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Again with a Photo Dump …

dHere are most of the photos I’ve taken during the last month or so of our Vagabond Journey. Most are photos of our setups at various spots, but I’ve thrown a few others in there as well.

As an aside, we’re in Kentucky right now. Saw the eclipse yesterday. I’ll touch on that in the next couple of days. We’re leaving tomorrow for a short stay in Saulsbury, TN and will update once we get there.

Rochester, MA

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Want to see my Princess Leia impersonation? Huh? Do ya??

We didn’t really take any photos of our setup here. You’re not missing much! We were smack dab in the middle of a bunch of bungalows. There wasn’t another RV in sight! It worked out okay, though. The site was pretty nice sizedand we still had a decent amount of trees all around us.

As you can see from the photo, there wasn’t much grass around. Friend didn’t like that very much. So aside from when the kids next door came over to say hello, he had some extra free time. I mean, grass and shrubs always smell more inviting than dirt.

One morning, I happened to glance up at him sitting right in front of me. I thought he was wanting to get up on my lap, but he was evidently just looking for an opinion on a new look he was trying out. I think you have to give him credit for originality … going with a Wookie look would have been the more obvious route. But Frank’s never been one to follow the crowd.

Lisbon, CT

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The Ross Hill Campground … a magnificent place!

Frank was happy, because we were finally back on grass again, after being on nothing more than dirt for the previous month! Plus, he was ecstatic with all the attention he received. It wasn’t just a chance to be scratched and rubbed by so many people. He got a chance to visit with quite a few canine buddies, too. Frank is definitely not someone who shies away From attention!

Frank was also pretty happy about having another chance to take a swim. I’ve included a short video  below that shows him testing the water.

As I mentioned in the last post, there were all different varieties of teardrops and other small campers attending the tearjerker gathering. Here are a few of them…

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A Casita … No back galley hatch on this one. The kitchen is inside.

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This is a wonderful example of a home built trailer. Towed by a classic Model T Ford, no less!

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Here’s a classic pop up camper. Owned by another Beagle lover, I might add!

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You CAN teach an old dog new tricks! (Lighten up Frank. I’m not talking about you. It’s a saying!

Oh yeah, something I don’t think I’ve mentioned before. I figured out a way to protect our camp table during rain. When we were in Maine, I picked up a lightweight drop cloth and cut it so that it covers the gaps between the bottom of the canopy and the top of the insert. It’s worked out pretty well, except for my chosen method of attaching it to the canopy – clothespins! Someone mentioned that I should get some heavy duty binder clips and I will do that the next chance I get.  By the way, the white strips on the plastic are Velcro. The velcro helped a little bit but I’ve since replace the canopy and  still need to add velcro to it, too.

This is really coming in handy! It’s worked more than “okay” …  except for wind. it’s raining as I put this post together in Kentucky, and the canopy is set up into the wind, so the clothes pins aren’t holding that well. Hopefully those binder clips do a better job.

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The New England chapter of Tearjerkers, 8/11-8/13

One of the traditions at the Tearjerker Gatherings is to snap a group photo. I have to say, this was a truly wonderful bunch of people. Frank and I were extremely grateful that they included us in as if we were lifelong members.

20170822_182655Frank was at my feet in this photo, by the way. He did not want to be seen. He muttered something about a collie in Hilton Head looking for him and then, “Don’t ask …”

Here’s our award for traveling the longest distance to attend, too. I still say we only drove about 90 miles from Rochester, MA, but we sincerely appreciate the recognition, regardless.

Manheim, PA

20170813_182616We arrived at the PA Dutch Country RV campground late on Sunday. We didn’t even set up camp like we normally do. I just pulled everything out of the Nutshell  and set it outside next to the wheels. Frank still had plenty of time to claim another picnic table in the name of beagledom … although he was infatuated by something up in the trees. I never did figure out what it was.

Of course, Mother Nature had other ideas the next afternoon, when it started raining. So we quickly set up the canopy and stayed underneath it for the rest of the afternoon and into evening. The rain actually lasted all night.

One thing I will say, it was definitely quiet! We had that entire section of the campground  almost entirely to ourselves. And after that long drive, the peace and solitude were definitely appreciated.

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We managed a quick setup of the canopy in the rain.

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Now that’s what I call solitude!

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Even Frank was exhausted after that long day of driving!

Park City, KY

If Frank thought it was a long day of driving getting to Amish Country, he hadn’t seen anything yet!

We left Manheim  about 8:30 in the morning on Wednesday, after spending an extra day there for some additional recuperation. The original plan called for us to stop somewhere in eastern Ohio on Tuesday night and arrive in Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon. Truth be told though, I was totally fried! I think that’s the first time I drive had really gotten to me since we came back from picking up the Nutshell early last year.

I called ahead to the Diamond Caverns RV campground, our next stop, to see if it would be alright if we didn’t make it there until Thursday. they said it wouldn’t be a problem … just call ahead mid-afternoon to let them know that we wouldn’t make it. But I decided to plow on through. We arrived just as the sun was going down and had just enough light to set up the canopy. Once again, I just pulled everything out of the Nutshell and set it next to the back wheel. After a sound sleep, we got everything set up the next morning. Granted, it took another couple of days of additional recuperation time before Frank and I felt okay. Fortunately, this Is a great place to do it in!

20170818_080958This is going to be another of my favorite Thousand Trails campgrounds. We have a great site here – it looks out onto a huge open area, dotted by a few trees and shrubs. The Campground filled up where is Eclipse viewers. Evidently everyone had the same idea I did. But even with that, our you stayed pretty much the same all week. There were just a few tent campers that came in and set up underneath the trees for a couple of days.

We’re also set up at the end of a row, so we only had neighbors On our port side, while we set up on starboard.

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Our setup at Diamond Caverns RV campground, Park City, KY

Once again, we have been blessed with some wonderful neighbors, though! Phil and Judy are also full-time RVers out of Texas. Seal came out and introduced himself as I was sitting at the picnic table, getting my bearings after the 12-hour Drive and preparing to set up the canopy. He offered to help, but setting up a canopy it’s just one of those things that I figured out how to do easily. And sometimes it’s more work to get someone else involved in those type of things. Nevertheless, we’ve spent part of each day visiting and I really enjoyed their company.

I’m going to leave things here for now. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we’ll save the eclipse viewing for it’s own blog post.  Compared to the last two trips, we’ve got a relatively easy 3.5 hour drive ahead of us tomorrow. That’ll be a snap, right Frank?

I will leave you with one final picture of the two Vagabonds testing out there ISO approved eclipse glasses. Anyone up for a 3D movie?

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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Travels

 

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Go West, (Not-So) Young Man!

Westward Ho!

Tonight, Frank and I are enjoying a quiet campsite at the PA Dutch Country RV Campground outside of Manheim, PA. That wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to be sitting in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Ohio about now. But we both woke up this morning a bit groggy. Frank gave me a look that said, “Do we have to spend the entire day in the car again?” We’ve gotten to the point where we can read each other’s minds now, by the way. His sense of humor isn’t quite as dry as I first thought it was. He’s more of a practical joker. But that’s a story for another post.

Anyhow, we are still recovering from a weekend of revelry followed by 10 hours in the car on Sunday. So we decided to spend one more night here. Tomorrow morning, we’ll head out pretty early. I don’t know that will make it all the way to our campground in Kentucky, but I called ahead and they were okay with us coming in a day later … just so long as we let them know in the early afternoon whether we’re going to make it tomorrow or not.

I’m really kind of embarrassed about feeling exhausted. I mean, we’re really not doing anything to feel exhausted about! I guess the only defense I can put up as it we’ve been moving around a lot more frequently of late. In a fit of self-justification, I looked back at our itinerary this afternoon and sure enough -From January 1st until mid-June, we moved 13 times. But over the last two months, we’ve moved 10! That’s a lot of driving, setups and teardowns compared to what we had been used to. So I’ll take that excuse, even if it’s only a pretty weak one. : o)

Unfortunately though, Frank is going to have to suck it up because those frequent moves aren’t going to stop anytime soon. In actuality, we’ve got at least 9-10 more moves will have to go through between now and October 15th! It won’t be until then that we finally reach a place with a month-long stay to look forward to.

Not only that, we’ll be driving halfway across the country, with a couple of north/south zigzags thrown in to boot! Who came up with this itinerary, anyhow? That’s rhetorical, by the way … and don’t let on to my Chief Navigator who it was, please. He’s already asleep in the Nutshell and I’m not sure what he would do with the information.

But anyhow, back to this past weekend …

Frank and I left Massachusetts about 10:30 Friday morning. But not before some sad goodbyes. We’ve been camping next to a cabin where a family had been staying for the last week. We had a little girl that for whatever reason was just infatuated by Frank and me.

Most mornings, she would come out and say hello to us before breakfast; one morning, she hollered down from her upstairs bedroom window and offered to read me her story book. She was absolutely precious! But she had a hard time saying goodbye.

She and her brother came over with their father as we were leaving and it was obvious she didn’t want Frank to leave!  As soon as Frank saw her come up to the driver’s window, he jumped on top of me and was straining to get out to give her one final goodbye. They were at equal eye level, and as soon as Frank noticed the tears in her eyes, he just started licking away!

After that, she broke the news – “In 5 more days, I’m going to be 6 years old, and I told my mommy and daddy that I want a dog just like Frank!”  I took her father’s rolling eyes as a good signal that it was time to leave, so I just wished her a happy birthday, told her it was time for us to get on the road and mouthed, “Sorry,” to her dad. He just grinned and said that she had been asking for a dog for a while. I’m grateful he let us off the hook a little bit.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Ross Hill Park, near Lisbon, CT. I have to say, this was a magnificent campground! Compared to the last couple of campgrounds we were at, our space was ginormous! We had a beautiful view of a river about 75 yards away and could see a number of other teardrops that had already arrived for the annual get-together of the Tearjerkers’ New England chapter.

We were sitting at the picnic table, getting our bearings when Barry and Nancy, the chapter chairpersons, stopped by to say hello. Talk about being made to feel welcome! They knew who we were just by way of Frank’s smile. But then, pretty much everyone knows Frank by now. We were greeted with warm hugs and handshakes and spent about 15 minutes with them talking about our journey.

We finished setting up and relaxed for a little while before dinner. We had been invited over to have dinner with Theresa, another of the chapter’s organizers. I have to say, I don’t go all out on my cooking. I do what I need to do. And the chicken fajitas that Theresa prepared were beyond delicious! I’m going to have to step up my game a little bit.

After dinner, we all gathered around the community campfire. As stories were being swapped, I joined in a little guitar picking session with Darrell and Rory. Meanwhile, I noticed Frank, whose lead was connected to my chair, going from person to person. He would sit directly in front of them and give them a look that was akin to Oliver begging for more food. He was trying to convince anyone who would look at him that it had been eons since he’d received any attention! Fortunately for him, everyone was more than happy to oblige. He was pretty funny –  as they would reach down to pet him, he would lower his head so that they could scratch the back of his neck. And I would catch him grinning as he was getting stroked. “Heh, heh, heh, bagged another one!”  What a conniver he can be at times!

The next day, we all got together for breakfast, with Frank following up his with a brief dip in the river. And after that came the famous Tearjerker crawl, where everyone went from campsite to campsite to learn about everyone else’s rides. There were some very cool trailers in camp, I have to say. A pretty good combination of manufactured, home-built, antique restorations and the like.

Later on, we all got back together for a pot-luck dinner and more time around the campfire. There was a group photo and an awards ceremony, too. People were recognized for things like “best home-built teardrop,” “best galley,” “best decorated campsite,” and the like.

Frank and I received an award for coming the furthest distance to attend the gathering. I tried to convince them that we’d only just come from Massachusetts, but they wouldn’t hear it. So as a result, I have a beautiful plaque that will be displayed prominently in all my future campsites.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the campfire a bit early. There was rain in the air and Frank had one of his uncontrollable shaking sessions. So we hurried back to our campsite so that Frank could get under his magic blanket in the Nutshell and feel some relief.

Our Sunday was spent entirely in the car. We started out fairly early, but I wanted to stop somewhere in New Jersey to pick up some corn and tomatoes. Now those of you who aren’t familiar with Jersey corn or Jersey tomatoes might think that’s crazy, but if you haven’t tasted them, you have no idea what you’re missing!  they are incredibly sweet, almost like eating candy!

I found a farm stand off I-87 but didn’t have any place to park, except to pull off on the side of a narrow road. I was able to catch the eye of a high school kid that was working there and he came over to the car and was more than happy to pick out some produce for us. A really nice kid – he even protested when I told him to keep the change from the $15 I had given him. But he laughed and relented when I told him that I’d sic my vicious dog on him if he said anything else. Of course, Frank was just looking at him with a big grin on his face.  : o)

We wound up with four ears of corn, three tomatoes, and a pint of blueberries. I wish I could have figured out how to bring back 4 dozen ears! Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.

After that, I made a quick phone call to make sure he was home and then stopped to see an old friend, Eric, with whom I had worked for a few years while living in New Jersey. Eric had tried to come up to our campground in the Poconos in late May, but just couldn’t work it into his schedule. So we stopped by for a quick visit so he could meet Frank … then we were on our way.

We arrived at our Campground just before 6 p.m. and it was all I could do to empty the trailer so that we could get inside to sleep. And this is where we’ve been for the last couple of days.

This blog post was started kind of late and it needs to get it posted before heading to bed. There won’t be any photos in this one, but I have a number of them to share from the weekend and our short stay here. But we’ve got a long day of driving ahead of us tomorrow, so I want to hit the sack as soon as I can. I’ll post those in the next couple of days.

Good night everyone!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Travels

 

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A Little Late …

I’ve never been good at accepting accolades. They’ve come at times in the past … at work, at church, as a volunteer with a few charitable organizations, etc.  

A good portion of my uneasiness his had to do with unrealistic expectations I put on myself. After all, how can you accept kudos for doing what you are supposed to be doing in the first place? Whatever you do, you are supposed to excel. It’s expected!

The other part of my reluctance has had to do with guilt, and what someone sees when they look at themselves in the mirror. If you’re of a mind that none of the good you do will make up for all your shortcomings and mistakes, then you’re always fighting the urge to say, “Yeah, but …,” when someone acknowledges something good you’ve done.

Quite honestly, I thought I had come to terms with all that stuff. After all, I’m finally happy and at peace. I’m enjoying the time Frank and I have spent on the road way more than I ever expected to. And I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to touch other people’s lives.

So I was pretty surprised by the anxiety that came to the surface a couple of months ago by a comment that was left on our blog … something that came completely out of the blue!

In the time since, I’ve struggled to make a few blog posts. I guess it’s sort of like what happens when a batter, who has been in a groove, suddenly starts thinking too much. He starts second-guessing pitches, or worrying about whether he’s dropping his shoulder, or bringing his hips out too early. And all of a sudden, the hits aren’t coming anymore.

In any event, I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in meditation. I’ve even brought the old workbooks out and have spent time back doing some writing therapy. Funny thing though … I was working on the wrong thing! Instead of focusing on getting back in the groove, I should have been working on my manners!

In the middle of this morning’s meditation, a sudden realization interrupted the silence. An epiphany! “Dude! How rude!”

Yes … I’ve been rude to someone who went out of their way to acknowledge our blog. Irrespective of groove, or blog updates, or whatever, that needs to be addressed.  NOW!!! So …

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Back in June, “Frank and Jeff – Two Old Vagabonds” was nominated for a Blogger Recognition Award. My manners to the contrary, I’m shocked and humbled by this recognition. Quite frankly, I’m just happy people have decided to follow along on our little journey! I never really expected anyone to actually like our story!

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Here are the rules;

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give some pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select other bloggers you want to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

The Thanks

Our nomination came by way of vagabonds-to-be Kelley and Michael. They made the decision a while ago to follow their dream of traveling around North America in an RV. In between shake-out trips here and there, they’ve been working on renovating and selling their home; downsizing their stuff; and planning their Adventure. So far so good – they are on target for lift off at the end of this month.

They’ve been chronicling all of their preparations at 2heartsand2wheels.wordpress.com.  I encourage you to visit their blog and sign on to follow them as they hit the open road!

Kelley and Michael, I’m sorry that it took so long to thank you. I’m touched that you have enjoyed reading about Frank and my travels and look forward to the chance of meeting somewhere on the open road! Thank you for our nomination, from the bottom of my heart!

Brief Story

The vast majority of you know our story. If you don’t, you can learn about where we started, and how far we’ve traveled … in terms of both geography and psyche … by visiting our “About Us” page.

I used to think that I was the brains of this outfit and Frank had the good looks. I’ve since come to realize that he only lets me think I’m the brains. I had help with that from an unexpected source.

A little boy, whose family camped next to us at Myrtle Beach State Park this past spring, probably did the best job explaining my role as it stands today. He had been talking excitedly back at his campsite about playing with Frank that afternoon. His mother noted that he knew Frank’s name, but wanted to know, “ who does Frank live with?”

Oh, he’s just the man that takes care of Frank!”

Yep. That’s me.

New Blogger Advice

If you’ve already decided on a format, great! Stick with it! People aren’t visiting you because of bells and whistles or fancy widgets on your page (unless, of course, your blog is all about bells and whistles and fancy widgets!) Put your energy into telling your story.

Second, work on consistency. Try not to go for long periods of time between posts. For what it’s worth, I’m telling this to myself as much as you. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Don’t let that happen!

Lastly, write from your heart! That doesn’t mean you open up your editor and just start writing free flow. Rambling is never good. Write from your heart … whatever your topic, let the passion you feel for it come through the story. The rest will follow.

My Nominations

https://storyshucker.wordpress.com

I’ve been following Stuart Perkins for. about 3 years now.  In all honesty,  his blog is the standard by which I measure my own storytelling. From tales about his grandmother; to life lessons learned through encounters with everyday people; to stories about his friends and children, Stuart offers a wonderful perspective on finding the extra ordinary in daily life.

Stuart’s blog is one of my “must-reads”! Just seeing a notification that he’s made another post brings a smile to my face and I usually stop what I’m doing to go read whatever wisdom he is imparting.

https://travellingtheworldsolo.com

Ellen is a young Australian midwife who also happens to be a world Traveler. Her goal for 2017 is to report from all seven continents! Her blog includes some great travel stories and the most amazing photography.

https://theblondecoyote.com

As she notes on her “About Me” page, “The Blonde Coyote is my trail name, which I use to sign trail logs and summit registers. Like most good trail names, mine was given to me by a fellow hiker after many long, hard miles. The Blonde Coyote also pays tribute to one of my favorite non-human traveling companions: a deaf coyote-cattledog hybrid named Freckles who was a great ally in my desert wanderings around rural New Mexico.”

Mary has been living the nomadic lifestyle as a correspondent for Earth magazine for over 10 years and has the stories to prove it. Simply put, Mary is doing what I would do if I have the stones and the stamina! LOL

https://rvchickadee.com

Kelly has been on the road for about the same amount of time as Frank and me. She is one of the growing number of young people who have decided not to wait until retirement to see the country … while embracing a lifestyle that’s become known as “minimalism”. If only I would have understood, as she has, what things are important in life when I was her age!

Kelly works in the digital world and is accompanied by her four-legged companions, Trixie and Gizmo. You have any questions about the boondocking lifestyle? Well, odds are Kelly and crew will have an answer for you.


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Our new campsite flag

Frank and I haven’t really done that much since our last post. We’ve hung around the campsite for most of the last couple of weeks.

We’ve taken a couple of trips out to see the ocean. The last one was a little disappointing – a couple of days ago, we drove out to what was advertised on the web as a dog friendly beach. But on arriving after a 1+ hour drive, we discovered that wasn’t the case! So we had to be satisfied with smelling the salt air while sitting in the car for a while.

What we have been doing is getting ready for our trek westward.  On Sunday, we’ll be leaving the East Coast and won’t be back for quite a while. We’ve spent our days taking care of chores.

The Nutshell’s cabin is cleaner than when we arrived. We’ve done some preliminary testing on the power pack for our WiFi device and phone in preparation of a little bit of boondocking this fall. That’s gone pretty well. We’ve replaced the car battery, that was showing signs of dying.

We also had to replace our canopy. As it turns out, we can get about 7 – 8 months use out of one before the constant exposure to the sun weakens the material to the point that it becomes unusable. In setting up at our last campground in Sturbridge, the canopy split wide open along one of the sheaths holding a leg in place. Fortunately, we had a temporary solution until our new canopy was delivered to  our present location.

While we were staying in Maine at the end of June, I picked up a big sheet of thin drop cloth … something like 20’×12’.  With Frank’s supervision, I cut it so that we now have sheeting that covers the opening between the bottom of the canopy and the canopy insert. We no longer have to worry about rain seeping through and on to our camp table.

The leftover portion of drop cloth sure came in handy after that big tear in the overhead. We had enough remaining to simply drape it over the hole and then fasten it down with some clothes pins. It came in handy – we did have rain. What else is new, right?  : o)

Since arriving here, I cut another piece out of the remnantd to cover the opening between the canopy and the top of the Nutshell, where it angles over the door. So Frank and I are now more fully protected from the elements. If only I would have remembered to save the extra insert from the old canopy before tossing it in Sturbridge! That wasn’t very smart. Not one of my better moves!  : o)

This weekend, we will have a short stay in Connecticut with the New England Tearjerker chapter, after which we will immediately depart for Pennsylvania. Our plan is to arrive in Park City, KY on Wednesday, August 16th.

That’s it for now. Look for another post on Monday, our next down day. Over the month-and-a-half, I had two occasions to gain some closure on past chapters in my life, one of which happened last week. They’re worth talking about. Until then …

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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Life’s a Beach … Then You Leave

Today is moving day. As far as I’m concerned, this is the symbolic beginning of the New Year. By leaving Florida, we’re marking an official end to Winter. Later on this morning, we begin the slow trek northward. 

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Downtown Flagler Beach, plus a little road maintenance

Earlier this week, though, Frank and I visited the ocean. As far as I’m concerned, too long a time had passed since we last saw the Atlantic. That would have been last June, when we were staying near Cape May, New Jersey. And even then, we only saw it from a distance – we weren’t able to go down and feel the sand or touch the water.

So on Wednesday afternoon, we took the short drive over to Flagler Beach. It’s a pretty cool little town. Unlike its more popular neighbor to the south, Daytona Beach, this place is not highly developed at all. There are a couple of small condos, a few bars and restaurants that are more geared towards the biker crowd than college kids coming down on spring break, and really not much else. A couple of cheesy tourist stops. A winery outlet. We passed a 7-Eleven and an ice cream stand that looked like it had been there forever … or at least long enough to have been washed over by a few hurricane surges. Not much else except residences. Nothing all that fancy on that front, either.

Relatively speaking, this part of Florida doesn’t get many hurricanes, by the way. It’s located about where the coastline starts to turn westward, creating a big convex lens of ocean that reaches its furthest point west just north of Jacksonville before it begins to turn back out East around Savannah, GA. There’s something about that geography that protects northeast Florida to some degree. Flagler Beach is brushed by a hurricane about once every 2.5 years and goes a little over 11 years on average between direct hits. Compare that to Miami, which gets brushed buy a hurricane more than once every two years and suffers direct hits almost three times as often has Flagler Beach. Or Wilmington, NC, which suffers on average about twice as many direct hits. (There’s a pretty cool website that has all sorts of hurricane information, if you’re interested – hurricanecity.com. for good, detailed research on coastal towns from Texas on up to Massachusetts, this is the site to use.)

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Very little wave action

Anyhow … the beach itself is not like a lot of the other Florida beaches you may have seen. No vast expanse of sand, which is probably why it’s not that popular with the spring break crowd. The tide was coming in when Frank and I were there, but even at low tide, I can’t imagine this beach to have grown to the point of what you see down at Daytona. But the coolest thing about it is that Flagler Beach has opened up almost all of its beachfront area to dogs!  With the exception of about a 15 block area at the heart of town, everything North and South has gone to the dogs! It’s just a shame that Frank didn’t have any four legged buddies to run with while we were there.

And run he did! I was really happy to see him have a good time. I used to bring Frank down to the beach when we lived in Charleston, SC, but he wanted nothing to do with it! The waves were just too much for him. By comparison, these waves were next to nothing, as you can tell by following the links to the videos I posted on YouTube.

I don’t need to say much about what we did – I’ll let the videos do the talking. We were there for over an hour and Frank was pretty much running the whole time.

20170322_175451.jpgDid he have fun? I think the look on his face pretty much tells it all!

Yesterday, we spent a real enjoyable afternoon visiting with a longtime friend from the old neighborhood in Pompton Lakes – Jeanie. Jeanie pops out of the block every now and then to say and routinely comments on Facebook. She and her family lived around the corner from my house. I used to deliver newspapers to her folks, and played football with her older brother, Mike. I’m glad she finally had a chance to meet Frank, and that we had such a good time visiting with each other.

That’s it for now … it’s time to start loading everything up. We spend tonight camped out in a Walmart parking lot in Swainsboro, GA. It’s a little bit more than halfway towards our next campground on Lake Hartwell, which makes up part of the border between South Carolina and Georgia. We’ll arrive there sometime in the late morning on Monday. We could have made it today, but like I’ve written before, I’m trying to take our time. I’d rather get out and stretch our legs more and travel the back roads than to haul ass down the interstate.

We’ll post again in a couple of days, after we’ve set up camp. Next stop – the Carolina Landing RV Campground in Fair Play, SC.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Frank and I are now in the same spot relative to our NCAA tourney picks. All but one of our Final Four picks have been eliminated, but the one remaining team for each of us happens to be the team that we picked to win it all – the Gonzaga Bulldogs for Frank and the North Carolina Tar Heels for me. His Bulldogs have already advanced to the Final Four, their first in school history. North Carolina has to beat Kentucky this afternoon to join them. I pray that happens. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Frank isn’t a very good loser. But he’s an even worse winner! If North Carolina loses today, that little beagle isn’t going to let me forget that his picks went further than mine this year. I’ll have to double his daily treat allowance to get him to shut up!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in Travels

 

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They’re baaaaack …

Yes, we’re still alive! Yes, I’ve been incredibly neglectful with the blog. Chalk it up to issues with inertia. One thing led to another … first, it was dealing with two months of incredibly cold weather, where we had no respite at all during the day time. Then, it was not having a laptop and having trouble dealing with voice to text on the phone. After that? I guess the only thing I can say is “inertia happens”. But now that we’re finally in decent weather and are getting ready to travel north in a couple of weeks, I figured it was time to start things back up. So, here’s what’s been going on with old Frank and me:

November

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Our setup at Lake Park Campground

We headed back to Dallas on November 7th. Back to one of my favorite parks, the Lake Park campground in Lewisville. I love this place, and highly recommend it to anybody traveling through Dallas. It’s clean, inexpensive, and offers a view of Lake Dallas from just about every site in the park.

Our time there started out well enough. The first week or so was decent weather. We had a chance to visit a lot of old friends. I had lunch with the same group of guys that got together the last two times Frank and I were in town. We also got to visit with the few other folks that we didn’t get a chance to see during our two previous visits.

But it wasn’t just seeing old friends again that made this stay so enjoyable. Frank and I made some new friends, too. There was a woman named Pam, down from Missouri to visit family.  Pam walked by our campsite most mornings and would stop to pet Frank and talk to me.  We really enjoyed her company and I so got to looking forward to those morning conversations. Pam, we’ve missed seeing you ever since!

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How we spent most of our November stay in Dallas … can you say, “Brrrrr”?

Then there was Ray and Kelli, from Oklahoma, who had parked their camper behind us and a couple of spots to the south. They came by one night towards the end of our stay and offered the most delicious beans, ham and corn bread you could ever imagine! It was certainly appreciated, because the weather had already turned cold and it was exactly what the doctor ordered for dinner that night.

What they didn’t know when they stopped by, though, was that I had inadvertently left my car open the night before and someone had stolen my last bit of money out of it, about $140!  I had another 3 days to go before my social security deposit would hit the bank account. Granted, I had already done an inventory and figured out that we could stretch the food we had for a few days …  it’s not like I couldn’t live off of my blubber for a month or so, too. But for them to just stop by and make the offer? At that particular time? From my perspective, it was just one more Act of Divine Providence which has graced Frank and me.

By that time, Frank and I had been reduced to sitting in our camp chair underneath the canopy, wrapped in a comforter and a blanket. And before they left, Ray and Kelli stopped back by and gave us a really warm fleece blanket. I have to say that Frank and I have made quite a bit of use out of it since then. Thanks very much, from the bottom of our hearts, you two.

Before leaving the area, we had dinner with another old high-school friend, Debbie. Debbie was helping out a friend who was managing an estate sale. She came away with 3 heavy scarves, a couple of wool caps, and a wonderful pair of heavy gloves for me. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time! Things only got colder from there.  God bless you for thinking of us, Debbie!

December

In one of our last posts, I mentioned something about extending our membership in Thousand Trails, the company that has campgrounds located throughout all the country. That’s going to work out pretty well for us, I think. I’m paying a flat amount of money per month, which entitles us to stay up to 3 weeks at a time at any of their campgrounds across the country. No more having to stay outside their system for a week before going to another campground, either. We can move from one directly to another … something that will benefit us greatly as we hea up the East Coast this year.

Based on what we were spending since we left Charleston in early 2015, the upgraded membership will save us an average of $165 a month this year on Campground fees. Not only that, our membership is an asset that we can sell whenever we finally come off the road. Based on the weather saw on eBay before buying the upgrade, we could potentially recoup all our Campground fees when we settle down. But who knows when that’s going to be?!

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MAN, but it was cold in Texas this past December!

Anyhow after leaving the Dallas area, we headed to our first Thousand Trails campground at Lake Whitney, just south of Fort Worth. I thought it was cold and Dallas, but that was just a teaser! We had two weeks where the daytime temperatures never got out of the forties and on most days just barely hit freezing. Night time temps were down into the teens, but the nights weren’t a problem because of our sleeping bag. We slept warm as toast! But then we had to get up and go outside during the day. There’s just no way we could stay inside that tiny cramped up space day in and day out! We managed, though.

There weren’t a lot of people at this Campground, and I don’t think Frank and I had a visitor the entire time. So we spent most of the time just buried in the covers trying to stay warm.

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With all the cold weather, Frank was not a happy camper. Literally!

We were only there for about 10 days before heading on further south to the Thousand Trails campground at Lake Conroe, just outside Houston. It didn’t get quite as cold there, but we were still dealing with chilly days. I remember sitting there thinking, “we’ve seen the best and worst of Texas weather – heat indices consistently over 110 degrees during the East Texas summer, only to be freezing our ass off now!” That was when I started rethinking plans for next winter. More on that, later.

The first good thing about our stay at Lake Conroe came the day after we arrived. Frank and I drove down to Houston where we got a chance to visit with Mike, a great friend who I’ve mentioned before. Actually, this was our second visit with Mike in the last month. His sister lives near where we camped up in Lewisville and he stopped by the day after Thanksgiving with another old high school buddy, Greg. The afternoon was supposed to involve a lot of guitar playing, but basically turned into three old friends reminiscing and talking about “stuff”.

This time though, there was a purpose to our getting together. Back when I had my heart procedure at Houston Methodist Hospital, Mike and another high school buddy, Nathan, brought me back from the hospital to the nearby motel I was staying at. This time, it was Nathan who had had some back surgery about a week before. So after Mike treated me to some fantastic biscuits, gravy, and freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, we eventually headed over to Nathan’s house to check in on him and see how he was doing. He was actually doing fairly well, much better than I would have expected someone to be after having their back worked on! The three of us sat there and shot the breeze about our shared high school experiences while chowing down on some barbecue that Mike had stopped by to pick up on the way.

Frank was the only one who didn’t have that great of time. He spent the afternoon in a crate back at Mike’s house. Fortunately, Frank doesn’t have too long a memory. By the time he started chowing down on the Chicken McNuggets I picked up for him at McDonald’s as a treat, he had forgotten all about his ordeal!

That was the end of our visits with old friends for the time being. I figured that we weren’t going to be back to Texas for about two years and these visits would have to last us. As it turns out though, it looks like we’ll be back there towards the end of this year. More on that to follow.

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Christmas lights courtesy of fellow teardrop camper Rena from Delaware – little light-up campers!

Back at camp once again, though, we were treated to yet more wonderful neighbors. Because this campground was pretty full, we were relegated to a tiny section mostly for tent campers. And it was right outside a section of bungalows, where people live on a full-time basis. I found out later that a number of the women living in that section decided they were going to make sure that the solitary old man with the dog  … the one who smiled and waved “Merry Christmas”  to everyone as they drove by  … was going to be well taken care of for the holidays.

The day after our visit with Mike and Nathan, Frank and I came back from the dollar store to discover we had a secret Santa visit. There was a plate of about 9-10 Christmas candies sitting on the camp table, along with a big cup of hot tea. It hadn’t been sitting there long because the tea was still pretty hot.

I found out who our secret Santa was the next day. A young woman and her daughter slowed down in their truck as they were passing by. The woman lowered her window and shouted, “Merry Christmas” to me. I asked, “are you the person I have to thank for my gift yesterday?”  She grinned,  shook her head, and said, “You looked cold as we drove by the other day, all covered up in your blankets. So my daughter said that we should bring you something hot to drink. And since I just finished making the candies, I thought they’d be a nice addition to the tea.”

Her daughter … who looked like she was about 10 or 11…  stuck her head over from the passenger seat and yelled, “You look just like Santa Claus! Merry Christmas Santa Claus!”

I just smiled and said, “Merry Christmas, darling! Thank you for the treats. That was a real nice thing you did.” That’s the second time since leaving Charleston where I’ve been accused of looking like Santa Claus. I’m planning on keeping the beard for a while. I guess I’ll have to do something about the gut, instead! Lol

Shortly after that, a woman came out of an RV across the street and introduced herself as  Linda. She said she was making tamale pie for dinner and wanted to know if I would like some. It’s been tough, but I have been working harder at learning how to be gracious and accepting offers of kindness from other people. So I told her yes, thank you … but asked if there was anything I could pick up for her and her husband to enjoy as dessert in exchange. She wouldn’t hear of it! I have to say, it was absolutely delicious and the perfect thing to have for dinner on a cold night.

But it didn’t end there! Over the  remainder of our stay, Frank and I received many blessings from other neighbors, too. The next day, a young couple stopped by with 4 or 5 bags of cocoa mix, some doughnuts and treats for Frank. And later that same day, Linda came back but this time accompanied by two other women. They told me that I should NOT make dinner plans for the next several days because they were all going to take turns bringing dinner by.

So, over the next three evenings (the last one being Christmas), I enjoyed homemade spaghetti and meatballs and strawberry shortcake for dessert; roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie; and lastly, some delicious baked ham accompanied by green bean casserole, two buttermilk biscuits, and a huge slice of sweet potato pie. Sweet potato pie! I don’t think I’ve had that since managing the pie store 40 years earlier while going to North Texas State in Denton! Oh yeah, Frank wasn’t left out – everyone thought to include some treats for him along with my dinner. All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas, one of the best I’ve experienced in my life!

You meet the nicest people camping. When I first started out, one of the rangers I met … I think it was at Toledo Bend State Park in Louisiana … said something along those lines to me. That campers tend to look at each other as family. Not having come from a great one, it’s been heartwarming to have experienced so much friendliness and generosity from the people Frank and I have met. It does feel sort of like a family. All I know is that I have some “Pay it forward” obligations to meet.

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Frank was pretty happy, thinking we had left the cold weather behind in Texas. Not so fast, buddy …

We left Texas two days later, on our way to Winter in Florida. The trip out was fairly uneventful. We spent the first night at a campground outside Baton Rouge, LA. The second night, we stayed at a campground in the Florida Panhandle, east of Pensacola. After one final long day of driving, we made it to the Peace River RV campground, in Wauchula, FL.  We’re actually back at that Campground right now for a second visit.

We’ve been in Florida ever since, going back and forth between Thousand Trails campgrounds, with a weekend stay at Tomoka State Park on the Atlantic coast  thrown in for good measure. But I’m going to leave things off here for the moment. Tomorrow, I’ll fill in what’s going on between then and now.

No really. I will. Trust me! : o)

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in Travels

 

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Back on the Road!

It’s been awhile since the last blog post, and I apologize for that. The heart procedure was done, there were no complications and I’m fully recuperated. Thank you to everyone who offered thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement.

Tomorrow, Frank and I are finally getting back on the road. It’s been WAY too long! We’re headed back to the Dallas area and will return to the Lake Park campground in Lewisville, where we spent a little time this past spring.

I’m still having to work off the phone. That’s been a major impediment towards making any blog posts. Well, let me rephrase that. It’s been an easy excuse to not make them. I’ve been having a bit of an issue with procrastination again. But hopefully that will be taken care of once Frank and I get back into the routine of moving around.

The problem certainly seemed to disappear right after we started out from Charleston eighteen months ago. But sitting around  East Texas for the last four and a half months has  been tough. The anxiety over medical issues. Dealing with the unknown as opposed to having a well planned  itinerary that had to be unceremoniously dumped. And then there was the waiting. This sitting around the campground in the heat, first waiting for the medical stuff to all be completed and then waiting until we could get things squared away in order to leave. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take a bit of a toll on my psyche. Some of the healing work that took place has been undone a little bit. But  when I look at where we’re starting from as we get back underway tomorrow? There’s no comparison to the mental state I started out with  when we left  Charleston. So I’m optimistic that it won’t be too long before we’re back in the groove and moving forward. Both geographically and mentally!

Eighteen months on the road! It seems almost incomprehensible. Not that I had any expectations when we started out, but iit’s a bit hard to comprehend  that we’ve been doing this for a year and a half. And this is the longest that Frank and I have been in one place over that time span. I am very, very happy that it’s come to an end.

I’ve got a lot of news to share but we will do that right after we alight at our next camp. We’ve built our itinerary up again and it involves a return to the East Coast. We’ve upgraded our membership in the Thousand Trails camping program which has given us additional benefits, expanded the area within which we can move around, and will result in a huge savings! I’ll fill you in in a few days.

So that’s it for now. I can’t adequately put into words how much I’m looking forward to returning to the road. Especially with an optimistic feeling. Optimism! That’s not something with which I have been associated very much. LOL

Stay tuned …

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Travels

 

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A Week in the Life …

It’s been a pretty enjoyable week! No major climate issues, the tent’s holding up so far, somewhat weird, Texas weather (okay, that’s redundant, I know), but we’ve faired pretty well all in all. Here’s a recap of what’s gone on since Monday …

First, I want to express my gratitude for all those that have chipped in to help Frank and me get into some new digs. As of this morning, we’re a little under a third of the way to meeting our needs. I’m truly blessed to have such good friends. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

http://www.youcaring.com/frankandjeff


Frank and I were relaxing on Monday night, waiting for the big Warriors / Spurs game. I’ve been a Warriors fan since I moved to the Bay Area over 35 years ago and let me tell you – there have been some God awful teams I’ve had to root for in that time period! I honestly think that Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina could have beaten them on any given night, that’s how bad they were. So it’s a real pleasure having an honest to goodness NBA team to root for, yes sirree!

We were in the tent early … can’t remember if it was because of wind gusts or cold … but I decided to rent a movie on Amazon. My data plan was starting over on Tuesday and I had saved up some extra gigs, so at about 6:15, I started watching Matt Damon in “The Martian”. First off, it’s a great movie! I was thoroughly spellbound by how the plot proceeded. I’m not going to give out any spoilers, just in case you haven’t seen it yet. I will say that it’s a helluva lot better than any of the other recent space flicks that have come out like “Gravity” or “Interstellar”. If you’re looking to while away a few hours, rent it. My opinion.

The only issue I had was my Internet. I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t keep a 4G connection to save my soul! The thing kept bouncing from 4G to 3G (which doesn’t allow pages to load on my laptop for some reason) to “TXT” to no signal. I’d get 15 or 20 minute spurts of the movie and just when something was about to happen … happen … happen … get the picture? Great, because I sure wasn’t! Talk about added suspense … the only thing missing was a “tune in next week” disclaimer!

To make matters worse, the game’s start time kept creeping up. When I started watching, I looked at the clock and thought, “Yeah, I’ve got plenty of time!” Well …

The way I was forced to watch it, the end of the movie actually matched the pace of the last two minutes of an NBA game. You know what I’m talking about? Where it takes 30 minutes for 2 minutes of clock time to run down? I really started sweating it, thinking, “you’ll just have to watch the end tomorrow,” but realized that with my data plan resetting at midnight, I’d have to start using next month’s allocation. Didn’t want to do that.

I started getting a little giddy. Don’t know if it was that I was tired, or cold, or what … but I started giggling. Frank didn’t know what to make of it! The only semi-spoiler I’ll let out is that towards the end, the plot revolves around timing … the need for two discrete things having to sync up for everything to work out. And here I was, trying to sync up the end of “The Martian” with the start of the game. I’m writing this now and thinking, “this is a ‘you had to be there’ moment.” I don’t think anyone reading this is going to see the same hilarity that I did.

To make matters even worse, we stared hearing coyotes howling nearby, which sent Frank into a bit of a tizzy. So I’m holding Frank in one arm and my phone high overhead in the other, trying to pick up a signal. And then I’d get one, I’d start the movie up again, I’d set the phone down, and 5 minutes later, the signal would drop.

To make an already too long story not short enough, I got through the whole movie, with 2 SECONDS to spare before tip-off. A thoroughly enjoyable movie followed by an even MORE enjoyable game!  (The side game between the Vagabonds and the Coyotes went our way, too … they quieted down soon enough.)


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Poor Frank … damned thunder

Tuesday was a stay-in-the-tent day. It started out windy … to the point where I was kneeling in the corner again, buttressing the pole against a stiff breeze. Then the rain started in, accompanied by thunder, something we hadn’t heard in quite some time. Maybe it’s because we hadn’t heard it in a while, but Frank did not do well, even with his thundershirt on tight. I do give him credit though – once it stops, he’s back to his old self in 20 minutes, tops. I love that about him. I’ve added another little sign to the dashboard – “Be Like Frank!” It goes real handy with the other saying up there, the one that Larry gave me: “It’s all worked out before – trust that it will work out again!”


On Wednesday, I had my first “opportunity” … if you can call it that … to use my walking staff for defensive purposes. Frank and I took a walk around the loop to see the lake. On the way back, we encountered a bobcat who decided that he simply wasn’t going to let us pass. He got in the middle of the road and started snarling.

I was totally shocked at Frank! He was growling and snarling like I have never seen before and it took a lot of energy to hold him back on a short leash. As the bobcat started to approach, I starting stomping my feet, swinging the staff and jabbing towards the cat while growling at him myself. he never got too close … no more than 20 feet, I’d say. Finally, I let out a loud roar and took two steps towards him while jabbing the staff towards him. That was it – he took off into the brush.

I sort of crab-stepped by where he disappeared and then walked backwards for a few dozen steps to make sure he didn’t come out of the brush and attack us from behind, which was tough to do while continuing to hold Frank back. He was so proud of himself, but I think it took something out of him because as soon as we got back to the tent he was up on the cot and sound asleep within 3 minutes. I’m sure he had great dreams … his feet were moving and he was barking away in his sleep, either chasing bobcats or telling as his dream buddies about his exploits! :o)

By the way, I highly recommend Down East Walking Sticks.  They have a huge variety of woods and sizes. Barrie will custom make them, too … as he did for me.  I would not be able to walk as much as I have if it wasn’t for my walking staff. (This is an unsolicited endorsement by the way and I am not receiving compensation from them.  Just felt that needed to be said!)   End of digression …    :o)

I told a shorter version of the story on Facebook and my brother, Andy, responded with a comment … something along the lines of, “What a cool experience!” Either the definition of “cool” has changed or I’ve just gotten too old, but I didn’t see anything at all that was cool abut that encounter!  I did not have “elude crazy bobcat” on my bucket list!

That evening, when I took Frank out for his evening constitutional, I brought the walking staff with me, just in case. Fortunately it was just the two of us out there, except for a few deer, whose eyes were glowing in the light from my headlamp. That and the stars. The sky was crystal clear and there were more stars out than humanly possible to count … way more than any night this summer when I was in Colorado. There were so many that the constellations were almost obliterated by the backdrop. Orion’s normally easy to pick out, right?  Doesn’t take more than a couple of seconds. But Wednesday night, I actually had to look for it because the four stars that make up his shoulders and thighs didn’t stand out the way they do in most night skies … and there were so many more jewels on his belt than you’d normally see! We’d have spent more time star-gazing, but it was bitter cold. Even at 8pm.  So we headed back in and got ready to listen to another Warriors game.


The cold at 8pm was just a harbinger of what was to come later that night. On Thursday morning, It was 32 degrees. I went online to NOAA and discovered that the overnight low was 29, with the wind dropping the real feel down another 2 degrees! It didn’t bother us, though! I tell you that sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold! Frank and I were warm as toast all night. Frank wasn’t ready to get up, though … normally he’s out of the cot as soon as I unzip the bag. But I had to ease my way around him, encountering a, “Yeah, good luck … I’m staying here, thank you very much,” look from my little buddy. I laid on the floor and pulled the bottom of the bag down over my legs setting the little heater a foot away from my chest. That’s the coldest night we’ve dealt with since we left Charleston last May. But it was nothing, thanks to that sleeping bag!

texanadeer4It warmed up by noon, so Frank and I headed off to Goliad. One of my Dallas friends, Greg, said that we were smack in the middle of “Texas independence” land, where many battles took place, and suggested that we check it out. I’m not going to say much about our afternoon here … I want to give it its own post. I will say that it was well worth the time. I came away with an appreciation for Texas history that I didn’t have before.

When we got back late in the afternoon, our field was covered in deer! I counted more than 2 dozen of them. It was the same thing last night, too. I’m amazed at Frank, even more so after the bobcat encounter. He doesn’t pay them any mind, whatsoever! He’s perfectly content to just lie on the ground at my feet as I sit in the camp chair. Both of us watching them go about their business.

That’s it for now. I’ll post something tomorrow about our Goliad trip.  Here are a few photos of the deer camped out in our little field behind the tent, taken Thursday and Friday late afternoon … the last one captures only about 2/3 of the herd that was out there on Thursday.  Now that’s way cooler than a bobcat encounter!

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Posted by on January 30, 2016 in Travels

 

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