Christmastime is Here
MERRY CHRISTMAS 2018
As things were a bit crazy this past month, I decided to format our Christmas greetings within our blog, sending the link rather than the newsletter. That way, if you want to go back through past editions of the blog, you’ll already be there! (Also, because some folks’ email servers won’t allow an email with attachments – aka, pictures – to reach their inboxes, this will ensure they, too, get to see the goings-on of our strange new life!)
January and February were a bit of a ho-hum for us. The flu bug caught hold at Christmas time, followed closely by colds, which were compounded by Karen’s bad fortune to develop an abscessed gum and the need for root canal. Not exactly a whole lot of fun, but we still somehow managed to make our way over to Disney to find some enjoyment in between fevers, jaw pain, and incessant hacking up lungs.
March began with Tim finishing up his work at Universal in order to start preparing for an anticipated long two months of traveling. We also got to meet up with our niece, Sarah, and her boyfriend who were vacationing at Ft. Wilderness. We had a lovely dinner and conversation at La Hacienda de San Angel in “Mexico” at Epcot. . We celebrated our 39th anniversary on March 10th by dining in “France” at Les Chef de France. Nothing like dining your way around the World (Showcase, that is!). We also drove to Clearwater, FL to meet up with Karen’s (Boggs) cousin, Pat, and her husband, John, for an afternoon of a Phillies’ Spring Training game. On March 23rd, we hitched up and began our spring journey, stopping first in Madison, FL (in the Panhandle). Just a brief stopover, and next traveled to the Mobile, AL area for a 2-night stay. The weather was pretty nasty, cool, rainy, and windy, so our plans at finding a beach to sit on for a few hours were cut short to about 20 minutes of hanging onto our hats. From there, our next stop was near Jackson, MS, and we got a chance to do a bit of sight-seeing on the Natchez Trace since the weather finally turned sunny and warm. And that was short-lived, as we experienced our first TORNADO WARNING while living in the worst possible dwelling for experiencing a twister!!! By the way, tornado sirens are ungodly LOUD AND UNRELENTING! Karen, being the nervous Nelly (and taking advice from online DRV friends who have had the same experience), stuffed the cats in their carriers, grabbed a flashlight, the weather radio, and made a beeline for the bathhouse, which is the designated storm shelter. Tim stayed behind in the rig, keeping a constant eye on the weather radar and reports. Thank the dear Lord that the tornado didn’t touch down anywhere near us……….however, it DID touch down right where we had spent our afternoon touring the Natchez Trace! The excessive rains flooded out our next stop along the road, just west of Memphis, in Arkansas, right on the Mighty Mississippi. We were able to find another campground, south of Memphis, just inside the Mississippi state line. We took an afternoon and drove into Memphis, first visiting the Lorainne Motel/National Civil Rights Museum, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was a very moving, and sad experience, and our visit was just a few days before the 50th anniversary of his murder. From there, we made a stop in town to visit Beale Street. It was definitely a fun place, and the BBQ was amazing!
Now in April, we headed to Ozark, Arkansas to spend a couple nights at an Army Corps of Engineers campground. And, it rained. It was a beautiful campground, right on a lake overlooking a COE dam, but the miserable, raw, rainy weather prevented us from doing any sight-seeing or sitting outside. From there, we left for Weatherford, Oklahoma for a week’s stay to attend a rally for other DRV owners. You know that song from “Oklahoma”, where they say “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain”? It really DOES! We took in a lot of sights, such as the Stafford Air and Space Museuem, the Route 66 Museum (one of many!), quite a few meals out, and meals in the community room at the campground, RV tours of each others’ rigs to show off our homes…… It was a very nice week! From there, we moved on to Tucumcari, NM for a one-night stay. We had our first major mishap, when one of the front landing jacks malfunctioned and the “foot” ripped off when the jack lowered itself in transit. Thus began a flurry of calls to the manufactured to find out what to do to get repairs made. We did, however, have a pleasant afternoon walking the section of Route 66 through Tucumcari (where Karen genuinely got hooked on the nostalgia), and dining in a little restaurant that is famous (Del’s) and fabulous. We hitched up the next morning, discovering that the jack was leaking hydraulic fluid, so we left a puddle behind in the dust that was the campsite we were on. Next stop was near Pueblo, Colorado, and we were genuinely concerned about the mechanical problem that we were having. Tim spent far too much time on the phone with the DRV factory and the manufacturer of the jacks, getting no firm answers. In the meantime, we were about to encounter yet more bizarre weather. We were about 4500 feet in elevation, and found ourselves in a high wind warning, a blizzard warning, and wildfire warning. Our first day there was still 24 hours out from the predicted wind and snow, so we ventured north to Colorado Springs so Tim could revisit a few places he had been to as a child. The first was the US Air Force Academy Chapel. It really was beautiful, but at 7258 feet in elevation, Karen discovered that she couldn’t tolerate higher altitudes. Walking a mere 50 feet on flat ground took minutes rather than seconds, with a great deal of gasping for breath. The planned visit to Garden of the Gods was scrapped in order to return to a lower elevation. The next day is when the fun started, weather-wise. While we had nothing more than a few spits of snow, the winds were howling at a sustained 60 mph. We had to bring in our large kitchen slide, as it was popping up and down from the buffeting it was getting. The blizzard did miss us later on, but it hit further north in Colorado Springs. Our planned departure had to be delayed, simply because the bad weather not only wasn’t safe to drive in, let alone pull a 45 foot 5th wheel in, but because the state closed all roads. We were stuck where we were, and we still had no idea which way we were supposed to travel due to the need for repairs. We knew we couldn’t continue north into Wyoming and the Dakotas (which was our plan), because there were no authorized repair shops/dealers in that direction. In any event, the weather was predicted to continue snowing further north, so we had to develop a Plan B. We contacted our RV dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee, and they were able to fit us in for repairs in mid-May. As soon as the weather cleared, we began to venture east again, stopping first in Oakley, Kansas, but not before witnessing numerous semis turned around in the median and stuck in the snow, as well as burned out patches from wildfires. Oakley turned out to be a little gem of a stop, with the discovery of the Fick Fossil Museum and the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. Great little places to visit and they were free! Our campground had a little restaurant on site, and they had the best shrimp bisque ever! Next stop was another Corps of Engineers campground, near Clinton, Kansas. Another beautiful location, and again, the weather turned miserable the 2nd day we were there. We did manage to buy some groceries, so it wasn’t a total loss. We left there for a few days in Branson, Missouri. We did take in a 60’s review show, which was good, but not well attended. Of course, the time of year we were there was not peak season either. From there, making our way further east, we stopped in Sikeston, Missouri. Our best entertainment was dining at Lambert’s Café, Home of Throwed Rolls. I’d try to explain it, but it’s better if you go to their website to see what their claim to fame is https://throwedrolls.com it was a good, hearty meal, and tasty rolls!
After an interminably long month of April, we finally made it to May, and checked into a campground in Dandridge, Tennessee (near Pigeon Forge), to hook up with yet another DRV rally. We hadn’t planned on going to it originally, since we were supposed to be out west, but since we needed to head to Knoxville, we caught up with this rally and had a wonderful time. We had a great meal at Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort, and also went to the Dolly Parton Celebration! Dinner Show. A couple great nights out with our DRV compatriots. We had some great potlucks as well, and a Cinco de Mayo celebration too. Once the rest of the DRVs checked out, we still had another week to go before we could get our repairs made. We made a trip into the Smokies to do a late afternoon/early evening drive through Cades Cove, and were richly rewarded with sightings of many critters. We also had a visit from Karen’s long-time cyber (and now IRL) friend, Anne London and her hubby, Jason, who had spent the weekend in Gatlinburg. We had a nice afternoon out on Douglas Lake in a rental boat. On May 14th, we were finally able to get into our RV dealer to have repairs made on the jack, which had been leaving a trail of hydraulic fluid wherever we camped. The following day, we began our trek back to New England, stopping for one night each in Virginia and Pennsylvania, arriving in Randolph Center, Vermont on May 18th. The rest of the month was lots of visiting with kids and grandkids, and getting in plenty of hugs and kisses that were sorely missed.
June was a month of birthday and anniversary celebrations, with Abe celebrating his 1st birthday! It was also a bit of a scary time, as Karen began having severe breathing issues, not unlike those she experienced in Colorado, except we weren’t at nearly the high elevation we had been at. After a chest xray, a scary diagnosis, and an ridiculously long wait to see a pulmonologist (6 weeks!), it was determined to be adult onset asthma. Four months of a steroid inhaler, plus a rescue inhaler, and there is improvement, to some degree.
July and August more of family time, plus visits from friends, Pete and Debbie Morse-Ackley, as well as Mark and Nancy Beddoe.
September was beginning to wrap up our stay in Vermont. The weather definitely began cooling down in a hurry, so we were ready to head south! Of course, our planned route, heading down along the NC-SC coastline once we turned east in Virginia, had to be rerouted due to Hurricane Florence. Two of the campgrounds we had planned on stopping at were closed due to damage, and sections of I-95 had closed down, so Tim went back to the drawing board to come up with a new itinerary. Again.
October 1st we started to hitch up in the rain. The rain made the ground, where our outdoor carpet had been, quite muddy, and Tim took a hard fall, spraining his ankle in the process. Fortunately, it was his left ankle, so he was able to drive, but he was most definitely in pain. Our first stop was in Cooperstown, NY. We had planned on visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that had to be tabled since Tim was barely able to hobble around, even with the cane we bought at the local CVS. We did have a visit from another friend, Bob “Box” Morris, who drove out from Syracuse to visit. We were able to have a brief outing at a local microbrewery to grab some lunch, but other than that, it was a quiet visit. We left there for Harrisburg, PA. Tim’s brother Paul, and his girlfriend, Lisa, drove out from Bucks County, PA to visit us, and we had another lovely meal out, catching up with family. Other than that, a trip to the grocery store, where Tim sat in the truck to avoid any excess walking/hobbling, was the extent of our visit there. Next stop was a campground near Antietam. We did get out to the Antietam Battleground Visitors’ Center, and drove around a bit. We also drove into Harper’s Ferry, but lack of parking and hills made it too difficult to attempt, given the size of the truck and the still swollen ankle. After leaving Antietam, we headed for Charlottesville, Virginia. We went to Monticello (definitely pushed Tim’s ankle to its limits) while there, and also drove up to Skyline Drive, stopping at Big Meadows Campground for a little walk down memory lane. We had taken the kids for a camping trip there back in 1988, so it was a bit nostalgic to visit it. We also encountered the remnants of Hurricane Michael, which dumped a bit of rain on us, but nothing even remotely as devastating as what the Panama City Beach, Florida area experienced. We left Virginia, bound for western North Carolina, outside of Winston-Salem. We did a wine tasting at local winery, and then had a visit with old family friends, Neil and Maria Shaw. Tim Jr. was the ring bearer in their wedding in 1987, and we had only briefly seen them once since then, so it was nice to catch up with them.
(A little detour here, as it should be mentioned that the repair to the jack made in May, didn’t actually work. When we hitched up in Vermont, the hydraulic fluid began leaking again, and continued with each stop. We contacted our RV dealer immediately, and were able to get scheduled to go back for more repairs.)
Back to Pigeon Forge for two nights while we awaited a slot for repair work at the RV dealer in Knoxville. We attempted a drive into Gatlinburg, but realized that was a bad idea as it was Octoberfest, and the traffic was insane! We drove a little bit into the Smokies, but turned around and headed back to the campground. Since it was our 3rd visit to the area in 17 months, we opted to rest up. Finally got in for repairs, and it was an all-day affair with the entire jack being pulled and replaced. The dealer was great, the repairs were covered under warranty, since our initial claim had been filed before the warranty expired, and we were on our way the following morning to Charleston, South Carolina. Karen had been doing a bit of genealogy hunting on Tim’s ancestry, and she was able to work with the cemetery to find the locations of his great and 2x great grandparents on his mother’s side. We had a very meaningful visit to the cemetery, taking pictures for our records. From there, we went to visit the Fort Sumter Visitor’s Center and then took a boat ride out to the fort itself. After Charleston, we headed for Savannah, Georgia. We had a nice, leisurely (3-day) stay there, and took a bus tour though the city. From Savannah, back to St. Augustine, Florida again, but just for a brief stay. We drove up to Jacksonville to visit with our former colleague, Ellie Pearce, and then had dinner with Tim’s roommate from OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Fort Benning. Greg Phillips and his wife, Min, were staying in Jacksonville for a while for medical treatment, so one of our initial visits that was scrapped due to the hurricane damage (visiting with them in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), we were able to salvage with this trip instead. And, the next morning, October 27th, we hitched up for the last time and headed to Davenport, Florida for the winter.
Now…………..here’s where things get a little crazy. Back during our travels – and travails – we had both come to the conclusion that we needed to rethink what our current situation was (i.e., the 5th wheel was too big to easily find places to stay that could accommodate our length and height, so our options were really limited every time Tim had to change our travel itinerary…..which was frequently), and where we needed to be going forward. We both really like central Florida, so we thought maybe staying here every winter was a good thing. We also felt like if we had a semi-permanent place (winter landing spot), we could downsize our RV to a smaller motorhome, sell the truck and buy a sedan we could tow behind the motorhome (and which Karen would be able to drive – she hasn’t driven in over a year because the truck is too big and intimidating for her), we would be set for the future when we will eventually stop our wanderlust. So, we started looking (we actually were scoping things out on the internet back during the summer) at 55+ communities of manufactured housing. We also needed to find a home that was being sold with the furniture left behind since we had absolutely nothing left from our home in Brookline other than what we were carrying around in our 5th wheel, none of which was actual furniture. As luck would have it, the first day we looked, we found what we wanted/needed, made an offer, and closed in two weeks. On December 1st, we started moving what meager belongings we have into the house, having first splurged on a new bed for ourselves. Throughout the month, we’ve been cleaning (because our previous occupation has caused us to be hopelessly compulsive about the quality of cleaning, especially when we have to live there!) and trying to make things our own. We’re getting there, and we are ready for Christmas, at long last.
And now, we want to express our wish to you for a Joyous Christmas season, good health and happiness in the New Year ahead, and abundant blessings for you and your loved ones. May we all find peace and contentment, no matter where we roam.
Karen and Tim