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Category Archives: 2017

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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