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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.