March 22, 2021. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico Elephant Butte State Park
Shelly is working at one computer writing service dog training manuals, the puppy is sleeping ( TTL!), and I sit with an iPad on my lap wondering how to begin a blog post way overdue.
The more I put off writing the post, the more there is to write and the harder to write. In addition, with the state of the world, and our former Republic, sometimes I feel like our travels are not what I should be writing about.
But if I don’t – what will Shelly and I have to look at when we get old and feeble?
So… we are in a desert campground on a reservoir that has shrunk to 30% its size because of a 15 year drought in the SW US. We are ready to get out of the desert dust and wind and head north but there seems to be blizzards between us and Montana!
We have really enjoyed the last several months across the southern coast, through Texas and a one month stay in Tucson AZ.
The video, though long, does give a fairly good idea of what we saw and visited.
Shelly’s Christmas gift this year was a 3 month old Chocolate Labrador puppy. His name is Mo Betta as life is mo betta with a dog! Mo has obviously changed our lives dramatically as you will see in the video.
Some highlights from this part of the trip:
Visiting St George’s Island Fl. As well as having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I actually lived on the Island for a while as a boy and have many great memories although it is completely different 55 years later!
The coast and small towns of Louisiana. I hadn’t realized how horrific the damage from the 2020 hurricanes were on sections of the coast, especially around Lake Charles. All the way from Apalachicola FL, through Alabama, Mississippi and LA the damage received from recent storms makes you wonder at the resilience of the people who live there. Incredible.
The size and variety of Texas. We spent a couple of weeks just wandering around a small part of Texas. When you cross into Texas from Lake Charles LA to Beaumont on I 10 there is a sign that says 888 miles to El Paso on the western edge of the state. And that is if you go straight across!
There are six different geographical and terrainregionsin Texas. We went through the beaches, the hill country, and the desert/ badlands. Awesome state!
While in Tucson we decided to upgrade to a newer RV. Of course to us newer means a 2010 vs a 2007. It all happened very quickly over a week from the time we thought about it to finding what we wanted in Mobile AL. We were very fortunate to have it all work out including selling our former home (sad to see her go!) in just three days.
Tucson AZ is dry! We enjoyed hiking here but you really have to be careful of the plants. There are so many plants with thorns and spikes out here boots and jeans are a requirement. Mo learned very quickly to stay on the path or be quickly impaled. Absolutely gorgeous scenery with the mountains all around the desert.
Northern Arizona. Land of the Apache. The 380 miles through the White Mountains north from Tucson to Globe, across to Show Low and down through the Salt River Canyon into New Mexico and following the old cattle and sheep trails to Pie Town, Datil,Magdalena are some of the most amazing scenery in the US. And lonely. Everyone else takes the interstate route south through Las Cruces.
Now we are waiting for a couple of big replacement batteries and an auxiliary propane wall heater before we head north where it can get a bit chilly right into June!
That’s our story and we are sticking to it for now.
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 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!
We really like this area a lot! Bethel, Maine to our surprise was just named one of the top ten ski towns in all the USA! Who knew?
People are super friendly and welcoming and very laid back. The area is absolutely stunning with the Androscoggin River running through the valleys and mountains headed to the Maine Coast only 90 miles away.
The RV is all settled in with a new mudroom, insulated skirt, additional 100 pound propane tank, as well as extra little heaters and light bulbs in vital areas to help prevent freezing of pipes and tanks. Good thing as the weather forecast is calling for 18 degrees in the next ten days!
We left you in early October heading for Gettysburg on our way to Sunday River Ski Area and our ‘winter quarters’. So let’s catch up! We ended up traveling 2800 miles from Sunday River back to Sunday river in about a month! Whew!
Gettysburg was awesome. Even Shelly who has seen enough forts, battlefields and historical sites to last her a lifetime was suitably impressed. You have to imagine a 3 day battle neither army wanted where the Union army brought 125,000 men and left 24,000 on the field dead and wounded and the Army of Northern Va brought 75,000 and also left 24,000 dead and wounded on the field.
And they left those men there in the rain on July 3, 1863 for a town of 2400 people to care for. You can feel it as you walk around. Staggering.
If you are a history person at all, you have probably seen the image of the Confederate sniper in the rocks that was staged three days after the battle. It was awesome to stand in that same spot!
We were able to camp in a park right across the street from Little Round Top. Daisy and I ran through much of the park each morning we were there by ourselves before it opened. I do not have the words to convey that experience.
From there, just up the road is Hershey PA so of course we had to visit. It was a bit anticlimactic after Gettysburg but worth a quick visit.
With trouble brewing in the slideouts we decided to punch on up to Bethel and get some work done and settle in before the advent of weather – which has been beautiful until now.
Apparently we brought with us the most beautiful fall colors seen in these parts in years! So now we are spoiled and will never be able to appreciate the Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont colors again!
See for yourself in the video.
At the end of the month we make the 2000 mile round trip to Marion NC for family Thanksgiving, then back for the start of ski season December 6. Hard to imagine really since it has not snowed yet! We are hoping the boys come visit after Christmas if possible.
And Shelly is going to pick up another Golden Retriever puppy to start training for hearing alert for a friend who lost their dog lately.
The Goose video is done and will be out very soon. That continues to be a hard thing for us but crazy Daisy helps take the sting out somewhat. Your thoughts, emails, texts and prayers on the loss of Goose have been extremely touching and we are very appreciative.
Here we are another month and another 1500 miles under the wheels with lots of memories and a huge loss.
And we finally made it to Maine! Definitely the best part of this trip – although it’s all wonderful.
We loved Maine. Booth Bay, Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park), Calais, Camden, Rockport – all of it. We could live there.
So we shall. Not on the coast though. This winter the plan is to head to Hanover, Maine (and Sunday River Ski Mountain) to teach some skiing. Why not?
But for the next two weeks, we continue westward through Pennsylvania towards Gettysburg. I can’t wait to see that historic site! Later this week we pick up our next service dog in training. I can’t believe we are adding another puppy to the household! “It’ll be fun” she says!
Yea right. We need a bigger RV!
It has been a very relaxing and enjoyable month since we left Lake Placid. We’ve put some miles under us for sure!
From Lake Placid, little, skinny, windy, hilly roads took us through Vermont, New Hampshire to Mt Washington and on into Maine,looking for a ski mountain we liked with an RV park nearby open all winter. Not in Lake Placid, nor Sugarbush but in the little town of Hanover, Maine we found an RV park we liked just a few miles from a mountain we also liked called Sunday River. Kinda cool that it is named liked Red River in New Mexico!
Here comes the hard part and one of the reasons I have not written in a while. While we were in this RV park, on our 34th anniversary, having almost decided to come back for the winter – we lost our beloved Goose. God took Goose for some reason at 8 years old at 2am. He went from perfectly healthy to not in one evening. We miss him more than tears can say. When I can, I will make an awesome video for and about him. This is going to make Shelly cry again but I have to put it in.
But life goes on and we must also.
We headed east for a lobster roll. Our long time friends Sue & Mark told us to visit BoothBay and see their buddies Tim and Liz Brown so we found a brewery that let us stay and headed that way. We spent two days and had a great time. We love the Maine coast! Both days we went to a little bitty country store next to an old drawbridge and splurged.
Lobster rolls (you would not believe how good these things are!), crab rolls, and clam chowder. We had to leave as the $60 lunches were killing us! We found the Staley’s friends and had a good time talking memories.
One night we went into town on the waterfront for cocktails and appetizers, stumbled into an open mic night, and got to play a few songs with the band. Fun!
From there we headed north along the coast through Rockport, Camden and Searsport where we stopped to check out the history museum. This area was the home of the sailing fleets of old and Searsport had more captains at sea than any other town in America.
All along the old highway 1 are the most amazing homes, barn and rock walls. We loved just driving the roads. In another example of how things seem to (almost) always work out perfect is that we originally were going to be here in mid July when we got the job at the Indiana State Fair. That pushed our timeline to arriving the day after Labor day.
We had no idea how touristy this whole area is and were super pleased to have missed July and August! Traffic was bad enough in September! The other interesting thing we found was how close everything is once you get to the coast. From Boston to Calais, Maine at the Canadian border just is not that far! But the tolls are awful. Prices are ridiculous. Produce is amazing. People are nice.
Mount Desert Island holds both Bar Harbor and Acadia National Area. If you have never been – put it on your bucket list. Especially if you like to hike. There are some absolutely stunning hikes and paths throughout Acadia.
On up to Calais after a stop at a very old state park we barely fit into, with almost no one else around and lots of hiking. The tides are starting to get closer to 25 feet so the difference between low and high is hard to imagine.
Calais, Maine is a very small town right at the tip of downeast Maine on the Canadian border and sits on the St Croix River. In the 1800s, this area boomed with river traffic and the remains of the log and mud docks are fascinating. No river traffic now though!
From Calais we turned back south towards Camden again. In 1978 I was an engineer on a 120’ private yacht from Acapulco to Southampton, England. The crew were mostly from a town in Maine and for some reason I thought it was Camden. Although I had not spoken to any of these guys since 1979, I thought it worth a try to see if they were to be found. It took me 30 minutes and two people to find Alden Cole who was the first mate. We talked about old times and old friends and headed on down the road. Pretty cool.
Our next planned stop was west of Philadelphia at our friend David’s house. We were going to crash his yard for a week, get some work done (the truck is STILL overheating on steep hills!) and Shelly has a full weekend to complete her service dog Team Facilitator certification with Atlas Service Dogs.
But first we (I) wanted to see Boston. How could we be so close and not go see where it all started? We found a place to park the RV at a really old State Park (expensive!) and drove the truck in that afternoon for a quick looksee.
First – do not take a dually truck into Boston. Just saying. There is not enough room. We could not even fit in any of the garages! We drove around Boston Commons (right by the “Cheers” bar) 7 or 8 times and finally found a parking space just big enough to squeeze in just because the guy behind us moved back! My rear wheels were on the sidewalk just to stay out of the road!
We paid for a tour and although interesting I recommend if you go, just take a map and follow the clearly laid out brick walk for the 2.5 mile real tour on your own.
Still – to be able to see the graves of the men who started it all – to see the long wharf where the shots were fired – the churches etc. It was awesome. If I had the money I would get a hotel downtown, and stay for two or three days. We stayed three hours and fought our way out of the 4pm traffic. Awful!
On the way through southern Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania we stayed at several farms. These were really cool farms that reminded of us High Country Stables on a grand scale. 4th and 5th generation families who had hundreds of acres planted in all kinds of fruits (mostly apples, peaches, blueberries, raspberries etc) and facilities to sell direct to the public by making it fun. Hay wagons, bands, u-pick, country stores with fresh bakery and bbq and much more. We had a great time! Even got to play some more music.
Today we are headed for Gettysburg, then circling around back up to Maine to get set up for winter and skiing! The leaves are falling like crazy, and we seem to have missed the fall colors somewhat. Maybe in the next two weeks as the weather changes..
This morning we left Lake Placid, New York in the Adirondacks and headed east to Green Mountain, VT to check out a few more ski resorts for the winter. It finally looks like we will make it to Maine for lobster this time!
It has been an amazing couple of months with lots to see and do. Plus we have met so many wonderful people who all seem to want to do what we do. Why don’t they?
I could try to explain what we have seen but pictures seem to tell the story better. Niagara Falls was awesome. Get out and see our beautiful country!
We have also particularly enjoyed driving back roads across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. In a way it is sad to see how many of the farms and towns seem to be fading away – but at the same time there is lots of activity. And the barns and houses are wonderful to see, as well as the architecture of the old towns. We look forward to more of this as we travel east to the coast of Maine and south to Philadelphia for some meetings in late September.