There is great pleasure in being debt free, with no bills to speak of (not even mail service, thanks to Shelly’s mom!) with freedom to go in any direction, at any time, with anyone, and stop for the night in any of thousands of parks, camps, wineries, and more – and have our home with us. It is a wonderful feeling!
This feeling is amplified at the end of a 6 month ‘project’ dedicating all of one’s time to a stated goal, and to complete that goal and get underway again.
So, we pull out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys and turn east and north. To all our friends who ask why we would leave paradise in the middle of winter and head north – our answer is paradise is only paradise when you have comparison to something else!
For the next month at least (that is today!) we will meander around Fl, GA, AL, and MS traveling no more than 50 miles every couple of days just exploring.
It was surprising to find how much time it took to ‘settle down’ and not ‘go to work’. It took two weeks!
First we had some visiting to do with old friends (and that term “old friends” is becoming more true every year!) in Palm Beach and Sebastian FL before we headed west across southern Fl towards Lake Kissimmee SP. Here we met a family of deer that kept crossing our paths (literally) as we started up our hiking again. An easy three miles here with an amazing dinner of crab cakes on the fire.
Then, another gem we stumble into. Bok Tower Gardens. An amazingly well crafted tower housing a beautiful 205 ft Carillion bells and 250 landscaped acres. Beautiful!
We really like Florida’s west coast! Much quieter and laid back. Homosassa Springs is a very small town we could almost live in! The manatees love the year round 72 degree springs here that bring 1,000,000 gallons of fresh water a minute to the gulf!
A couple of state parks later got us to Valdosta and Thanksgiving with the boys. We are so blessed!
From Valdosta we headed south and west towards Tallahassee on back roads. We try to stay off the interstate wherever possible and absolutely love seeing the country from 2 lane roads. Some of most memorable finds have been accidently made by wandering around.
Just west of Tallahassee, we found a little campground on a lake that had a snow white squirrel. While we were wondering how a squirrel would get white like that, we started seeing white squirrels everywhere! Apparently they are sort of famous around here! Something new to us!
That evening strange creaking noises in the RV got me out on the dark to find broken shackles on the suspension springs. Oops. Don’t want axles falling off! The next morning we also found we had picked up a nail in a tire and it was completely flat. Why does this stuff happen on the weekends and holidays? No worries as we found parts not too far away and a semi truck emergency tire guy 1 mile down the road who came out and helped me jack it up and make repairs. Then he just wanted a tip since he lived so close!
On to Panama City and St Andrews SP right on the inlet and the beach. Magnificent beaches and because it was a bit chilly we had them all to ourselves!
After a couple of off the path stops (a lavender farm, then a house north of Pensacola where a nicer lady was attempting to build a self-sustaining farm) we were on to a great find just north of Mobile at Blakely SP and battlefield. We did not know about the history. Watch the video for more. We hiked a lot here. One day we did 11.5 miles. Sore feet!
The battleship USS Alabama is the main attraction at the park in Mobile and we were honored to spend a cold, blustery Pearl Harbor day exploring the ship, the submarine USS Drum (I served in the nuclear subs in the Navy!) and lots of planes and other military pieces outside. Well worth the visit. Like everywhere else they are still cleaning up from the massive damage from several hurricanes all the way back to Katrina.
Of course we had to spend a day at Dauphin Island and ride the amazing beaches there before moving on the Pascagoula, Mississippi and Shepard SP. This is another of those awesome places we stumble into. Great trails, remote campsites, and not very many people.
Oysters from the bay on the half shell for lunch made the day!
It’s time to start back east and north for the holidays in NC and GA so we turn around although Texas is pulling at us hard!
We pulled into a small parking lot at the Gulf Coast Gator Farm for the night on a drizzly, overcast day. Behind some wood fencing that looked like it would fall down any minute we found about 50 alligators! There were gators there 14 feet long! They told us in Katrina most of them had escaped including the biggest one of all. Some came back as they like to be fed and cared for! We were the only ones on the airboat ride- which is really like a carnival ride as they run around doing doughnuts and sliding turns in 1-6 inches of swamp! It was fun.
In the morning fog, we pulled out on the highway and headed east, looking forward to Christmas and family
Our last post (did you miss us?) had us leaving beautiful but very cold Maine, and making our way to beautiful and very warm Islamorada in the Florida keys to work on a yacht for a bit.
And now the country is in turmoil, something about a pandemic and what the hell happened to our election? Interesting times for sure.
The little yacht work in Islamorada turned into an intensive 6 months of mostly 7 days a week and 10-12 hours per day managing and rebuilding a 20 room 7 acre oceanfront resort and small marina in paradise. Remember The Beach Boys song Kokomo? That is where we were. You should have visited us!
Although the work was interesting, and the location amazing, the combination of our love of travel with the rigors of managing a hotel provided huge impetus to reclaiming our traveling life.
We have trained our replacements, and hope that the open door to return offers possibilities in the future.
So we are back on the road meandering from one side of Florida to the other through friend’s houses, state parks, wineries and beaches on the way to see the boys for some holiday time.
Our loose plans are Thanksgiving in Valdosta, a few more weeks wandering around, then a trip up to North Carolina and back through Atlanta for Christmas before heading back westward again. We still have to get Shelly up through Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming country.
Enjoy the video! I highly recommend watching it full screen! We will have another update soon.
Our goal this week is to go from the dead of winter (7 degrees when we left Maine), to Spring in the Carolinas, and right through to summer in Islamorada, Fl in one month!
Although the skiing at Sunday River Ski area in Bethel was fun, and teaching people how to ski (or get better at it) is rewarding, and playing music once a week to an appreciative crowd is awesome – I miss shorts and flip flops.
Time to get on the road.
For the last couple of weeks we have been tearing down the mud hut, removing the skirt insulation, and digging out from ice and snow to pull out in early March. Saying goodbyes to new friends is always a bit sad, and answering the inevitable question “Will we see you next year?” (probably not!); but all sadness is easily replaced by the anticipation of the ‘road’.
With family stops is Marion, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Valdosta, GA as well as business and friends stops in Jacksonville and Sebastian FL – the 2800 miles will not be so hard to take.
Shelly is very much looking forward to working with our newest service dog in training Gunner where she is outside in something warmer than 10 degrees and ice everywhere! Coconut palms and beaches are sounding really nice about now!
We are working on the next video and will have it up shortly!
Winter is officially here in western Maine. The temperature dropped down to the 4 degrees the last two nights. Yesterday the wind was gusting over 50 mph and the wind chill was down around -15. Kinda chilly to be teaching beginners how to ski!
Be careful what you ask for!
It’s all good.
We are all settled in for the winter with a “mud room” built under the 8×20 awning and insulation everywhere I can add it inside and out. A couple of extra space heaters, a jury-rigged awning “garage” for the truck and we are snug a bear!
While I am out on the mountain teaching (Sunday River Ski Resort), Shelly is home training and doing what she does (blogging, taking training classes, helping other nonprofits).
We just wanted to put out an update and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope that your holidays bring joy and happiness!
They say behind every cloud is a silver lining. Our silver lining is For The Love of Goose – For The Love of People dedicated to Training Their Own Service Dogs…
He was an amazing dog who raised awareness and money for people with all types of disabilities.
Did you know a highly trained dog can:
* turn on the lights and wake someone from a nightmare? *detect low blood sugar levels? *assist someone during a seizure, laying across them to keep them safe and going to get help if needed? *interrupt bad behavior? *and so much more…
We did not know! Not until Goose taught us.
During our time with him we learned the power of dogs and the tremendous power of service dogs. We want to keep this going!
Shelly has trained hard to get certified as a national trainer/facilitator with Atlas Assistance Dogs.
Currently, we have an 18 month old chocolate lab (Daisy) in training and will soon be getting an 8 month old Golden Retriever.
Another crucial fact we have learned along the way is that training a service dog is not a sprint – it’s a marathon and costs a lot of money.
In honor of Goose and all he stood for and accomplished – we decided to start For The Love of Goose Foundation. Our mission is to train dogs to be placed where needed as best we can. Many who need this help cannot afford it. You can help offset training expenses so we can place dogs with people who so desperately need them in their lives.