baseball. I  like to think that Dave and I are an example for the rest of the world. If a Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan can become lifelong friends, then surely world peace is possible! LOL

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Our last Pennsylvania campground – serenity and peace, riverside

After that, we head back to Thousand Trails campgrounds. In succession, we plan on staying at campgrounds near Williamsburg, VA; Gettysburg, PA; and then finally in the Pocono Mountains, right across the border from New Jersey. That’s where we’ll spend Memorial Day weekend. I’m really looking forward to that stay – we’ll have a chance to get together with guys from the men’s group I belonged to at my old Parish in Wayne, NJ. Frank and I also plan on visiting  my old hometown of Pompton Lakes (about an hour away) and see other old high school friends while there.

After that, the plan is to stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds near Lake George, NY; Wells, ME; Bar Harbor, ME; and Rochester, MA, with a possible stay near Sturbridge, MA. Again, the beauty of this membership is that I won’t have to pay anything extra beyond my monthly membership fees while visiting these campgrounds. I’ve mentioned it earlier, but this is really saving a ton! Without that savings, managing this little vagabond journey would be a lot more difficult. There are a couple of little things we have to deal with, though. For one, I can’t reserve 4th of July until we’ve begun our Memorial Day reservation – you can only have one major holiday reservation on the books at any given time (major holidays are Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). So I’m not quite sure which one of those parks we’ll be at for the 4th of July. It will depend upon availability. But it’s all worked out so far, and I’m not going to allow myself to stress over this one little thing.

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While in Massachusetts, I hope to make a pilgrimage to Fenway Park, too.

If everything works according to plan, this takes us up to the second weekend in August. We’ll spend that weekend at another Tearjerkers event. This time, it will be with the New England chapter at a campground in Central Connecticut. I actually planned on going to this event last year, but had to cut our travel short and return to Texas due to a medical issue. So I’m really looking forward to finally getting to meet these people!

Remember my mentioning that this was the second itinerary we had planned for 2017? This is where we veer off from our original plans, which had us working our way back down the East Coast over the remainder of 2017, to winter again in Florida. Then I heard about the big solar eclipse that will occur in August. When I was a kid, I loved astronomy! Actually, I’m just a big kid now, and STILL love astronomy! I’m one of those idiots that would go out at three in the morning to watch a meteor shower. Well, when I heard about this solar eclipse, I started to stress a bit. How could we fit this into the schedule?

About the time this was all having a muddling impact on my brain, I talked to my buddy Larry out in California. It’s funny how I can get all bothered by something and Larry has a way of just cutting right to the chase and help me see something that I need to see!

“You realize the only one who is holding you to this itinerary is you, right? I mean, Frank doesn’t give a shit. And isn’t this why you chose this lifestyle, anyhow … so you can basically go where you wanted to? If you want to see the eclipse, go see the eclipse! If you don’t, then don’t. But don’t stress over it!”

Now for most of you, this is a no-brainer.  Larry’s advices something you already know. But for me, this was a major breakthrough! I think it goes back to my not being able to live in the present for most of my life. To getting so tied up in “plans” and becoming so rigid that you wind up hurting yourself.  I know it seems contradictory to be talking about that in the post that is totally about our plans for the upcoming year. The Breakthrough though, is seeing them for what they really are – just plans.

So,  if the plans materialize, we’ll be heading to Western Kentucky after the Tearjerkers event to see one of the biggest solar events that’s occurred in the last 30 years, and possibly won’t occur again while I’m alive.

After that? We’ve got to figure that out. Right now, it looks like we’ll head back through Dallas and visit with friends from my second high school again. When we left last November, I told them that we weren’t going to be back for a couple of years. From the looks of it now, that won’t be the case.

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No more freezing my tail off? Sounds good to me!!!

After that, we’ll be heading west. We’ll incorporate a few stopover visits with friends in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona along the way.  I’d also like to spend a little time in Western New Mexico. I’d like to check that out as a possible landing spotFor when we come off the road at some point in the distant future. Ultimately though, we intend to spend next winter in Arizona and Southern California. There are a whole lot of Thousand Trails campgrounds there so that makes perfect sense. Quite frankly, given how cold it’s been in Florida, I’ll be ready for some better temps. And I’m quite sure Frank will agree!

So that’s it. And you know what? The beauty of all this is that I know things will potentially change between now and next winter. And that I don’t have to stress about it! The planning will help us maintain our budget, but it won’t be the end of the world if we have to go a different direction. Again, that may be a “well, duh” idea for most of you. But that represents a huge breakthrough for me! It’s not the first one I’ve had over the last couple of years on the road. I’m grateful for that! Here’s hoping it won’t be the last.

By the way, if any of you are interested in meeting Frank and his chauffeur, you now have a general idea of where we’re headed. Drop me a line and let’s see what we can work out. Or if you just have questions about where we’ve been and want to compare travel notes, drop me a line on that, too. We’re always willing to help out a fellow vagabond.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2017 in 2017

 

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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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The Best Laid Plans …

I know I promised to post information about some of the online resources I’ve been using to plan my trip, but after posting yesterday’s blog, a good portion of my November – February plans went totally to hell. Not a problem, though – I was able to find some alternatives that will work out fine. Here’s the latest …

October 15, 2015 – October 29, 2015
Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Mathis, TX

Lake Corpus Christi campground

Lake Corpus Christi campsites look pretty comfortable, dont’ they?

I booked the reservation yesterday morning. It looks like a pretty nice place and the campsites each offer a bar-b-que, picnic table and fire ring (although they monitor fires pretty closely). The only issue I can tell is that the lake looks pretty low in the photos they’ve posted online – one of them shows a few kids fishing on the lakeshore with a dock / pier about 20 feet behind them. And about 10 feet above them as well! I remember when I lived in Silicon Valley and my commute took me right by Lexington Reservoir. Back during the drought we had in the early 90’s, the reservoir completely dried up! I hope South Texas gets some rain this next summer so that it’s not any lower by the time I arrive.

As I said yesterday, my site has water and electricity and the weekly rate is only $96! There’s an additional daily “use” fee of $5 … most states waive that, but not Texas. The good news is that I can buy an annual pass that will allow me to bypass the use fee. Granted, the pass costs as much as I’d pay in fees for the two weeks I’m here, but it’ll save me down the road – I have plans to visit at least 2 more state parks on this leg of my journey (and possibly one more within the year) and that’s where I’ll get a payback!

October 29, 2015 – November 2, 2015
Motel 6
South Padre Island, TX

Because of the way things worked out, I’m going to arrive in south Texas a little sooner than I had planned. I had a few extra days after leaving Lake Corpus Christi that needed filling, so I decided I’d find a cheap hotel right on the Gulf of Mexico … and Motel 6 in South Padre Island obliged. I figured that I’d not have another chance to sleep in a real bed for at least 4 months and thought I’d make the best of it! Got the deal through AARP (one of the best investments I’ve ever made was an AARP membership)! The daily rate worked out to a little under $45 and it included a fridge and microwave! It’s right across the street from the beach, so the odds are pretty good that Frank and I will be spending most of our time out there! It’ll be my first chance to try out a surf rod in a long while!

November 2, 2015 – December 16, 2015
Oleander Acres RV Park and Camp
Mission, TX

I firmed up my reservation yesterday and put down a deposit. We’ll be arriving on the same day the butterfly festival starts … evidently Mission is a stopping ground for butterflies on their annual migration to warmer climes. I probably won’t be going though, as Frank’s told me it would hurt his reputation with the “bitches” if he’s seen going to a butterfly festival! We’ll probably take a few day trips around the area over the month and a half we’ll be here, and I think the four night stay on Padre Island will allow us to sightsee elsewhere. After all, once I leave here, I’ll be spending a lot of time right on the beach in a few months.

The only wrinkle here was that I discovered electricity isn’t included. Sure, I have a hookup … I’ll just have to pay $.18 per kilowatt of usage. I figure that will add about another $30-$40 a month on my tab.

December 16, 2015 – December 30, 2015 and
January 13,2016 – January 27,2016
I.B. Magee County Park
Port Aransas, TX

Port Aransas Beach

I don’t know if the beach will be this inviting in December … knock on wood!

So this is where my plans went totally to hell. I had planned on staying here for a month straight, but when I called to make reservations, I was told that while RV campers were allowed to stay for a month at a time during the winter, tent campers weren’t. Talk about discrimination! :o)

Then a brainstorm (at least, so I thought)! I was going to stay a month here and then drive down the beach and stay in another county park for the following two weeks. I asked, “so would I be able to book two weeks, go to the other park for a couple of weeks, and then come back HERE for two weeks again?” I was told
that would be fine, so I made the reservations that way. That daily rate is $20, with water and electricity included. The sites are separated from the beach by some large, well-placed sand dunes … aside from that, I’m about 70 yards from the water’s edge. As at South Padre Island, I have more than a sneaking suspicion that Frank and I will be spending most of our time here.

December 30 – January 13th
Goose Island State Park (tentative)
Rockport, TX

No, this isn’t the other county park. After hanging up from speaking with I.B. Magee’s staff, I called Padre Belli to make my “sandwich” reservation. They couldn’t book it – the campsite area is presently closed for renovations. And they’re experiencing the typical county vs. state bureaucratic nonsense that was obviously affecting the park’s staff. I asked the ranger what she thought my chances were, to which she replied, “Honey, I have a better chance of guessing Jesus Christ’s second coming  than I do figuring out when we’re gonna get out of this mess!” Martha, tell me how you really think.

Goose Island State Park

This looks like it’ll be a great camping spot!

Given that my confidence was shot, I figured I’d best find another spot. And do it quickly. Fortunately, luck was on my side, and in more ways than one. Just take a look at the campsite photo – these grounds are much nicer than what was being offered at Padre Belli. I guess that explains the renovation! Goose Island State Park is only 20 miles away and I’ll be able to reserve a bay-front campsite for $22 / night (while avoiding the day use fee because of the pass I bought the prior month at Lake Corpus Christi).

I couldn’t reserve it yesterday – their system only allows them to reserve one year in advance, so I have to wait until January 31st to book it. I was told not to worry though. People don’t start reserving these sites until later in the spring.

Frank wasn’t too happy when I told him that there were a few gators in the park and immediately let me know that he’d be cool with following the “dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet” rule to the letter!

January 27, 2016 – February 27, 2015
Lake Texana, Brackenridge Recreation Complex (tentative)
Edna, TX

My next call was to the Lighthouse RV Park and Campground. The guy I spoke with said he couldn’t reserve that far in advance. When I told him that I had spoken to a women a week earlier and she didn’t have a problem with it, he replied, “Well, she don’t know shit!” and hung up the phone!!! I don’t know if “she” was his wife (and had made him sleep on the couch the night before for being an ass) or what. Regardless, I knew from his tone that this was an example of protection from above. There’s no way I would have been happy staying at this place if this was one of the guys running it!

lake texana

Frank asked, “Do those deer know there are GATORS in that lake????”

So another scramble. I decided to go inland a bit in order to up my chances of finding a good place, which was a great idea because I found this gem of a park! This is a beautiful campground … I’ve just exchanged being on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico for the shore of Lake Texana!

Again, this site is marked “tentative” because they must use the same reservation system as Goose Island. I have to wait until next week to make my reservation, but the pleasant woman I spoke with said I wouldn’t have any problem getting a site even though I’m waiting a week.

There’s lots of fishing here, from the shore and from the pier. Frank and I will have a site with water and electric, but Frank has opted for us to stay off the water – he overheard me acknowledge the fact that there are a few gators in the cove area of the lake. Frank didn’t want to stop here at all, but I passed along the fact that gators are never seen in the lake itself … only in the cove … and I assured him that I’d keep a careful eye out for him. (I didn’t want to let on that I’m probably as fond of gators as HE is … don’t want to shake his confidence in my “protection” abilities!)

The monthly rate here is $275, plus the cost of electricity which is billed at a nickel less than Oleander Acres.

So there we have it. Except for the overnight stays on the road, and the two reservations I’ll firm up in the next week, it looks like I’m all set for camping through February 2016.

This has come together well. I’m starting to feel mildly optimistic about this journey, which scares me. Whenever I get the least bit optimistic, fate seems to play a little game with me. I’m going to try real hard to let go of my worries, though. Overall, I feel pretty good about the lifestyle decision I’ve made. I have four more months of logistical and mental preparation … hopefully the work that still needs to be done will keep my mind occupied enough where I don’t fall into another period of blackness. This last one seems to be lifting.

Tomorrow, I’ll keep the promise I didn’t keep today and list some of the online resources I’ve been using to plan my trip.

Oh yeah, one more thing … I signed up for a one-day fly fishing class in early March. I think I mentioned before that I’ve always wanted to learn this technique. It seems very “zen” and I’m hoping it helps me achieve a bit more peace. I know a 6-hour course is going to be nothing more than a start – I’ll have to practice quite a bit after the class ends. But there are worse ways to spend your time, right?

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in 2015

 

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Itinerary – October 2015 to December 2015 (and Beyond)

Good news!. A couple of days ago, when I wrote about having trouble with planning the packing, my brother suggested that I look into Space Bags, another infomercial legend on late night TV. They’re the large bags you can put soft items in (i.e. clothes, pillows, blankets, etc.) and then suck all the air out using a vacuum cleaner. At that point, your stuff takes up a fraction of the space it might otherwise use. Great idea, except … how would I find a vacuum cleaner out on the road? I sure wasn’t planning on bringing one with me!

New and improved Space Bags

New and improved, no less! :o)

The people at Ziploc (the Space Bag creator) weren’t any help … they had no idea what I could use! All they said was that it was designed for a standard vacuum cleaner hose. The people at Coleman weren’t any help either. Neither answered the email inquiry I had sent in two days earlier, by the way – I had to call them.

Nevertheless, I found my answer after going back onto Amazon and doing a search for “mini vacuum cleaners”. I found the Shop-Vac Micro Wet/Dry Vac. It weighs only 6lbs and stands 11″ tall, with a 10″ diameter. And it has a standard-size vacuum hose. Even better, one of the reviews made mention of the fact that they had used this model on Space Bags with success! I might even be able to ditch the bucket I was planning on bringing and use the canister for dishwashing instead. I’ve ordered both the vacuum and some Space Bags and will test it out when they arrive.

I figure I can not only use the bags on the blankets and such, I might even be able to ditch one of the suitcases since I can pack down my shirts, sweaters and sweat pants as well! Andy, thanks for the suggestion … much appreciated!

Now, on to the remainder of my 2015 itinerary. I’m not yet going to post in the detail I’ve done the last couple of days since I need to firm up reservations, but here’s the plan so far:

October 2015

As mentioned yesterday, I extended my stay at the Circle Your Wagons campground in La Veta, Co for an extra two weeks, which meant I had to drop a visit to Taos, NM from my plans. The next campground, near Tucumcari, NM, doesn’t open up reservations for October camping until mid-April, either. Based on that, I’ve decided to scrap New Mexico from my 2015 plans.

Instead, I plan on spending two weeks at Lake Corpus Christi State Park. They have campsites with both electricity and water and are far enough south where I won’t have to worry about snow, the way I would have in New Mexico. Its a little over 900 miles from La Veta, so I’ll take three days to get there, with planned stops in Amarillo and San Angelo.

November 2015

South Padre Island

South Padre Island is only 90 minutes away!

From there, I’ll head due south to Mission, with plans to stay at Oleander Acres, an upscale RV Park and campgrounds. I spoke with them on the phone last week. A one month stay … with water and electric … will be only $250! I plan on staying there through mid-December. Frank liked this because they have some very nice dog parks in the area: I like it because we’ll be able to take some day trips over to South Padre Island and do some beachcombing. It’ll be a bit of a trek, but it won’t be as far as going to Atlantic City from where I was living in New Jersey!  That’s doable … and it’s worth it to spend a day near the water!

December 2015 – February 2016

In mid-December, I plan on heading 200 miles north along the Gulf to Port Aransas, TX. I.B. Magee County Park offers camping right off the beach. Their sites, with water and electric, are $20 / night and I plan on another month-long stay. This will be a perfect spot for more fishing and beachcombing. Hopefully the weather will hold up and we won’t have to deal with too much rain.

I’d have stayed there a little longer, except I’m already planning on the 1-month maximum stay. Instead, I’ll go a couple miles down the beach to another county park, Padre Belli for a two-week stay. They offer the same $20/night rate for water and electric campsites. Both are located on the north part of Padre Island. These two stays will take me to the end of January.

I plan on travelling further up the coast from there, to the Matagorda area. Lighthouse RV Park in Bay City is located about 10 miles from the Gulf. I plan on a month-long stay at their quoted rate of only $300.

Lighthouse RV Park

LIghthouse RV Park in Bay City, TX (not sure why it’s called “Lighthouse” when they’re 10 miles from the Gulf …)

Beyond February 2016

That takes me to the end of February 2016. From there? Who knows. At this point, I’ve put about 8,000 miles on my car … not bad, but I would like to cut it down a bit. This means a bit more focus in my locales. My initial thought for 2016 is to head back up to Dallas in order to see friends again). From there, go across the Tennessee Valley to the East Coast, head north again (with a stop in New Jersey to see some more friends) to spend the summer in New England and upstate New York. As summer ends, I would head back down south, with the goal of spending New Year’s in the Florida keys.

That’s it for now. As things firm up, I’ll expand a bit on each of the places I’ve outlined in this post.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk a bit about some of the resources I’ve been using to plan out this journey. I’ve found some very helpful websites that would be of use to anyone planning a road trip …whether it’s for a couple of weeks or the rest of their lives!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in 2015, 2016

 

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Itinerary – August to September 2015

Yesterday, I took you through the first two (plus) months of my itinerary.  A lot of traveling involved.  Fortunately, the next couple of months aren’t quite that nomadic.

I’m still residing at the Pleasant Valley RV Park and Campground in central Colorado as Frank and I enter August.  This is a beautiful part of the country.  I mentioned that I lived in Denver back in the 70’s … when I was there, I was part of Adventure Unlimited’s management team.  A/U is a youth organization similar to Young LIfe.  In addition to offering activities in local chapters around the world, they owned a ranch just north of Buena Vista, CO, about 45 minutes north of Pleasant Valley.  I used to spend 2 days a week at the ranch during the summer, taking care of business.  One of my fondest memories was spending an August night camped out on the upper deck of their main activity center, watching the annual Perseid meteor shower.  I’ve stayed up late to enjoy meteor showers quite a few times in my life, but none of them have come close to what I was able to see miles away from any city lights, in the clear star-filled Colorado sky. I’m looking forward to experiencing that again.

But on to other things.  Here’s the rest of my schedule for the summer and early Fall:

August 13, 2015 – September 13, 2015
The Last Resort
Pagosa Springs, CO

The Blanco River, where it passes through the Last Resort

The Blanco River, where it passes through the Last Resort.

My initial plans included a trip north instead of south, to a camp in Utah, just east of Salt Lake City.  But after more thought, I decided against it, not wanting to put all that extra mileage on my car in the first year. I stored the camp’s website in my “Future sites” folder on Google Chrome.  I then chose the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park near Montrose.  Its canyon was carved by the Gunnison River. Here, the river drops elevation at a rate that’s four times the drop of the Colorado River as it goes through the Grand Canyon!  The only problem – the campsites were completely booked when I inquired last week.  (Another site for a future visit, I suppose.)

After looking further, I decided to venture into an area of Colorado I’ve never been before, the southwest corner. I found The Last Resort, located about an hour east of Durango, in Pagosa Springs.  I had a great talk on the phone with TJ, the owner and decided to stay there … and where I was looking to fill a three-week hole in the schedule, I decided to stay a month.  (TJ’s a great salesman – he let me know that the monthly rate would only cost me about $40 more than what I would pay for 3 weeks.  Can’t beat that, right?).

He said he’d fix me up near the river in a spot with great shade.  He also mentioned they had over 5,000 feet of shoreline (nearly a mile!) along the Blanco River and that the river was stocked with Brown trout at the beginning of the season.  For the most part, I’ve dealt with quite a few caring, friendly and genuine people as I’ve looked for places to stay … a welcome change from spending too much time getting into arguments over politics on various Websites as I have for too long a time.  The drive from Pleasant Valley is about 175 miles and should take about 3 hours or so.  The reservation has been made. My site will have water and electricity.  Total cost – $12.58 / night!

September 13, 2015 – October 13, 2015
Circle the Wagons RV Park and Campground
La Veta, CO

Circle the Wagons campground vista

A view from the campsite … I hope that white stuff doesn’t come closer during my stay!

This was actually the first Colorado camp I found (as an aside, if you’re looking for RV parks or campgrounds, RVParkReviews.com is a great source of information.  Lots of real-life experiences are posted by previous visitors … it helped me weed out a lot of places that I might have otherwise chosen.  Circle the Wagons had a rating of 8.8 on a scale of 1-10.), but I wanted to start off closer to Buena Vista since I was familiar with that area.  According to the Website, they closed at the end of September, so I figured I’d look into a 3-week stay and leave when they closed.  I emailed the campground, asking if the tent sites had electrical connections.  They replied quickly – “No, they don’t, but we’ll fix you up close to one of the buildings so you can have access to it.”  Wonderful!

My only reservation (pun intended) about extending my stay at The Last Resort, was that it meant cutting the stay here down to only two weeks.  I was resigned to that and called to make my reservation here.  I casually told Jay, (the better half of the husband-wife team that owned the place) that I was sorry they closed at the end of September, otherwise I’d have stayed a little longer.  She replied, “No, we close at the end of October” (they’ve since fixed their Website).  That said, I decided to extend my stay here to a full month.  Jay said she’d figure out a rate and email me.  She also told me that after my inquiry into electricity at the tent sites, she and her husband decided to plumb all the tent sites for electricity, which meant I could have a site down near the river!

I think Frank is really going to like this place – “dog friendly” seems like more than just a slogan.  They not only have a cute little dog park (aptly named “Circle the Waggins” … those of you who know me also know that I love puns!), they also offer a dog walking service, too. Judging from the pictures on the front page of the Website, they have a lot of deer, too (I hope you’re following the links to the various campgrounds that I’ve included in the titles)!

My only concern – staying into mid-October means that I’m probably going to encounter some snow.  I was hoping to avoid that, but so be it.  Knock on wood that it’s not enough where I have problems driving on to my next stop!

The drive here from Pagosa Springs is about 150 miles and should take a little less than 3 hours.  The reservation has been made – Jay offered a great rate for a month-long stay.  It worked out to $13.68 / night!

That’s it for now – this is as far as I’ve gotten with making actual reservations … since I extended my stay in La Veta, it means I’m cutting out another location I had planned on visiting – Taos, NM.  That’ll have to be saved for a future part of the journey, too.  I have planned stops that take me from early November to the end of February in south Texas, but the last two weeks of October are somewhat undecided at the moment.  I’ll fill in the details tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in 2015

 

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Itinerary – June to July 2015

I re-read the blog last night, from front to end.  I wanted to make sure I had corrected typos and the like, but in doing so, I realized how fluid my plans are, even as I’m trying to plan with meticulous detail.  I’ve made several changes to my original itinerary and what I intended to bring along for the ride.

Here’s the current itinerary. I intend to update this page as things firm up.

June 1, 2015 – June 15, 2015
Georgia Veterans State Park
Cordele, GA

A Georgia Veterans State Park campsite

I’d love to get this campsite for Frank and my first night as vagabonds!

Georgia Veterans State Park is about 5 hours from Charleston if you drive straight through … I’ll probably make it in 6!  It’s on Lake Blackshear. It looked like a nice place to start off the journey and was about halfway between my starting point and the Florida panhandle.  Reservations are made, deposit is paid.  If I buy their annual Senior’s pass for $25, I save 20% on the campsite and they waive the $5 entry fee.  (I think I’ll add a resource page, outlining what different states offer in the way of camping discounts).  My site offers water and electricity.  They sell firewood.  Cost after discount – $20/night.

I plan on taking in the lake, do a little bit of hiking, and decompress.  This will be a nice place to sit, ponder and come to the realization of the life change I’ve made.

June 15, 2015 – June 29, 2015
Big Lagoon State Park
Spanish Fort, AL

If you read my earlier posts, you know that my intention was to stay on the Florida panhandle.  But that changed when I discovered their State Park system requires full payment in advance.  (I’ve since discovered that Texas does pretty much the same thing … and while I’d like to say “Screw you,” to them as well, that’s just not in the cards.  Oh well.)

Instead, I wound up making a reservation here. It’ll be just a wee bit longer drive than the drive out of Charleston, and I only added about 20 minutes when I decided on this park instead of the one near Pensacola that was originally selected.  Reservations are made (without requiring any deposit, I might add). Alabama offers a 15% discount to seniors over 62, except for Friday and Saturday nights.  My site offers water and electricity.  Average cost after discount – $18.93/night.

They have a special place where Frank will be able to swim.  The website makes mention of the fact that alligators also reside there – we have the same warning at the local dog park in Charleston, too.  The Ranger I spoke with said that no dog’s been “et” (gotta love the South, right?) since he’s been there and Frank had a look of relief when I relayed that to him. As long as he’s on a leash elsewhere in the park, he pretty much can go anywhere. I intend to spend some time on their fishing pier, hopefully to catch some dinner.  I’ve been using a couple of review sites to check out potential places to stay, mostly Trip Advisor and RV Park Reviews … one of the reviews mentioned “spectacular sunset views” from this park.  I’m hoping the sun won’t have much of an impact during the day since it’ll only be the end of June.  Knock on wood.

June 29, 2015 – June 30, 2015
TBD

Frank and I will be back in a regular bed tonight as we’re going to stay in a motel.  My goal is to spend no more than 5-6 hours of drive time (excluding stops) as I go from place to place.  This is a lifestyle, not a vacation, and I’m not going to “hurry up and get there”.  I can remember going somewhere with my grandfather once when visiting him down in Knoxville, TN.  I think I was about 10.  Some guy with New York plates came roaring up behind us on a two lane road and recklessly passed us on a curve.  After a few moments passed, he quietly said, “He’s probably going to rush to where he’s going and just sit down!”  I don’t know why that stayed with me … I don’t think I got it at the time.  But as I look back at how I’ve lived my life though, I wish I had “gotten it” a bit more.  Maybe I’m finally getting it now.  Sorry, another digression.

Anyhow, today’s drive will be about 4 hours, and the plan right now is to stay in the booming metropolis of Scott, LA, about an hour due west of Baton Rouge, LA.  I have a place picked out but haven’t made reservations yet.  I’ll get that done by the end of the week and will update this itinerary then.

June 30 2015 – July 14, 2015
South Toledo Bend Reservoir State Park
Anococo, LA

South Toledo Bend Reservoir State Park, Campsite C1041

Campsite 1041 will be our home on the Fourth of July!

My first wife’s father had a place on Toledo Bend Reservoir and I used to enjoy going down there for bass fishing.  The only thing is that this time, I’ll be on the Louisiana side of the lake instead of the Texas side. Frank and I will be in the car for about 5 hours today, traveling the back roads through the Louisiana bayous, “dough’n chew no!”  (I am enthralled by Cajun accents!)

The park doesn’t offer any discounts of their own … instead, they honor the “America the Beautiful” Seniors Pass issued by the Feds but only if your state of residence does the same thing.  Translation?  No discount.   I’ve reserved campsite #C1041, an end location right on the lake, again with water and electricity.  Firewood is free (they evidently still have a lot of wood left over from the cleanup after Hurricane Rita years ago).  Since it’s a premium site, it’s a bit more expensive than the first two parks.  Cost (no discount) –  $28.43 / night and the reservation’s been made.

Not much to do here except fish … and I plan to spend a lot of time looking out over a fishing rod at the lake.  Hopefully by this point, I’ll have gotten back into walking more with Frank as well, and be able to do some more hiking.  According to the website, it’s a “nesting ground for bald eagles”  Hey Frank!  Stay close … you don’t want to be dinner!

July 14 2015 – July 21, 2015
Somewhere in Texas

This week is up in the air right now.  I have to spend a couple days in Livingston, only a couple of hours due west of Toledo Bend.  For good reason.  First off, I need to establish residency in Texas (as mentioned earlier).  The attorney I’m working with is there, and he will have prepared some legal declarations of my intent.  And secondly, a company named “Escapees” is headquartered there.  Escapees was set up to primarily serve the RV community, specifically RVers who have decided to do essentially what I’m doing – leave everything behind and hit the road, without any home to go back to (the only difference is that they’re doing it in style and at 2 miles per gallon).  But they also offer services to vagabonds like me as well … the primary one of which is their mail forwarding service. For about $100/year, they’ll act as my legal mailing address, notify me via email when something arrives and forward items to wherever I designate.  They’ll even open the mail and read it to me over the phone if I ask them.  The simple truth is that I don’t get much mail – all my bills are paid online – I’ve requested that all my statements be sent to me via email, and 99.9% of the rest is junk mail.  I expect that this is going to be the easiest $100 they’re going to earn all year!  One other thing … the attorney said that the Polk county DMV is used to dealing with the folks being sent over from Escapees and that I’d probably have less questions addressed to me about claiming them as my “home”.  So that’s that.  Frank and I will motel it again – there’s a Best Western in Cleveland, TX not far away – the AARP rate, with tax is about $70 night.  For the record, that will be the most I’ll pay this year for living quarters once I’m on the road! (in the middle of east Texas! Go figger!)

From there, I was planning on spending another three days in Dallas with the hope of connecting with some old long time friends from high school.  (The strikeout is in deference to those friends who may not consider themselves old.  Me?  I felt old at 25!) There are a few people I’d like to see, but it would be hard to see all of them unless we get together at one of the places Tommy Lucas uses to set up the “Class of ’71” luncheons.  Once I get closer to letting everyone know about my plans, I’ll throw that out there.  As far as accommodations, I found a couple in Dallas who offer out their back-yard cottage for overnight stays via a hostels website … cost right now is about $47/night.  I’ll make reservations before the end of the week.

The last two days / nights will be on the road again, on my way to the Rockies.  Again, I’m not in a hurry, so I plan on stopping two nights along the way.  The plan is to spend night #1 about 20 minutes west of Childress … night #2 will be in Colorado City.  I’ve got a bit longer drive to Colorado City. I left a little more time to get out of Big D, just in case I wanted to have breakfast with some friends (plus, there’s nothing reasonably priced once you go too far past Childress, and I didn’t want to drive all the way to Amarillo).  Besides, even if Frank and I leave at 9am and stop for lunch, we’ll still be in Colorado City by around 4pm! The hotels I picked out will each cost about $60 a night.

I have to digress again to tell you all a little story …

The last time I was on this road was over 35 years ago, in 1979, when I was moving back to Dallas after a couple of years in Denver.  My brother Andy flew up to help me drive the U-haul. Pretty uneventful trip, unless you count the run-in Andy had with the roof of a Dairy Queen in Chillicothe as I was asleep in the passenger seat.  Not understanding the concept of “clearance”, he tried to use the drive-thru and sheared off about 25 feet of their overhang.  I’m jostled awake as my brother sharply turns across traffic into the parking lot.  I come full awake to a loud crunching sound as metal meets wood.  And then the next thing I hear … from my brother … is “Shit. I didn’t bring my driver’s license.”  My immediate response was “You flew up to help me drive a f**king truck for 14 hours, and you didn’t bring your driver’s license???”

The only roofer … and the only cop … in town were both eathing in the Dairy Queen.  They come out while I’m yelling at my brother.  After we make restitution arrangements with the DQ owner, the cop tells my brother, “Son, I’m not gonna give you a ticket – your brother sounds like he’s gonna put you through hell the rest of the way to Dallas and I think that will be enough punishment for ya.”

I never thought I’d see Chillicothe again in this lifetime.  Andy, if you’re reading this, I’ll give a little wave to the DQ as I drive by!

July 21, 2015 – August 13, 2015
Pleasant Valley RV Park and Campground
Howard, CO

Pleasant Valley RV Park and Campground

Pleasant Valley RV Park and Campground. Doesn’t that river look fantastic?

Frank and I have about a two hour drive this day. A half-hour on I-25 up to Pueblo and then about 90 minutes due west to Howard.  When I called these folks to ask about their facilities, I found out they didn’t offer electricity in their tent sites.  I asked about using my generator overnight, to power my c-pap machine. She said it would probably be okay, but they’d put me at the furthest campsite so I wouldn’t disturb anyone else. I called back a week later to make reservations and reminded her about the c-pap conversation, as a way of helping her remember who she was speaking with.  She said, “Okay … yeah … I told my husband and he said, ‘he’s not gonna disturb anybody, just let him have any damn site he wants!'”  (I’m going to really enjoy dealing with reasonable folk especially after some of the clients I’ve had!)

She told me she’d give me the monthly rate.  The type of guy that I am, I said, “Just to be clear, I’m going to be there about 6 days short of a month,” and she told me not to worry about it.  Very cool.  I’ll be right next to the Arkansas River (take a look at the photo) and it looks like it’ll be a great place to chill, do some fishing and relaxing.  Cost at the monthly rate – $16.14 / night and the reservation has been made.  I’m thinking about going down to the local Charleston Angler shop – I’ve always wanted to learn fly fishing (having focused mostly on bass when it comes to fresh water).  They have a 6-hour class on February 21st and I think that would be a good use of a Saturday afternoon.  Lord knows I’m going to have plenty of time now to practice!

Oh yeah, I’m planning on exercising my legal Colorado rights while I’m there, too.  The first time in 23 years I’ve indulged.  I’ll probably stick to edibles so as not to disturb any of the families there.  I checked it out – there’s a retail outlet about 15 minutes away, in Salida.  I’ll stop by there at some point my first week.

If things go according to plan … and I fill the TBD’s with the places I’ve penciled in … my camping / motel fees will be a little over $24 a day. Get this, though – that’ll drop to less than $11 a day for the following 6 1/2 months!  But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Tomorrow, I’ll fill in the details on the rest of the plan through October.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in 2015, Itinerary

 

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