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“Rock” On

Frank and I are finally close to Nirvana. Actually, we’re on the outskirts of Warrensburg, NY … but as of about 2 p.m. this afternoon, I’d be willing to bet you could send a letter to Buddha using Warrensburg’s zip code and it would find its way to the man. But let me back up a bit.

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Still covered in fleece!!

It never really did warm up at our last campsite. During our last week there, Frank spent most of his time inside the Nutshell asleep. And I spent most of my time in the camp chair with a fleece over my lap. There were some mornings where I also wrapped a blanket around my back, too. I was managing, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t getting to me a little bit.

I did get a couple of things done, though. Summer doesn’t start until June 22nd, you know. So technically, it wasn’t too late for me to get some spring cleaning done. And I’m pretty happy with the results.

First off, I went through a bunch of old paperwork I had been carrying. Not all of what I’ve amassed, probably about a third of it. Most of it was old mail – receipts, some magazines, some invoices for things that are automatically paid online, and what have you. I burned it in the fire ring one night with a couple of logs on top to make sure embers didn’t escape into the atmosphere. I figure I’ll do a little bit more at each stop and eventually I’ll have it down to nothing.

Next, I went through two of the bins I’ve been carrying around since day one. One of them had become a repository for stuff that I just needed to throw into the Nutshell when it was moving day. You know – “I’ll get to it later” stuff. In reality, it should have been named the, “What the hell was I thinking?” bin. Isn’t it funny how, in the heat of the moment, something seems important enough to keep for later? Then later comes. And reality hits.

With that in mind, I found the following items in the “WTHWIT?” bin …

  • Four cans of stale beer for which there was no room in the cooler when I packed up back in November
  • Two shirts that needed to go in the laundry after my laundry bag was already in the trunk of the car … I have no idea how long they’ve been there, but I had been missing them
  • A dirty dish rag, probably thrown in there at the same time the shirts were
  • A bottle of ketchup which, if shaken with all my might 15 times, might yield enough ketchup to cover half a sandwich
  • My mallet, that I have been looking for for at least a year … I’ve been using my hammer on the outer stake for the canopy and cringe with every loud clang of metal-on-metal.
  • A rock. A big, flat, 20 pound rock that I saw one day and thought, “this would be really good to hold down the canopy insert” … which of course, never happened because I forgot it was in there. And it never dawned on me to look with every campsite move, even though I would always think, “GEEZUS, what the hell is in here?” when I picked it up because it was so damned heavy!
  • Three crushed packages of ramen noodles. Yes, they were right under the rock.

That is what I had been hauling around for months. Needless to say, the bin is now empty. One less thing I have to worry about on move day. I don’t know what it originally contained. It must have been something that was consumed along the way, like paper towels or canned goods or something. I kept the rock …  I think it might be a good thing to use to hold down the canopy insert someday.  : o)

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The newly cleaned out galley, ready for use

Next came the cooler. I hadn’t been using it that much as of late because I had gotten into the habit of eating out of cans. I took out the few things that were there and gave the inside a good scrubbing with bleach and hot water. It’s now as good as new and packed with eggs, hamburger meat, hot dogs, and 4 beers of the homemade variety. More on that to follow.

Finally, I tackled the galley. I haven’t been using it. Not at all! When I bought food, I just left it out on the camp table. And when I moved, I just threw whatever was on the table into the cabin of the Nutshell, loose.

That’s not the case now. I organized the galley … which in reality is nothing more than two shelves for storage … so that I don’t have to just throw things into the cabin on move day. The top shelf has my one pot and frying pan, the electric skillet, and hot plate, some bowls and plates. The lower shelf, which has more height than the upper one, was divided in half. I put appliances on the left, including the coffee maker, electric kettle, heater and fan. The right hand side holds all my non-perishable food. Right now it has cans of beans and pasta; some packages of rice; soup, both canned and boxed; condiments; and a glass measuring cup with my cooking utensils and miscellaneous other things in it. Like a cheese slicer. A cheese slicer that I bought new two years ago in Charleston and have never. Once. Used.

Larry suggested that since we just passed our 2-year anniversary, a good topic for a blog post would be, “Things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.” In other words, things that I would have done differently had I the benefit of foreknowledge. One of the biggest things I would have done different is I would have packed a hell of a lot less than what I did! Like a cheese slicer. Seriously – I’m going to dirty up a cheese slicer, that is a pain in the ass to clean even in a kitchen, instead of just using my paring knife to cut off a hunk of cheese to eat? Or the set of 16 Tupperware knock-offs that are now down to three, with only two lids? Don’t even ask! There. I just eliminated the need for that post! I’m on a mission to minimalize! LOL

Anyhow, I got all that done towards the end of my last full week at Timothy Lake South,PA. Just in time for some company.

On Sunday, an old classmate from Pompton Lakes came out to the campground. Actually, John lives less than 15 minutes away, in the Poconos. And when I say old classmate, I mean the “original” classmate for all intent and purposes. When I moved to Pompton Lakes in the middle of second grade, John was the first kid I spoke with. He asked me if I knew where the cafeteria was and walked me down there come lunch time. At recess, he showed me the ropes, per se. Where everybody hung out. Who in his estimation the good guys were and who weren’t. We sat and visited for a few hours before he had to leave. While he was there, though, he told me that at one point he and his wife had an RV. That they were avid campers, although most of it was in tents when his kids were in the Scouts. And that when he retires, he and his wife have talked about doing what Frank and I are doing. John, if that happens, I hope you let me know. I’d love to camp next to you and the Mrs!

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The Cornerstone guys: Front, Bob and Lou; Back, Tom, me, and Gary

The next day brought a visit that I was really looking forward to with a lot of anticipation. I don’t mean that as a slight to the other friends we’ve seen along the way. It’s just that this one was special in a different way.

Back when I lived in Wayne, I belong to a men’s group at my Parish. It was called Cornerstone and there were six of us that more or less formed a core group. Four of them made it out to camp on Monday for dinner. (Ed, we missed you! Hopefully I make it back for another stop in or near New Jersey and we can all have another visit when you can attend.)

You know how you can identify good friends? You can be apart from each other for years and when you get back together, you just start back into conversing as if you had never been separated at all! That’s the way it was with Gary, Lou, Bob, and Tom. We talked about everything from our vagabond journey, to the Yankees and Red Sox, to a little bit of Parish news, and I don’t know what else. It was fantastic! They even brought some bottles of the beer they all get together and brew at a do-it-yourself place in New Jersey. I have to admit, it’s pretty damn good beer!

That was it for all the visits. Frank and I packed up on Wednesday morning and drove 4 hours north to the Lake George Escape Campground. We’re not actually on the lake itself … that’s a few miles away. Instead, we’re on the Shroon River. Plus, there’s a little stocked pond that is right behind our campsite. Haven’t done any fishing yet and I’m not sure if I will right now. We’ll see how it goes.

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Our set-up at Lake George Escape Campground (after escaping the Bogs of Mordor)

We had a little bit of an issue coming into the camp. This is one of the Encore parks that I was given as a spiff when we signed the Thousand Trails contract. I didn’t think anything of it, but what I’ve learned is that the Encore Parks set aside a limited number of campsites for the Thousand Trails clients. And when I got to mine, I wondered if there was a feud going on between the two companies. My campsite look like the bogs that Gollum led Frodo and Sam through on the way to Mordor!

Half the campsite was covered with standing water and almost another quarter of it was mud. And as I sat there looking at the other nearby campsites, I realize that there was standing water everywhere!

When I returned to the office to let them know this wasn’t going to work, the woman’s response was, “Yes, we’ve had quite a bit of rain” … said with a sympathetic shrug and grimace, but from her standpoint, that was the extent of what she was going to offer as a conciliatory gesture!

That’s when I found out that they expected me to stay in that one little water-logged area because that’s where all the Thousand Trails campsites were. It took about a half-hour discussion before someone finally agreed to let me stay in another area of the park.

Frank and I have a great campsite now! It’s relatively nice size, and we’re backed up to the pond I mentioned earlier. There’s a little bit of an issue with mosquitoes here right now. I went out and bought a couple of citronella torches along with some citronella pots for the table. They seem to be doing the trick – it doesn’t seem to be as bad as it was before we picked up the citronella stuff. I also have some Deep Woods Off, but I don’t want to use that until I absolutely have to. As an aside, I can only imagine with the mosquitoes would have been like over in the bogs of Mordor. I’m grateful that someone had the wherewithal to allow us to move.

(Take a listen to what it sounds like around here when there aren’t any motorcycles)

Unbeknownst to Frank and me, we picked a hell of a time to visit the Lake George area. This week, it played host to The Americade motorcycle rally! Now any other day of the year, Warrensburg’s population is a little under 4,500. Not this week – they estimated over 30,000 bikers came in for the rally. And this was everything from your John Travolta / Tim Allen weekender “Road Hogs” to hardcore clubbers. For the last few nights, the only thing louder than the toads and birds at the campsite was the roar of the motorcycle engines during the “Let’s see who can rev their engine the loudest” contest. One thing I’m grateful for – everyone here pretty much obeyed the rules. At about 10:30, everything died down and by 11:00, all I could hear were those toads and birds.

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As of this afternoon, our loop is completely empty!

And today? Everybody’s gone! Literally. Frank and I are the only campers on this loop. I haven’t ventured out to see what the other loops are like. It’ll be interesting to see what’s what when Frank and I visit the dog park at the other end of the camp tomorrow morning.

Oh yeah. At the beginning of this post, I referenced Nirvana. For the last three days, the weather has been absolutely magnificent! Today is the best so far! Temps in the low 80s, with a little bit of a wind … just enough where I didn’t have to get the fan out to cool down a bit. And there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky all day until right now, about 7:30 p.m. but even now, it’s nice out. No need for a fleece. (Now  would be a good time to bring up that rock again … except as rocks go, it wasn’t all that grungy.)

Frank has been enjoying the sun, too. He’s been outside most afternoons, either sunning or lying next to me under the canopy. I’ll take a few more days like this, thank you very much. Before we know it, we’re going to be in the middle of the sweltering heat of a New England summer. So I’m grateful for days like today.

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Frank missed an opportunity to say hello to the butterfly that was scoping him out.

So that’s it for now. Oh yeah except for one other thing. I finally had some mail delivered and it was waiting when we arrived here on Wednesday. And what was in it? My ordination papers! I am now a certified Dudeist priest in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude! More on that in our next blog entry.

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Connecting with my inner Dude

Suffice it to say, Frank and I are abiding quite well. Even the occasional nihilist has done little to affect our serenity. About the only thing I’m missing is a rug to really tie everything together. This worn-out old tent carpet we’ve been using is … well, pretty close to worn out!

And for any of you who might cast a bit of negativity towards the life philosophy we’ve come to embrace, all I can say is, “Well, that’s like, your opinion man!”      : o)

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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Happy Anniversary!

Two years.

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Launch day, 5/31/2015

Two years ago today, Frank and I left everything behind and drove away from our apartment in Charleston, SC.  I was despondent, wracked with anxiety, and totally unsure as to how long it would be before I would give up and chuck this life into the ocean off Big Sur.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect what what was going to happen next! What has happened.

Since putting Charleston in our rear-view mirror, here’s what’s happened to my Chief Navigator and me – we have:

  • Stayed at 43 campgrounds in 18 states
  • Visited a total of 24 states
  • Put a total of about 34,000 miles on the car
  • Lost two tents to storms
  • Acquired the Nutshell, the teardrop trailer that’s our current home on the road
  • Visited three emergency rooms for diverticulitis, a leg infection, and a crushed finger
  • Returned to Texas for what was feared to be a heart problem and got a clean bill of health
  • Dealt with extreme weather conditions from oppressive heat to freezing cold to floods, thunder, lightning, hail, tornadoes, and hurricane-force winds
  • Had memorable encounters with deer, squirrel, rabbits, ducks, a bobcat, owls, hair-stealing birds, lizards, snakes, armadillo, and an East Texas toad
  • Been mistaken for Santa Claus and a biker named Danny Hoffler
  • Witnessed an untold number of people helping out their fellow man

(Our second tent  in the process of being damaged, December 2015)

Frank had his little escapade as well. While I was in a hospital having a test, he decided he was going to go looking for me and did his best MacGyver impersonation to escape his kennel. He somehow unlocked his crate, climbed a chair and a couple of boxes, pushed out a piece of plywood next to a window air conditioning unit, and escaped through a hole in a fence that none of the other dogs would normally be able to get to. Nearly two days later, he and I were reunited when he miraculously stepped out of some scrub brush and sat down on the side of the road like he was waiting for a bus … just as I happened to be driving down that road, heading back to camp after giving up searching for him that day. Oh yeah, over 12 miles away from the kennel … in the opposite direction from our camp site.  That was just one of the more memorable experiences over the past two years. But that’s not the only miracle we were blessed with.

Along the way, I was also able to shed a lifetime of depression and anxiety. It took a whole lot of writing therapy, prayer, meditation, encouragement and support from friends … and a little sign that stayed on my dashboard for about six months that read simply, “It’s all worked out before. Trust it to work out again.”  I’ve written about a good portion of the process involved in my healing.

Through the blog, we’ve shared each of these experiences with you all, pretty much in real time as they were happening.

We’ve also included a bit of travelog; campground reviews;  and stories about some of the people we’ve encountered, ranging from funny to poignant to downright spiritual! And I’ve appreciated your forbearance as I’ve reflected on a few current events while trying to put them into the perspective of our travels.

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You’re spending  too much time on my laptop, Frank!

Frank’s been a big part of this, too. If you’ve been here from the beginning, then you’re familiar with our daily fights over sleeping accommodations. You know about his penchant for picnic tables, his love for Blood Sweat and Tears and his hatred of emergency sirens (funny how he expresses both love and hate the same way: howling). And you’ve seen the degree of sneakiness he can muster when it comes to grabbing $7 chicken breasts off the camp table when I’m not looking. You even know his picks in the last three NCAA basketball tourneys.

This Vagabond Journey would not be even remotely enjoyable if Frank hadn’t come along for the ride. It wouldn’t have been possible without the loving support of dear friends all along the way, too. And it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fulfilling if it wasn’t for the folks that have been reading along on the blog and sharing their comments with us. I’m so very grateful that we have touched some of your lives in a meaningful way.

It’s nowhere near done, by the way. The road trip, I mean. Any thought of driving off a cliff at Big Sur has long since gone. We haven’t even seen half the country yet! Hell, even after we finish up our planned travels along the west coast next year, there’s still the northern Rockies, the Plains states, and the Great Lakes region that we haven’t come anywhere near. So I hope you continue to follow along on the continuing Adventures of Frank and Jeff.

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Keep on Smilin’

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As mentioned in our last post, Frank and I are staying at Timothy Lake North Campground, right next to the Delaware Water Gap, on the Pennsylvania side. We’ve been here about a week and a half now, and have another week to go before we continue to head north.

It was a little bit crazy over Memorial Day weekend, with a lot of rowdy neighbors. To be honest, I’m proud of myself that I was able to refrain from approaching a couple of them about some of their late night partying. But I was able to let it go.

Frank had a good time. There was a family from New York that camped next to us, with two boys age 9 and 14. Chris and Greg spent almost all their time over here playing with Frank. And he loved every minute of it! They left early Sunday afternoon and Frank spent the next three hours lying under the Nutshell, staring wistfully at the place where their tent had been.

We had a chance to visit with old friends in the area, too. We spent last Thursday morning and afternoon in Pompton Lakes, having lunch with some dear classmates from long ago. We have more visits on tap between now and when we leave next Wednesday.

About the only downside has been the weather. It just isn’t cooperating! Today is the first day since shortly after we arrived that we haven’t had to deal with rain and cold temps. I sort of thought by now that we’d at least be out of the cold. I know from our experiences over the last 2 years that we’re not going to escape rain. But the cold? Give me a freakin’ break! I’m close to becoming a climate change denier. Where’s this global warming everyone keeps talking about?  : o)

That’s it for now. Frank and I will touch back in before we head out to Lake George, NY, our next stop. I cannot pbelieve how fast this year has gone by.

 

And I’ve come to roam the forest past the village
With a dozen lazy horses and my cart
I’ve come here to get high
To do more than just get by
I’ve come to test the timbre of my heart
Oh, I’ve come to test the timber of my heart

And I’ve come to be untroubled in my seeking
And I’ve come to see that nothin is for naught
I’ve come to reach out blind
To reach forward and behind
For the more I seek, the more I’m sought
Yeah, the more I seek, the more I’m sought

Joe Pugg, Hymn 101

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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Pennsylvania, Round Two

When we made our last post, Frank and I were about to head into Pennsylvania. We’ve actually moved on to our second campground in the Keystone State. We are now at the Timothy Lake North RV campground, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Water Gap.

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Our setup at Timothy Lake North RV Campground

This wasn’t quite where we intended to be. We had reservations at the other Thousand Trails campground on Timothy Lake. But when we got there, it seemed that none of the sites were really going to work for our little setup. They were more geared towards bigger RVs, long and narrow. They were so narrow in fact,  that we would have had a hard time setting up the canopy while leaving enough room to walk around it without stepping out into bushes in overgrowth. Fortunately, the staff was really cool and when I told them about my concern, they suggested I try the other campground located just a mile or so up the road.  if we found a site up there that we liked,  we could simply switch her reservation without any impact on our departure date.

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Our view of the sunset through the woods

Sure enough, we found a great site at the top of a hill … a corner site where two roads intersect. We’ve got plenty of room here and we were able to set things up where, instead of looking at other RVs, we’re looking at woods.

Woods. I love them! And I’m not talking about forestland. Unless you have spent time in the Northeast, you and I probably have a different idea of what that word represents. There’s something different about the woods where I grew up compared to other places I’ve lived like Texas, Colorado, or California.

There aren’t a lot of pine trees like in the west, nor is there a lot of scrub like what you see in the south. It was a conglomeration of oak and tulip trees, maple and birch.  You can pick your way through the woods without feeling pressed in, like I sometimes felt walking through coastal redwood forests where I used to camp in California or the pine forests in Colorado. There’s an open canopy that lets light through, but it’s more dense and higher than woodlands I’ve seen in the Texas.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, I lived in two towns that had woods. In Waldwick, where we lived until I was halfway through second grade, our house was surrounded by them until builders started to develop the neighborhood. And in Pompton Lakes, the whole southern edge of town was woods until developers came in and tore them down, too.

I used to enjoy them quite a bit as a kid. They provided an escape. I could walk back in the woods and before you knew it, it was if I had left everything behind. In Waldwick, I could take 100 steps out my backdoor and I wouldn’t even be able to see our house! In retrospect, everything seems bigger when you’re a kid, so going “deep into the woods” was probably the equivalent of walking a couple of blocks. But that didn’t matter. Perspective, right?

In Pompton Lakes, there were woods a half block away from the house. All you had to do was walk to the end of the block, cut through the side yards of a couple of neighbors and there you were. They stretched all the way along the river and ended across the street from my elementary school.

There was a path ride along the river that we sometimes took as a shortcut to school, but I used to like to get off the path and head into the trees. When I was nine or ten, I built a fort back in there. Nothing fancy – I had found a place where there was a stand of trees real close together with a single opening. I found some big limbs that still had leaves on them and propped them up to form a sort of door. And once I got in there, people could … and did … walk right by me and without knowing I was there.

I used that fort many times as an escape. Especially when my father was on one of his whiskey binges, or just in one of his moods, where I knew that if I hung around, it would just be a matter of time before I did something to piss him off and I’d get beaten. I’d take comics or Hardy Boy books in there and spend entire afternoons reading. When I wasn’t reading, I would imagine that I was a pioneer and this was my fortress from the Indians. I made a chair out of an old stump and fixed up a table using fallen branches I had gathered.

So I guess I have some romantic attachment to woods. And the couple of times we’ve come to Pennsylvania on this vagabond journey, I think I felt that same sense of familiarity. Of security. Funny how it was last year, sitting riverside at the campground in Lancaster, looking out into the woods across the water, that I finally found a sense of peace.

I think Frank likes it here, too. Whereas most days he spends his time sleeping in the Nutshell, he’s been outside every afternoon since we arrived, even when it’s been sprinkling a bit. His nose is always going. Plus, instead of just sitting in front of me doing his watchguard thing, he’ll test the limit of his lead when it’s not been raining. Sometimes he’s oblivious to me watching him … he’ll go as far as he can, walk around to the other side of the canopy, sit down, and then just start turning his head in all directions. His nose will be up in the air and it’s just going a mile a minute! I’ve taken him on a couple of walks since we arrived … between raindrops. It doesn’t matter where we are, we just don’t seem to be able to escape rain!

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Gettysburg Farm RV Campground

Frank had a closing counter with nature at our last stop, Gettysburg Farm RV campground in Dover, PA, about 25 minutes north of the battlefield. We were only there for 5 days – it was a timing thing in order to set our reservations up for the summer holidays. Long story – suffice it to say that Thousand Trails has some restrictions on the number of your open holiday reservations at any one time, and the 5-day stopover solved a problem I thought I was going to have between Memorial Day and the 4th of July. As it turns out, the problem went away when I accepted an invitation from Michael, another Thousand Trails camper who we met in Florida. I’ve mentioned before. He spends his summers in New Hampshire and we’ll be staying with him for a few days over the 4th of July holiday.

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Gettysburg Farm, where city kids can spend Summer vacationworking their asses off! LOL

Nevertheless, I’m glad we stopped at Gettysburg Farm. It’s an actual farm, where kids get to work with animals during the summer. We had a really nice campsite there, too. It was more open than where we’re at now, but we still had plenty of trees around us. Plus we had some really great neighbors. There were some nice visits with a number of folks that would stop by. I’m not sure if the draw is the Nutshell, which stands out as being unique amongst all the big RVs; Frank, who charms everyone wherever he goes; or the sight of the old guy with the beard relaxing in his camp chair with his four-legged companion sitting on his lap. The beard is gone by the way. I had it shaved at a barber shop while I was there. I have to admit that I’m not wild about how I look clean shaven. But I’m pretty sure it’s the right thing to do going into the Summer heat and humidity. Besides, it’ll be back at full length by the time Fall rolls around.

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Yep … sans my beard of 2 1/2 years

Anyhow, back to Frank and his Close Encounter of the Nature Kind …

The Nutshell was set up right underneath a tree at Gettysburg Farm. And an owl decided that tree was an ideal place from which to signal his friends. And with his first screech, around 8 pm on our second night there, Frank lunged out of the Nutshell’s cabin and with one bound was at the end of his lead, looking all around. It was the exact same reaction he had to the emergency signals we heard from NAS Oceana while at First Landing State Park in Virginia. Only this time, the screech had stopped by the time he was out there to look.

I have to say it’s the best 4-legged Vincent LaGuardia Gambini impersonation I have ever seen! Frank came back and jumped up on my lap with a look that screamed, “What the f**k was THAT!?!?!?” The only things that were missing was a woof with a Brooklyn accent and a pistol in his right paw!

Then the owl went off again. And Frank nearly did a somersault trying to vault off my lap. He couldn’t get out there fast enough! And it went on two more times. It was almost as if the owl was telling his buddies, “Hey, watch what I can do to this four-legged thing on the ground!”

Frank finally camped out under the tree, realizing that the sound was coming from somewhere above him. And as soon as he heard it … and saw where it was coming from … he started howling!

We didn’t hear the owl after that. I hollered out to Frank, “Way to go, buddy! You scared that thing off. Good dog!”

And with that, Frank came running back and jumped up on my lap, grinning and feeling like he was every bit the hot shit he thinks he is. I couldn’t help but laugh and every time I did, Frank would turn around and start licking my face. Pretty funny. I think that’s the happiest I’ve seen him since that day at Flagler Beach when he had such a good time playing in the surf.

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Flagler Beach, FL back in March …  I love this photo of French so much that I had to share it again!

I take that back. Frank had a really good time a couple of nights later. I got a call from Rena, a friend we made through the Teardrop Camper Group on Facebook. She lives in Delaware and came out to visit us last year when we were camped in Lancaster. Anyhow, the Tearjerker chapters from Pennsylvania and Maryland were holding a joint get together at a state park about 30 minutes away from where we were camping. Rena was attending and invited the two of us over for the Saturday evening potluck. It was our chance to meet the new addition to her family – Tucker, a cute little 1 year old puppy.

Frank and Tucker got along great! Tucker would stand on his back legs and put his front paws on Frank’s shoulders. Frank would then get down on his belly and do a quick roll to throw Tucker off. And they did that over and over. He loves being around dogs that are close to his size. There were two other beagles at the potluck, too, so Frank had quite the little get together. And I had a chance to visit with Rena again while making some new friends. Good times, all around.

Up here it Timothy Lake, I had my own close encounter with nature. Well, not quite so close, but it was close enough as far as I was concerned. I’ve gotten up a little earlier than usual the last two mornings – about 4:30, where I normally get up between 5:00 and 5:15. And this whippoorwill was going at it non-stop. I mean he was making what seemed like 50 calls a minute, nonstop for over an hour and a half. I had to delay my meditation time both mornings because he was so intrusive. Being one with nature is one thing. But this? I posted on my Facebook wall …

“I’m pretty close to finding out what Whippoorwill stew taste like!”

Imagine 5,000 of these calls in a row. I kid you not!

That’s it for now. Later this morning, we’re driving into Pompton Lakes to have lunch with a few old friends from high school, before which I’ll stop by the school and make a small cast donation to a scholarship fund that was set up in the name of one of our classmates, who passed away suddenly a few months ago. Sam returned to Pompton after graduating from college and became a beloved English teacher. He was one of the good guys. And while I don’t have a lot, I want to at least give something of what I do have as a way of remembering him.


One last thing – you all have touched me very deeply over the last week or so. We received an outpouring of comments, private messages, and Facebook posts, expressing appreciation for the last blog entry “The Prison Sentence.” I am so very grateful to have been able to share something that was so well-received. I know you all have been entertained by our stories from the road, and that gladdens me to no end. But they’re just stories …  it’s an entirely different thing to have offered something that helped others as they bring themselves back from the pit of depression and guilt. It means that something good came out of the suffering that I’ve had to endure during my lifetime. That’s a blessing I wasn’t expecting. And it means more than I can adequately express in words. Thank you for that.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 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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Warm At last!

Almost a week’s gone by since our last post and we’ve since moved to a new park. On Sunday we arrived at the Bulow RV Campground in Flagler Beach, FL. It wasn’t too bad to drive …  we were in the car for about 3-1/2 hours.  We’re actually only a couple of miles away from Tomoka State Park,where we attended the Tearjerkers gathering over Groundhog’s Day weekend.

Frank and I are both enjoying being close to the beach. We’re going over tonight after the temps cool down just a bit. That’s right, you heard me right! The first morning we were here, we had to deal with it being cold outside. But for the most part, the daytime weather has been glorious. I don’t mind having to put a fleece throw over my legs in the early morning or evening when it cools down if the daytime temps are warm enough where we have to run our little electric fan. And that’s been the case the last couple of days.

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Guess who’s been tracking dirt into the Nutshell again …

Frank’s resorted to his tried-and-true approach to dealing with warmer weather – he’s been digging a few inches of topsoil away from under the Nutshell so he can feel cool dirt on his belly when he lies down.

The park itself is nice. It’s big, but nowhere near the size of the Orlando Campground we were at a couple of months ago. A couple of months ago! I can’t believe how fast the time has been going. While it seems like it was just yesterday that we first crossed the border into Florida, it was actually almost three months ago! For all the bitching I’m done about being cold, at least it didn’t seemed to drag on forever. But I digress…

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I love the Spanish moss!

Like a few of the other parks, we’re in an individual campsite that gives us a bit of a rustic feel. Sure there are other RVs around us. Lots of RVs. But when nestled in under a few old growth trees that are covered in Spanish moss, it creates a bit of a different feel. Besides, I recognized the compromise we were making when we bought the Thousand Trails membership to save money. I’ve added a few photos of our setup at the bottom of the post. Yes, it looks pretty much the same. But what’s coolol is that it seems setup and teardown are getting easier with repetition.

It ain’t camping in the forest. But for the most part, it’s not been living in RV City, either, where your neighbor is only 10 feet away and nothing grows taller than a utility pole! Speaking of utility poles, we’ve also lucked out a little bit – the one in the campsite right next to us is broken, so it will remain vacant during our stay and we’ve got a little bit more separation between us and our nearest neighbor on the canopy side. I don’t mind if someone is right next door when we have the Nutshell acting as a buffer, but it’s extra nice to not have someone right on top of where we sit under the canopy.

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The Vagabonds

We had one really nice experience the afternoon we arrived here. I was taking a break from doing the setup and sat at our picnic table to rest a bit. Frank joined me. If you have been following the blog for a while now, you’ll remember that Frank loves to sit on top of picnic tables. It’s the easiest way for him the survey his domain. Anyhow, he and I were sitting there for a little while when one of our neighbors came over from an RV across the street and holding a camera. She introduced herself as Lynda from Quebec. She said she had been in the park for a few months doing the snow bird thing and that she had been taking photographs of people with their four-legged friends. She asked if I wound mind her taking  our photo. I told her that would be fine … I also managed to convince Frank that posting a photo of the two of us wasn’t necessarily going to make his specific whereabouts known to the authorities in Hilton heas, SC. I don’t know the details. Frank only refers to it as the “cat incident”. Even with me!

Anyhow, the shot  in shown  above and I have to say it’s the best one yet of the two of us together. My buddy Michael in Dallas has taken some great shots of Frank while posing solo. But this is the best posed shot that anyone has taken of the two of us together.  I love it! Lynda also gave me a hard copy of the photo on some heavy stock paper. I’ll pick up a frame before we leave the area. Thanks again, Lynda!

We’re only here for a week before heading north. Frank and I made a special point of stopping in this area so we could see a longtime friend from Pompton Lakes. Jeanie’s family lived right around the corner from our first home there. I used to deliver the local paper to their house; played football with one of her older brothers, Mike; and used to play stickball, kickball, and all sorts of other games with another brother, Ray.  it’s funny that Jeanie and I would become good friends online. She was the proverbial little sister … accordingly, none of us would have really paid much attention to her except to say hello. But we’ve maintained an ongoing friendship that started back with the old Classmates site and has now extended to Facebook. So it will be nice to see her.

Other than that, we don’t have much planned for the rest of the week. Frank has a teeth cleaning appointment at the local Banfield. It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned them, but that’s turned out to be a pretty good deal. They are located all across the country in different PetSmart stores. Frank’s probably been to a dozen of them – everywhere from Charleston to Mission, TX to Colorado Springs to Lancaster, PA.  No matter where we are, they all have access to his records. And they offer some great discounts when you buy one of their and your plans, TOO.

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No, it has an “H” at the end, and it’s  a possessive noun! Yelling isn’t going to make you right!

While he’s going through that on Thursday, it’ll give me a chance to get some grocery shopping done. I’m also going to fulfil a sort of “mini-quest” I’ve been on for over 15 years now. I have been dying for good Vietnamese food. Something beyond pho and banh mi. There was a dish I particularly liked at Khanh’s, a Vietnamese restaurant I used to frequent in California. It’s a ginger infused rice, mixed with cilantro, mushrooms, spicy pork sausage, and onions … all baked in a clay pot and topped with a piece of barbecued boneless chicken breast.

I swear to God, I probably ordered that dish at least once a week for 10 years. And aside from a short visit I made to San Jose about 10 years ago, I haven’t found it since. It certainly isn’t for wont of looking. I have been to Vietnamese restaurants in New York City, Boston, Dallas, and pretty much everywhere else you can imagine. The closest I found to that dish was in Amarillo, believe it or not! It was all of the ingredients, but not cooked in a clay pot. So it’s still left me with a craving

About two months ago, when I was looking for the dish in Orlando, it dawned on me to go back find the name of the dish in Vietnamese. Sure enough, it was listed on Khanh’s website – com tay cam. And when I did an internet search, I found a restaurant in Ormond Beach with that dish listed on its menu. Judging from the description, it’s not quite the same as what I am used to. But I’m going to give it a shot. And the best time to do that is when Frank’s not with me, making me feel guilty for not sharing. Sorry, buddy. I share a lot with you, but not this time.  : o)

Speaking of Frank, he is gleefully lording it over me that three of his final four picks in the NCAA tournament are still alive. He successfully picked Wisconsin’s upset of Villanova; joining the Badgers in the Sweet 16 are two Bulldogs, Gonzaga and Butler. I have to be satisfied that I still have both my picks for the championship game still alive – Arizona and North Carolina. But my other two teams, Villanova and Iowa State, were out before you could say, “Dogs (and other creatures that are ‘close enough’ in Frank’s eyes) Rule!”

All I know is that one (or both) of us is going to be minus another one or two picks before Saturday morning. Butler plays North Carolina, and Gonzaga plays Arizona. Fortunately, no money is exchanging hands in these wagers. : o)

That’s it for now. We’ll check in again before we leave town. Unless you’re associated with the Hilton Head authorities. If that’s the case, Frank says he might be leaving town tonight, to whereabouts unknown. He just felt that needed to be said. And I don’t know “no cats”!

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Travels

 

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Frank’s Big Dance Ticket

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Frank’s not happy that the Villanova Wildcats are the #1 seed …

It’s that time of year again! And being the roundball fan, Frank has made his picks for the NCAA tournament.

Frank’s Final Four is:

The University of Nevada Wolf Pack
The Butler Bulldogs
The Wisconsin Badgers
The Gonzaga Bulldogs

He has an all Bulldog championship game, with Gonzaga beating Butler, 77-71.

Do I detect a theme here?

I pointed out to him that badgers aren’t really in the same family as dogs and wolves. He mumbled something like, “close enough,” and headed into the Nutshell to take a nap before the games started.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised Frank said anything to me at all. He’s still upset that I have two Wildcats in my Final Four – Villanova and the University of Arizona.  He didn’t feel any better when I told him that I had the University of North Carolina beating Iowa State in the other Final Four game,  and that I was picking the Tar Heels to beat Arizona in the final. “At  least I didn’t pick a Wildcat to win it all,” I told him!

He gave me the same look he does when I’m ready to go to bed and he’s already laid out in the Nutshell’s cabin, unwilling to move over to give me some room. That blank stare of disgust. I can only imagine the sulking I’ll have to deal with if a team with a feline mascot winds up winning it all.

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Frank’s dream NCAA Tournament team – the Charlotte School of Law’s Legal Beagles!!!

Frank still longs for the day when the Charlotte School of Law has a basketball team,  and that they’re good enough to make the tournament. Their mascot? The Legal Beagle, of course!

He says the same thing every March. And I do the same chant, just to mess with him:

Go Beagles!  Fight That Bail!  Appeal That Sentence!

Sorry, buddy … like I said before, it  just doesn’t quite have that “ring” to it.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Frank Speaks

 

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The Florida Tour

When yesterday’s post ended, we had just made it to Florida. It was three long days on the road, and the only one who was happier about getting to a campsite than me was Frank!

I used to think that the nicest thing about having the Nutshell was how easy it is to set up camp and then how easy it is to break camp at the end of our stay. It’s certainly a world of difference from when we were in a tent! But I’ve since come to appreciate another benefit – we can set up in campsites that the bigger RVs are unable to use. We’ve seen that benefit now a few times here in Florida.

The first campground we stayed at was Peace River RV Campground, in Wauchula, about an hour due east of Sarasota. I can’t tell you how many orange groves we passed once we got off Interstate 75 and started driving County Roads. One right after the other. And Wauchula is smack dab in the middle of orange grove country.

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I.E. “You better watch out for your little dogs and kids!”

The campground is located right on the banks of Peace River. One thing I noticed as we were driving through the property to pick out our campsite – all the signs along the river that warn people about the alligators. That was enough for me. No way was I going to camp anywhere near where Frank might wind up getting loose and becoming an hors d’oeuvre for some gator!

Away from the river, there was a whole section of older campsites that looked like they were part of the original campground. Where the section by the river was row after row of RVs lined up right next to each other,  other section was more like a state park. These were smaller sites interspersed among trees and quite a ways from the river. And there was no way any of those bigger RVs were going to fit in these sites.

Frank and I found a nice little place close to the bathrooms and laundry. We set up camp where we were looking at trees more than buildings and that was really nice. We enjoyed a fairly uneventful New Year’s Eve with very few fireworks in the distance.

Now I like to pretty much keep by myself at these parks. I’ll take Frank for a walk here in there, but for the most part, I enjoy just sitting in the camp chair under the canopy while watching people go by. There’s just one thing about that approach – Frank is a people magnet! People see him and immediately come over and want to say “Hello” to the friendly little beagle. And he’s more than happy to oblige them! Someone comes over and his tail starts wagging and he starts grinning. That’s typically how we wind up meeting folks at camps nowadays. I certainly can’t be counted on to walk over and make introductions most of the time.

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Frank likes to keep his eyes on the neighbors!

There was a Puerto Rican family that  were camping in the site next to ours. They had two little boys and a little girl, and all of them just loved Frank! They would come over in the afternoon and just sitting pet Frank, who was in seventh heaven! When their mother found out that it was just him and me, there were three or four nights in a row when she sent her son over with a big plate of food for me. I brought over a bag of oranges for the family the next day to thank her and she immediately started telling me what “we” were going to have that night. I tried to explain to her that I had food for supper, that I was appreciative, but  like the women at the Lake Conroe Park, she wouldn’t hear anything of it! So4 a few nights, I was treated to some delicious Spanish cooking.

I was disappointed when they bugged out – they lived in Massachusetts and the father worked for the roads department. They called him and said he had to cut his vacation short because they were expecting some big storms so they were gone in a flash.

I made a couple of other friends here as well. Tim and his wife were living here full time while he was looking for work. He would stop by most evenings and shoot the breeze. He introduced me to another fellow named Michael. As it turns out, Michael was from New England, and was traveling the East Coast setting up his labyrinth at fairs and festivals.  That wasn’t the last time I would run into Michael.

Then there was Gerald! Gerald was in his early eighties and lost his wife about a year earlier. Like me, he had a background in defense – me, having been an executive in a defense electronics company when I was younger; and Gerald, having worked in the Pentagon on computer systems. We hit it off and had some good conversations.

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Frank stayed warm in his Dollar Store sweatshirt

The one thing that got me was that it was still cold! I don’t know why, but I thought I was leaving the cold weather behind us in Texas. That simply wasn’t the case. Frank and I spent most mornings and evenings wrapped up in our comforters, sitting in the chair while talking to Tim or Gerald.

By the way,  I finally got a chance to “pay forward” a blessing that was long overdue. Back when we first started out, I found myself at a gas station early one morning with no cash and a debit card that wasn’t working because I hadn’t told my credit union that I would be traveling in Texas (I later discovered they had some fairly significant fraud protection procedures in place, one of which was that “you can’t travel in Texas without letting us know if you want to use your debit card!”) There, another gentleman put $20 of gas in my car, with the specific instruction that I should “pay it forward”!

So a year-and-a-half later, after looking for different opportunities to do just that a different gas stations along the way, I finally got the chance! Frank and I were buying ice and bottled water edit quick stop down the road from the camp. A young man in front of me was having trouble with his debit card. He swore that money in the account but the card just wasn’t working and he didn’t know why!

I asked him what pump he was at and when he told me, I looked at the cashier and said, “$20 on pump four and I’ll pay for it.

The kid, Hector, thanked me profusely and wanted to know my address where he could send and wanted to know my address where he could repay me. I left and told him that his repayment would be that he had to listen to an old man tell him a story that ended with four words – “Now it’s your turn.”

Here’s hoping that if he hasn’t already, Hector will be telling someone his own version of the story that ends in the same four words!

We stayed at Peace River for two weeks before moving on. Our next campground was Three Flags RV Resort, in Wildwood. Now this is the first Thousand Trails place we stayed at that was billed as a resort. And it had a much different feel to it then the other places we had stayed at once we left Dallas. It looks more like a mobile home park for RVs. The streets were all curbed and paved and we were lined up like sardines! We didn’t get to pick our campsite out either – it was assigned before we got there. As it turns out, it was one of the few small sites, but it was right next to the laundromat!

Now there are good things and bad things about being right next to the laundromat. The vents opened up right on our campsite and we were treated to just about every flowery scent you can imagine most mornings. That was the good thing. By the way, you might think the other good thing is that you can just walk over and put a load in. I never even used it! Tried to, but it was so damn expensive I wound up going to the laundromat in town and saved a few bucks … $3 per load to wash? And another $3 to dry? Are you freaking kidding me?

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The flowery smells coming out of those little pipes are making me sleepy!

The downside of being right next to the laundromat was that I got to hear all the campground gossip that I didn’t want to hear! Evidently, the vast number of women in the place thought that Margie was a slut! LOL

(Coincidentally, who do you think showed up the next day with a, “What a cute little beagle! I could just eat you up”? All I can say is that Margie was a hoot!)

There were plenty of dogs for Frank to play with here. A couple of regulars would stop by with their dogs to visit with Frank on their walks, and I would reciprocate when I was taking Frank out. But the funniest experience was when Frank finally met one of his own – a beagle pup named “Roscoe,” who couldn’t have been more than 9 months old. Frank looked at him with this quizzical expression on his face. Then, it was almost as if he realized, “Hey! This is one of MY tribe!” He started dancing around this little pup all excited. And while Roscoe wanted to play, I think he was a bit overwhelmed by how excited Frank had become, so he tried to hang back a little. I think that was the most excited I’ve seen Frank since we ran into that basset hound up in Pennsylvania last May.

The folks in this campground were definitely the stereotypical “snowbirds”! There was bingo two nights a week, mahjong on Thursdays, a shuffleboard court across the street from us and plenty of other amenities designed to appeal to seniors. And within the first two days of arriving, all our neighbors stopped by to make sure I knew which restaurants had the best early dinner specials.

It warmed up a bit here, but we were treated to another wonderful element of Florida weather – the first weekend there brought a tornado alert! Tornadoes actually touched down to the north and south of our campground, within eight miles!  For a brief time, Frank and I had to go into the basement of the activity center across the street. Fortunately, there was no damage to the campground, just a few small tree branches on the roads here and there.

I stay pretty close to the weather and have done so ever since we started out. So I was aware that we had some pretty big storms heading our way. Earlier that afternoon, I anchored down the canopy nice and tight with some extra bungee cords attached to the front and back of the trailer. The outer leg got anchored to a second stake using some cable. We then pulled the car up sideways across the front opening of the canopy and installed the second insert so that rain would have a tough time blowing into our little living area.

I was pretty sure that would hold up well to any storms or high winds. I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with tornadoes, though. So I was a little anxious about that. But like I said earlier, everything turned out just fine.

Out of all the Thousand Trails places we’ve stayed at, this one was my least favorite. So I was definitely ready to move on when our three weeks was up. But part of that was because of the anticipation over our next stop.

Last year, I joined an association of teardrop trailer owners. The Tearjerkers! I’m not wild about the name, I’ll be honest. But I love the idea of meeting other people that share a common interest.

Frank and I broke camp early on Groundhog’s Day and headed east to the Atlantic coastline and Tomoka State Park, just south of Ormond Beach, and the site of our first Tearjerker Jamboree!

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Our setup at Tomoka State Park. Check out the cool teardrop in the background!

The campground itself was fantastic! It reminded me a lot of the campground at Goose Island State Park near Rockport, TX, another of my favorite places we’ve stayed at. Lots of trees! Lots of scrub around the campsites, all of which are set up for a true camping “experience”.  Plus, you had that smell of salt air to wake up to in the morning!

There had to be over 30 other teardrop campers in the park that weekend. They ranged from the fancy ones with all the luxuries you can imagine … to smaller ones like mine … and all different varieties of home-built trailers!

We met most of the owners at breakfast on Saturday morning. I had indirectly corresponded with the folks of the Florida Chapter through the Tearjerker website. Each chapter has its own section, with different subject threads. I got a kick out of the fact that when introducing ourselves at breakfast, I would basically say, “Hello, my name is Jeff,” then pause to get everyone else’s names and shake hands. I’d then introduce Frank. That’s how everyone knew me! One guy shouted out, “Frank! Okay, you’re the guy traveling around with Frank!”

We know who the star of this little road show is, don’t we?  : o)

On Saturday night, we had a potluck dinner, along with a silent auction benefiting a young girl in the area with a serious medical condition. It was very cool to see these people all coming together and raising funds to help what for the most part was a complete stranger! Good people!!! I really enjoyed meeting everyone and even came out of the weekend with some new Facebook friends.

At the end of the weekend, we headed back to the central part of the state, and the Orlando RV Resort. I didn’t really know what to expect here. I knew it was close to Disney World and Epcot Center, so I figured it was going to be a relatively large campground to accommodate tourists. I had no idea!

This campground has more than 800 sites along with two large activity centers, an Olympic swimming pool, a small theater where they host concerts and movies, and just about every other amenity you can think of!

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We had a really nice campsite at Orlando RV Resort

Fortunately, the layout was similar to Peace River in that it had an older section the larger RVs couldn’t easily navigate. Frank and I had a wonderful camp site, in among some trees and scrub the right across the street from the bathrooms. It turned out to be a very relaxing three weeks.

If Frank could speak, I’d wager that he would tell you this was his favorite campground! First off, they had their own dog park. He and I went down there most days and it gave him his first real opportunity to spend a lot of time off leash. The only downside was that not many of the other dog owners brought their buddies down to play. There were only a few occasions where Frank d company.

It was here that Frank had his second encounter with one of his tribe. Two, actually – a young woman would roller skate by every morning for the first week of our stay, being towed by two young beagles. Frank had the same reaction to them that he did to the beagle pup at the other campground. We were both disappointed that their stay ed ours by only a week.  But they did get together a couple of times and everybody had fun

We didn’t have many visitors here, either. Michael, who I met at Peace River, happened to be there when we arrived. But he was only staying there for another day before leaving. There was another young fellow we met named Rick. His wife was a photographer and they toured the country based on her assignments, with him homeschooling their kids. The fellow behind me was retired Navy and would come over most afternoons to shoot the breeze.

The only problem I’ve had is that when someone sits down to shoot the breeze, it seems like all anyone wants to talk about nowadays is politics. Now most of you who know me also know that I’m quite political. I’ve been known to let loose with a Facebook rant or two. Or ten! But I’ve worked real hard to keep politics out of the campground. In some cases, I’ve actually had to say, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t talk politics!” for the most part, everyone’s pretty cool with that. As it turns out though, this retired Navy guy couldn’t let it go.

“How come, no politics? Don’t you care about what’s going on in this country?”

I explained to him that part of the reason for setting out on this vagabond journey was to reestablish my faith in mankind. That I had engaged in too many internet arguments and it left a bad taste in my mouth. And that what I had discovered was that when you just go out and meet people, politics really don’t matter! What matters is that you are friendly, helpful, and supportive of whoever else you need on the road. From there, I’d rather get to know the person I was talking to than who they voted for in the last election!

You know what his response was?

“So who’d you vote for then?”

“Terry Francona. I thought he did a hell of a job in both the Red Sox and Indians locker rooms and if he could bring all those guys together, I’d like to see what he could do bringing together a divided Congress!”

The guy just grinned, let out a big guffaw, and never mentioned politics again!

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Peace River RV campground, Wauchula, FL

So now, here we are, two weeks after leaving Orlando and back at the first Florida campground we stayed at – Peace River. Michael was here when we arrived and I have to say I really enjoyed his company! We had some great conversations and discovered that we have similar outlooks on life. I enjoyed getting a better understanding of what he was doing with the labyrinth, introducing them to people as a way towards meditation and prayer. Michael, I don’t know when we will next hook up, but I have a feeling our paths will cross again at some point down the road.

Tim was still here and would spend a few evenings stopping by to talk and pet Frank. And for the last week, I’ve had a couple of guys in a tent right behind me. It started out a bit rocky – I asked them to turn down their blaring TV at around 9 p.m. and one of the fellows wasn’t too keen on the suggestion. I bitched about it on a Facebook post and one of my dear friends, Dale, reminded me that positive energy works much better than negative. One thing she said was, “Whether you believe in a higher power or not, the visualizing and positive energy that is thrown out to your surroundings can actually cause movement in a positive way.”

What happened after that? Let me share my Facebook post from the next morning …

So …

After receiving a much-needed reminder from Dale, I spent some time in meditation and prayer yesterday afternoon. Thought about harmony … about how much Frank and I have experienced on our journey, seeing the harmony of nature and how many times we’ve been part of good times with friends and strangers along the way. I expressed quiet gratitude for that. And then let it go.

Before dinner, one of the guys came by last night and said that he was sorry for being an ass the night before. That he had some stuff he was dealing with, got drunk and that he knows he is a lousy drunk.

I basically told him, “been there, done that,” as far as having stuff to deal with. And that I’ve lashed out at people without even the benefit of having an excuse like drinking too much. I told him, “Apology accepted,” and I hope he knew that I wasn’t trying to be an ass, either. Which he did.

Later on after dark, he hollered out, “Hey, big man! The TV’s not too loud for you, is it?” I told him that it wasn’t, and then I really appreciated him asking! (Evidently, I now have a new nickname! LOL)

Now, for those of you not inclined to believe in a higher power (whether it’s God, Allah, Spirit Mother, or whatever you want to call the Force that binds us all together), I recognize it could be coincidence, the fact that he just felt bad and had enough self-respect to apologize, that he might have overheard a friendly conversation I had yesterday afternoon with another camper that stopped by and decided I was a decent enough guy. It could be a myriad of things like that.

I’d like to believe that because I sought to align myself with a greater sense of harmony, that said Higher Power took it to the next level and allowed me to experience Harmony on a grander scale!

I’m grateful for that. Just wish I would have started out with that in mind instead of letting myself get so pissed off … and then needing the reminder from Dale before I got myself back under control. Thank you Dale! God bless you for providing the kick in the ass I needed! LOL

Last night, they invited me over to share some burgers and beer. I brought some potato salad. Suffice it to say that an enjoyable time was had by all!  They leave tomorrow. And we’re parting on very good terms!

I’m going to leave off here.  Tomorrow, I’ll post about the rest of our plans for 2017. The only comment I’ll make in advance is that it’s incredibly freeing when you realize that an itinerary is only a mental construct! t just because you spent a bunch of time putting together a year’s worth of plans, it doesn’t mean they can’t be changed.

Tune in tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Travels

 

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