Thursday, January 5, 2017

Spending time with family in St. Clair Shores

Yesterday's drive was long and very windy, at times the gusts hit around 40 miles per hour. For about 128 miles, just below the Mackinac Bridge, the road was snow covered and icy as well as snowing. So with the wind, we were mostly in whiteout conditions for that part of the trip making our planned six and a half hour journey into just over eight. This is not unusual for winter travel in Michigan as was mentioned in our last post; it was just exhausting to travel through.

Bottom left, part of the ride in the UP.
Top left, Lake Michigan  looking cold and beautiful against the clouds.
Top right, approaching the Mackinac Bridge.
Bottom right, A view of Lake Michigan over the railing
of Mackinac Bridge.

I 75 just below the bridge.

The three pictures above are examples of how beautiful the trees look in a snow storm. At this point in life though, I would be content to just look at pictures and not see them up close and personal.
(I was taking these out the side window so if you click on them to enlarge they may look blurry.)

The sun did try to make an appearance.

Just past West Branch, MI the snow all but disappeared.

The sun starting to set, behind the clouds just before Bay City.

The drive was totally worth it because we are now safely in a warm house with our son, daughter-in-law, three grandbabies, two dogs and cat.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Heading 437 Miles South

Today has been a busy packing and organizing day so we can be on the road early tomorrow morning. They are predicting snow storms between here and our destination but that is not unusual for this time of the year in Michigan. Especially between the bridge and Grayling we have been in white out conditions more than once when driving down to our son's.

We will miss these sweet faces.
At the same time we are anxious to see
these sweet faces.

We will be spending time visiting with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren before we continue further south to our home on wheels.

The "plan" right now is to be parked somewhere in the desert before the end of the month.

"Write it on your heart that every day is the 
best day in the year."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year and Looking Back at 2016

We would like to take this moment to 
Wish Everyone Reading this a
Happy and Blessed New Year!
May you find Happiness and Joy
as you Travel through 2017.

Looking back on this past year the first word that comes to mind is fun.  We are living our retirement dream, loving it, and enjoying the days as they unfold. Sadly many people never get to live their dream so we get up grateful every morning for the day ahead. 

Highlights of 2016:

January: We welcomed 2016 at the Saddle Mountain RV Park in Tonapah, AZ. While there we met some very nice couples Linda and Len (our neighbors), Joyce and Jerry, and Molly and Charlie, all of whom we hope to see again. 
We attended the second Blogger Fest in Quartzsite, organized by George and Suzie Yates of Our Awesome Travels, and it was so nice to be able to put faces to bloggers whose blogs we have been reading the last few years. 
We are hoping to be able to attend again this year. It is being planned by Sue and Lorne Green of  A Place Called "Away" and will take place on January 28, 2017 again in Quartzsite at the La Posa South LTVA.

February: By the 12th we were parked out in the desert where we spent about 4 weeks enjoying the quiet that is the desert. We did take the time to explore some of the area and I took some beading classes but mostly we were just content to be sitting in the sun, watching sunsets and sunrises, or looking at the night sky filled with stars. When we had a full moon it was so bright we felt like someone had turned the lights on.
We also drove over to Joshua Tree National Park which was beautiful. Our hope is to go back now that we have a vehicle which can handle some of the off road trails.

March:  We left the Quartzsite area on the 8th and headed to Lake Havasu City for the Annual Yooper Picnic-definitely a fun time. 
We also spent time in the Kingman area and connected with fellow yoopers, Jill and Rick. They have a wonderful home in a beautiful spot and it was nice to get to see it. 
We again drove down Route 66 and this time we stopped in Oatman. 
We started our slow trek East towards home on the 21st. One of our stops was the Petrified Forrest National Park. We drove through, stopping at several lookouts, on a cool windy day. 
We spent a week near Albuquerque which is where we spent Easter.  While there we drove the Turquoise Trail up to Santa Fe. (Another place it will be nice to visit now that we have a smaller vehicle to maneuver through the old streets.)

April: Still traveling East we stopped in Amarillo for a couple of days, visited The Big Texan and watched three young men try to conquer the 72 ounce steak meal. 
We also drove over to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial and it ended up being the day they were having a welcome home ceremony for Vietnam Veterans. Tom is a Vietnam Veteran so it was a special moment for him. 
Continuing East we stopped at the Little Rock High School Historical Site in Arkansas. 
We spent a week at the Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park near Heiskell, TN.  From there we drove to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cumberland Gap National Park.
On the 17th we officially pointed the truck north on I 75 and headed towards Michigan. We spent the 20th through the 28th visiting with our son and his family in St. Clair Shores. 

May: We pulled into our driveway on the 2nd. We had been gone 200 days and put 15,291 miles on the truck. Our Second Adventure had come to a close but will always be remembered.

June, July, August, September:  During these months we spent time going through stuff. In 47 years we have accumulated a lot more stuff then either of us imagined. Since, it was not the only thing we did during this time we did not quite finish but this coming summer it will be done. 
We also went through the Crusader and pulled out what we did not absolutely need in anticipation of purchasing a motor home. (We started looking last year taking our time as we wanted it to be the right and only one we purchase.) 
The 4th of July our son, daughter-in-law, and their three children visited and we did family pictures. During this time some of our extended family gathered at our home for what was a great day of visiting. 
August 1st our newest grandchild, Adelaide Ann, arrived. 
In September we gathered to celebrate Nathaniel and Adelaide's baptism. 
It was a busy summer and it just flew by. We were able to spend time with family and friends and that is the best part of being in Escanaba.

October: On the 20th Tom backed the Crusader out of our driveway at 5:45AM and we drove a short distance over to the Family Inn to have breakfast with our daughter, Rachel, and grandchildren, Charlotte, Nathaniel, Adelaide, Aden, and Nolan. At 7:50AM we left Escanaba behind and began our Third Adventure . 
We spent the first night in Frankenmuth and found out we had lost the bottom plate on one of the front stabilizers so we could not unhook. Dinner went from a nice restaurant to hot dogs from the freezer.
We spent 12 days at the Riverview Marina and RV Park in Algonac so we could visit with our son, Thomas, or daughter-in-law, Nadine and grandchildren, Noah, Jonah, and Marcella.  Our time there included Halloween so it was fun to watch them get dressed up and go out trick or treating.  Though it ended up being the coldest night during our visit.

November: We left Michigan on the 2nd and on the 3rd we stopped at an Urgent Care and found out Tom had Bronchitis. Which, considering just about everyone was sick at our son's house when we left, was inevitable. At this point we decided to spend one more night traveling south and on the 4th we parked at the Zooland Family Campground near Asheboro, NC and stayed for 7 nights resting and recuperating.
After spending two nights in Walmart parking lots we parked at the Arbor Terrace RV Resort in Bradenton, FL. Our next door neighbors in Escanaba, Joan and Ross, had recently purchased a winter home near where we were parked and it was nice to be able to get together with Joan and see their new place. She had been busy remodeling and is making it into a beautiful home. 
The rest of this month and December we spent looking at motor homes. 
Leaving this park was not the best moment and we learned a valuable lesson. (Information in December post.)
We then parked at the Zephyr Palms RV Park in Zephyrhills until the 17th of December. 

December: On the 13th we quietly celebrated 47 years of marriage. 
On the 10th we saw for the first time, in person, the motor home which would become our new home on wheels. We walked in and immediately knew we had found the one. Even after talking about it, a lot, we still had no doubts about it being the one. (I had said all along we would know immediately when we walked in if it was home. Over the past year we walked into a lot of motor homes that for one reason or another did not make the cut.)   On the 17th before we signed the papers after yet again opening up cupboards, closets, checking out the bathroom, and standing in the shower, I sat on the couch and it felt like home. Luckily it also had what Tom was looking for as far as the engine etc...It is a 2007 Coachman Pathfinder, we have named the Stinger B. After signing the papers we spent the rest of the day moving everything out of the Crusader into the Stinger B. Then the morning of the 18th we said goodbye to the Crusader for the last time and headed north for the holidays. 
On the way home, on the 21st, we stopped in Abrams, WI and purchased a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk to tow behind the Stinger B. 
We are still in Escanaba as I write this but if the backup plan goes as expected we should be headed downstate on January 4th and back in Florida on 13th.

All in all it was a great year. We did have some bumps in the road but that is part of life. We are looking forward to 2017 and the new adventures ahead. Remembering, as we go, it is not just about the destination it is about the trip and being open to the detours that happen along the way. After all sometimes the detours are the best part of the trip.

The Last Day of 2016 and We are Still in the Frozen North

We are still in Escanaba waiting for things to resolve so we can go downstate and spend some time with the rest of our grandchildren and children. Then we will be on our way to Florida and our new home on wheels.

It was special spending Christmas with our daughter and her family. The only thing that could have made it better would have been our son, daughter-in-law and their children being here also.

Our grandson was not impressed with sitting on Santa.

It snowed last night and if there is one thing I have always loved about living up here is watching the beautiful white flakes come down and blanket the ground with pure white softness. I loved taking walks in the peaceful glow of the street lights; it always seemed like a soft, fluffy fairyland. These days I still like to watch but from the warmth of our den through the patio windows and if I was to be totally truthful looking at pictures from the desert would be just fine.

Out our kitchen window.
Looking out the patio windows.

This is our side yard where the
Crusader was parked and the Stinger B
will be parked this summer.
For now the Jeep is being covered in white.

Our daughter playing with her son, Nathaniel, in our backyard this morning.

"Looking out our windows the snow keeps falling 
encasing our world in little twinkly stars of white."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Traveling North for the Holidays

December 18, 2016

We got up moving somewhat slower after a long day of moving the day before. Who would have thought we had that much stuff in the Crusader. Especially considering we had downsized knowing part of the plan this year was to find our motor home.

After a few last minute chores we bid our final farewells to the Crusader.

We stopped for gas and coffee, then pulled out onto I 75 at 7:30AM and started our trek north. The temperature was 76 degrees.

Leaving Florida

Entering Georgia

Driving North through Atlanta.

I missed the Tennessee sign. When we stopped for dinner we changed into winter boots and coats. Just before we reached Chattanooga we left I 75 and switched over to I 24.

About 12 hours after leaving the Crusader and driving 571 miles we stopped for the night in Chattanooga, TN and it was 32 degrees.

December 19, 2016

We were up, crossed the street, gassed up the truck, bought coffee, and were back on I 24 by 6:30AM. Just north of Nashville we left I 24 and continued onto I 65.

Driving through Louisville, Kentucky
Passing through Indianapolis we see snow.

We continued on I 65 until we intersected with I 94. I 94 brought us to 294 which took us around Chicago and $9.20 later we were in Wisconsin and back on I 94. After about 671 miles we stopped for the night in Kenosha, WI.

December 20, 2016

Our last travel day would only be about 264 miles so we took our time leaving and we were on the road around 8:30AM. In Milwaukee we connected with I 43 which would take us to just north of Green Bay.
We did stop in Sheboygan, WI briefly to spend some time with my sister who had just gotten home from Switzerland the night before. It was fun learning about her and her husband's trip and we are looking forward to hearing more about it next time we get together.

Snowbank outside motel in Kenosha, now we are seeing snow.

Driving through Milwaukee
Looking out at the mouth of the Fox River and the Green Bay (Lake Michigan)
as we cross the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay. 

 Just north of Green Bay I 43 ends and we turned onto US 41.

We had one more stop in Wisconsin and that was at Chrysler World in Abrams. After we purchased the Stinger B the next step was replacing our truck with a vehicle more suitable for towing. Tom had been doing research on what type of vehicle we would tow pretty much from the time we decided to start looking for a motor home. Our first thought was a Jeep Wrangler, which would be nice for doing off roading, the problem for us was comfort. Especially if we decided, like this year, to travel back to Michigan for the holidays. Once we decided on the type of vehicle, and it needed to be flat tow-able, Tom started the search for the right one for us. He found it at this dealership and after several back and forth conversations we were pretty convinced it was the right one. After seeing it we knew it and on December 20th it became ours. Since, the truck was fully loaded with stuff including the 5th wheel hitch they arranged for it to be delivered to us on Thursday the 22nd.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

It is trail rated, so though it will not take us where a wrangler would, we feel it will work to get us out on some back roads we could not reach with the truck. We are looking forward to the adventures it will take us on.

Back on our way north, though US 41 would take us all the way to Escanaba, we opted to switch to M 35 just north of Menominee, MI. We pulled into our driveway around 9:30PM.

Our welcome home table set up by our daughter and granddaughter.

"We travel not to escape life, 
but for life not to escape us."

The Stinger "B"

December 17, 2016

Two posts back our blog was about a "Lesson Learned". What I did not mention was what I had said to Tom as we drove down the back roads towards the RV park in Zephyrhills, FL, If we look at the bright side maybe there is a reason for what has happened and that reason is our motor home is in Florida.

On December 10th we got our first, in person, look at what would become our new, to us, home on wheels.

2007 Coachman Pathfinder

December 17th the papers were signed and it officially became ours. We have decided, since we both thought it looked like a large bumblebee the first time we saw it, to affectionately call our new home on wheels the Stinger "B".

After finishing all the paperwork, with the Crusader and the Stinger "B" parked side by side we started moving all our belongings into our new home on wheels.

Getting ready to pull out of the last site we spent in the Crusader.
Parked side by side waiting for the move.

The huge task of organizing will be when we get back. The next morning we headed for the UP to spend Christmas with our Daughter and her children and then, according to the plan, onto lower Michigan to spend New Years with our Son, Daughter-in-law, and their children then back to Florida by the 6th or 7th. (Side note: as of today, the 29th those plans have had to change for reasons I will not be talking about at this time. Except to say it looks like our time line will be changed by about one week.)

We are excited about this new home and are anxious to make it ours. When we get back to Florida we will have, with help, time to learn about how everything operates. Then Tom, and if I brave up, will be going to driving school to learn how to confidently drive our new home. After about a week we hope to be on the road and heading west so we can spend time in the desert.

"Don't be afraid to CHANGE.
You may lose something good
but you may gain
something better."

Some Background

We want to start this post by saying, 
we hope everyone 
who reads this had a
Very Special Christmas!

When Tom and I got married back in December of 1969 one of things we had not discussed about our life ahead was camping. Growing up my parents had a rustic cabin on the lake, (Pump for water, gas lights, and outhouse), but it was a log cabin and we slept on beds. The only time I had ever slept on the ground in a tent was a couple of nights at Girl Scout camp and out in our back yard as a young child. Tom on the other hand had camped in a tent many, many times and was anxious to take me out on this adventure. 

Our equipment was mostly what he had used over the years and to this we added a sleeping bag, tent, and a small grill. Memorial Weekend 1971 was our first adventure. When we left the sun was shining and by the time we arrived at Corner Lake, a Hiawatha National Forest Campground, it was raining. Since, the campground was filled I suggested we turn around and go home. He said just wait a site will open up. Sure enough more then one group of campers packed up and left, after all as I mentioned it was raining. So we set up the tent, which is where the cat and I spent most of the next two rainy days, in what Tom called a prime lake site. Then on the third day the sun came out and that night Tom built a campfire. As we sat there on the ground looking up through the trees at the inky black sky filled with twinkling stars I was hooked.  Over the next several years we spent many nights sleeping in that tent. We explored most of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, visited the Black Hills of South Dakota, and saw Niagara Falls. 

Then we moved up to a pop-up camper and we no longer were sleeping on the ground. We visited Toronto, Montreal, and Lake Placid with the pop-up following us. We also spent more then one Oktoberfest in the Door Peninsula, one of our favorite destinations. 

Then for a few years we did very little camping and with the arrival of our son we went back to tenting, only now with an air mattress. Then our daughter arrived and we used our tent to take them out to the Black Hills.

The next step was a travel trailer that had belonged to my parents. They could no longer use it for health reasons and we purchased it. Not only were we no longer sleeping on the ground but we had running warm water and a bathroom. That travel trailer took us into Ontario where we visited the Shrine of the Martyrs, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and a few other places I cannot remember the names of. It also took us to Yogi Bear Parks, which our children loved, and camping in the UP. Then our children became more and more involved in school and summer activities and camping went by the wayside.

Many times over the years we had the...when we retire talk...and those talks always were about traveling in a motor home and seeing this great country of ours.  As the time came to fulfill that dream we decided maybe a 5th wheel would be a better choice and soon after Tom retired we made the purchase. A 36-foot Crusader Prime Time 5th wheel and a three-quarter ton Chevrolet Silverado to tow it. We became snowbirds in 2014 and fell in love with the lifestyle. We loved our Crusader but after two years of snowbirding we knew our original plan of a motor home would have been a better choice for the way we like to travel.

That brings us to our next post. 

"If nothing ever changed, 
there'd be no butterfllies."