Post Cards From The Road 2019

Before we left the driveway, we did lots of research on where we would like to go first. We reviewed endless campgrounds and decided to follow the advice of “stay somewhere in the area before you start for a far off destination.” This will give you the opportunity to learn what you don’t know and you will have the local support if you need it. This is great advice! If you are considering an extended RV trip, ask everyone everything. There  is no advice you should not consider for your experience. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you from the frustration of when “it” happens, whatever “it” is. Why  not be as prepared as possible to reduce the chances of ruining your adventure and increasing your chances of a successful trip.

Since we live in beautiful Southwest Florida and we didn’t list our house for sale until the middle of February, that meant there were no local RV Parks until the first of April. First lesson learned! Depending on your destination and time of year, you will need to book some places well in advance, Yellowstone in July for example. To make your journey enjoyable, plan to be in (your state goes here) by this time. (month goes here) That way you can relax and enjoy connecting the dots. Experienced RV’rs tell me, go slow! Take your time! Enjoy the area completely before moving to a new location. Who knows what you will discover between destinations that you used to zip by on the interstate. Consider the motto, “We have no where to be and all day to get there.”

To find out the overview of where we’ve been and lot’s of photos, check back here. We’ll be sending you a postcard from each place we visit. We hope you will make the visit with us.

Postcard One

The Bon Voyage Party, saying goodbye to Venice and our friends!

Our First Stop – Creekside RV Resort, Punta Gorda Florida

This is not a post card FROM the road, it is a post card OF the road, now updated from the time we left Punta Gorda, Florida until we return on November 1st. Now that we are back, I created a new post with the total miles, total days, number of campgrounds, etc., if you are into that sort of thing. See It’s A Wrap!

Greetings from St. Augustine Florida our second stop! The photos below are (top to bottom, left to right) Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Carriage Ride, Tourists, Flagler College, Gelato Break, Cathedral Basilica Exterior Alter and Choir Loft, Memorial Presbyterian Church, Mission of Nombre de Dios, Magnolia Avenue

Our next stop – Charleston, South Carolina! (top to bottom, left to right) We learned how to make Sweetgrass Baskets from Marilyn, The Arthur Ravenel Bridge, Carriage Tour on E. Bay Street, the Historic Charleston City Market, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist where the Noon Mass is still said in Latin.

We broke up the drive to Virginia Beach with a stay in New Bern, North Carolina. The pharmacy where Pepsi was born, the Aviation Exhibit in near by Havelock and the KOA campground where we stayed.

Hello from Virginia Beach, Virginia! Neptune welcomes you, The Boardwalk, (which is really a very long sidewalk and no boards at all) a memorial to those who serve in the NAS, (Naval Air Systems) the original Cape Henry Lighthouse, entrance to the beach from 75th Street, the new Cape Henry Lighthouse.

Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Powerful, thunderous, reassuring, freakin’ AWESOME! Photos by Kathryn

We took a day trip up to Chincoteague Island for a boat tour around the island. It was a beautiful day on the water, we saw some wildlife off in the distance, but no horses or any wildlife close up. The photos below are of the lighthouse and an aquafarm where they raise clams and oysters. Then we drove over to the Assateague Island National Seashore where we did see horses way off in the distance, but with no telephoto lense . . . It reminds me of New Hampshire, “Where do you go to see a moose?” You could drive for hours and see nothing, then one walks thru the yard! Photos by Kathryn.

We took a day trip to Norfolk, Virginia to visit the Chrysler Museum of Art and Studio to see the glass exhibit and watch the glass blowing exhibition which was fascinating! While in Norfolk we visited the Naval Station to take the bus tour of the base but it was cancelled.

We are spending the entire month of July at Lake Kandle, Sewell, New Jersey. This is the first “reunion” part of our trip. Kathryn spent ten summers at this campground with her children when they were growing up so our long stay gave them the opportunity to return to the lake while we are here, although none went off the rope swing again! Kathryn was born and raised twenty one miles from here, and I lived near here for seven years, so spending a whole month in New Jersey will give us ample time to get together with family and friends we never get time to see. We spent the Fourth of July with the entire family, attended Grandson Luke’s graduation celebration, visited Joanne and Jim, twice; Edwina, Herb and Barbara; Jarivs and his mom; Son Bill, Mama Nikki, and Granddaughter Katlyn; and we have been visited by Chuck and Penny; Daughter Linda, Grandsons Luke, Scotty and his girlfriend Paige; Daughters Denise, Donna and Granddaughter Natalie; Joanne and Jim; and surprise, Kitty and Rich all the way from Venice, Florida. Very cool!

One of the best parts of being in South Jersey during the summer is enjoying the blueberries, tomatoes and corn. You KNOW the local produce you buy is fresh because it was in the fields yesterday!

We took a day trip into “Center City.” If you are not from here, that is what the locals call downtown Philadelphia. It’s a local thing, like to say “Down the Shore” means going to the beach. From Atlantic City, to Long Beach Island, to Cape May, it’s all “The Shore.”

Although I worked in Center City for years, just blocks from the U.S. Mint, I never had the time to go in for the self guided tour. Yes, they still mint coins right in the heart of Philadelphia, and no there are no factory seconds available, nor do they give out samples. The tour is free if you don’t count the fifteen dollars it costs to park across the street. (you can not take photographs of the interior)

Whenever we are in Philadelphia we just have to go back to Termini Bros Bakery! It is the authentic, unchanged, Italian bakery, that was founded in 1921. I’d write more about this place but my cannoli is waiting.

On the way home, we stopped at the cemetery to pay our respects to Kathryn’s Mom and Dad. Something we don’t get the chance to do often enough.

In addition to being a mother to four children of her own, Kathryn was a foster mom to thirty-two children, giving them the love needed for a great start in life. One of those children, Jarvis, now a grown man, has kept in touch all these years expressing his gratitude to Kathryn. As part of our month long stay in New Jersey, we had the opportunity to get together with him and his mom for breakfast.

Spent a great day in Pennsylvania with Bill, Nikki and Katlyn!

I spent a delightful day trip to Center City to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, specifically The Impressionists Eye Exhibit. On display are the works by Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissaro, Renoir, Henri de Touloose-Lautrec and more. (By the way admission is free for Veterans)

“I want to astonish Paris with an apple.” Paul Cezanne

Yes, people actually stand in line to have their picture taken at the Rocky Statue, before running up the Art Museum Steps.

I crashed a wedding at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, before sitting down and thinking (that really is me) The Impressionists did it right. Their art still looks fresh and new even today!

One of the anticipated joys of this adventure, was to “stumble” upon places you would never otherwise never know about. Yesterday was a visit to such a place, St. Padre Pio Shrine in Landisville, New Jersey. (thanks for the recommendation Joanne and Jim) St. Padre Pio was a friar, alleged stigmatist and mystic, now venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

The next stop on The Reunion Tour was Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. The good news, the coach performed beautifully! It pulled the hills without a sweat and when the winds got strong, I just turned the Comfort Steer dial and tightened up the power steering. The bad news, Pennsylvania should be ashamed of itself, calling the longest pot hole in the world a turnpike. To add insult to injury, they charge you money to jar your teeth loose and rattle your dishes while travelling across the state!

The community where we lived in Venice was Chestnut Creek, so the six couples who did everything together called ourselves The Chestnuts. Half the crew got together in Selinsgrove to visit Chuck and Peggy at their cabin and spend a day above, on, and in The Susquehanna River!

As we headed Northwest toward Michigan, we stopped in Nappanee, Indiana for the Newmar Factory Tour. Each motor home is built to customer order, by hand, mostly by Amish workers. The photos are from the Newmar website as no photography is allowed. Very interesting!

While in Michigan, we will be staying at six different campgrounds. Talk about Pure Michigan! This all started because Kathryn wanted to go see Cherry Republic, a chain of local stores, “Where they sell cherry everything – ketchup, jellies, mustard, bar-b-que sauce, candy and so much more.” If you didn’t know, Michigan is THE cherry growing state. Good thing since the peach crop was wiped out this winter with twenty below temperatures. (the ones for sale are from New Jersey and Indiana) They also grow blueberries, in fact this weekend is the Annual Blueberry Festival complete with a parade, concerts, and much more.

Our first campground was The Springs of Eden Park, a popular amusement park in the 1930’s, operated by The House of David, a religious society founded in 1903. The park closed in the 1970’s.

We discovered the Southwest Michigan Shoreline from Benton Harbor to South Haven. The photos below are, (by row) the sunset as we left Ohio; Van Buren State Park on Lake Michigan in South Haven; The South Haven Municipal Marina where you will see boats of all sizes; The Sarett Nature Center – The Butterfly House and Tree Top Trail – in Benton Harbor; and The Silver Beach Carousel, complete with restored calliope in St Joseph.

Our second campground in Michigan was Holiday Park in Traverse City. This is a beautiful campground with large sites either on Silver Lake, in a wooded area, or in an open field. It was a perfect base camp to explore more of the Michigan shorelines.

We had perfect weather for our sixty mile loop drive from Traverse City, up the West Side to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, returning on the East Side, passing thru the town of Glen Arbor home of the original Cherry Republic Store and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The photos below are of Omena Presbyterian Church in Northport, Gand Traverse Lighthouse, THE Cherry Republic Store, climbing the dunes and then the view from almost the top, (yes Paul did this) the view from the overlook on the Scenic Drive Trail, people climbing straight up the dunes 450 feet from Lake Michigan, (they charge you $3,000 to come rescue you) and the spectacularly beautiful D H Day Farm Barn. (Photos 2 & 3 are by Kathryn)

While most downtowns in small cities are struggling to survive, downtown Traverse City is one happenin’ place! There is an annual free film festival, they close the streets for music, strolling thru the shops, sampling of beers and wines everywhere, or enjoy Grand Traverse Bay by paddle board, jet ski, or in your boat. Or you can play beach volleyball!! (photos 2 & 3 are by Kathryn)

Our third campground in Michigan was Cedarville RV Park in Cedarville. As the locals say, “You’ve left the Mitt and are now on the UP.” We woke to fifty-nine degrees! Where are my jeans and windbreaker?

The concept of owning a motor home is, you CAN have a cabin in the mountains, in the woods, or on the lake. That’s exactly where we are at this site. The water’s edge is ten feet from our dashboard and we are surrounded by water on three sides.

Below is the Mackinac Bridge, the view from our windshield, our site and the campground. (Photos 1 & 2 are by Kathryn)

We spent the day on Mackinac Island, a very special place. It is even more special if you LOVE fudge! The dozens of fudge shops will give you free samples. You get there by ferry, and the only modes of transportation are on foot, bicycle, or horse. There is only one word for this very special place, UNIQUE! (Photos 1, 3, 5 & 6 are by Kathryn)

Kathryn prides herself on being a master campfire builder. The bundle of firewood we bought on the roadside had pieces of wood that were just too big to catch fire. She came up with the perfect solution! The store clerk made her promise she would not use it on her husband, thank you very much.

Often you can find a motor home parked in the Walmart parking lot. In the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Walmart parking lot, we found something completely different.

Our next day trip was to drive up to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, (there is city of the same name in Canada on the other side of the St. Mary’s River) or as the locals call it The “Soo.” We spent the day on the water enjoying the boat tour of the locks described as, A Wonder of Engineering and Human Ingenuity. If you are like us and knew nothing about the locks, here’s some quick facts:

The American lock is 1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 32 feet deep. It raises and lowers ships the 21 foot difference between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, with 22 million gallons of water, all gravity fed. No pumps are used.

On the tour they take you UP on the American Locks side used for commercial ships, which are very large as described above, and back DOWN on the Canadian locks side used for pleasure craft, so they are much smaller. This side empties and lowers in less than sixteen minutes.

The photos below show: The St. Mary’s Falls Hydropower Plant which is a quarter of a mile long, built in 1902, and still in use today; The Lake Freighter Valley Camp, now a museum; The International Bridge connecting the United States to Canada; approaching the US lock, the lock empty, the lock filled a short time later; the Canadian lock filled, the lock empty a short time later showing the twenty-one foot drop, and the former Canadian Lockmaster’s Home. (Photos 5 & 9 are by Kathryn)

Our next campground wasn’t a campground at all, but the next stop on the (Chestnuts) Reunion Tour, visiting two more former Venice Chestnut Creek neighbors, Carol and Gary, in Trego, Wisconsin. Gary cleared the overhead branches so we could park right in the driveway of their beautiful lakeside cabin on South Twin Lake. Below are our hosts are adding Wisconsin to our “states we have stayed in so far” map of America.

After Gary did some minor repairs to our coach, like he used to do to our home in Venice, we took a daytrip “cruise” a few towns over to Hayward, Wisconsin in Gary’s fully restored 1960 Chevrolet, Bubble Top, Impala. Paul got to drive, and it was a thrill! Photos are of downtown Hayward and the famous West’s Hayward Dairy Ice Cream Shop.

We spent a whole day enjoying the beautiful lake. During our boat rides we came upon loons and bald eagles. I am not sure, but it must be a state law in these parts that if you live here, you boat, ATV, or fish. Seriously, look at the pictures on the walls. One wall is all family photos and the next is all the fish caught.

“Carpe Diem” dos not mean “fish of the day”

Gary is an avid fisherman and has been his whole life. The only thing he enjoys more than fishing is teaching others how to fish. Paul caught his first fish ever while out in the boat. Kathryn fished from the dock in the morning catching fourteen Sunfish, then in the evening she caught two Northern Pike and three Large Mouth Bass from the boat. And not small ones either, keeper size!I’m not sure who had the bigger smiles, Kathryn or Gary. Click on photo four to enlarge and decide for yourself. (Photo 3 is by Carol)

The perfect ending to a perfect day was dinner Carol prepared of the Walleye fish Gary caught while fishing in Canada.

We moved to the KOA Campground in Hayward to extend our stay in the area for two more days. This gave us the opportunity for a surprise addition to the reunion tour with our friends Margret and Larry who were up from Venice visiting their son and daughter-in-law. We know them from The Knights of Columbus. What a fun surprise!

While in the area we discovered Norse Nook Restaurant, aka Pie Heaven; that produce grows really big in these parts; (the cabbage is fifteen pounds) and the cowboys are not so rhinestone. (Photos by Kathryn)

Trego was the farthest West we are going on this trip so it was time to turn around and head back East, across the Upper Peninsula, to Marquette, Michigan. We awoke to forty-seven degrees. Where did I put my sweatshirt? Which means we are Yoopers again! I was told my honorary Yooper status would be revoked if I didn’t eat a pasty. (pronounced pass tea) A pasty is a folded pastry case with a savory filling, typically of seasoned meat and vegetables. They are large and filling. Mine counted as both lunch and dinner!

Before we left, our RV experienced friends Kathy and Billy told us, “You will come across some things you wouldn’t drive there to see, but while you are in the area you will find things that are very interesting.” Just East of Marquette is The Lakenland Outdoor Sculpture Museum. (it’s open 24/7 since it is outdoors) I’m not sure if this artist was just clearing up the junk on his property, is making fun of sculpture, or is making some kind of statement, but he sure does have a wild imagination.

On the other hand, ABSOLUTELY worth the drive to this area is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Boat Tour on Lake Superior in Munising, Michigan. The rocks are sandstone cliffs that span from fifty to two hundred feet above the shoreline and extend more than fifteen miles. You pass sea caves, (you can rent kayaks in town and paddle inside) arches, turrets and stone splines sculpted by centuries of unceasing waves and weather. The formations have shapes with names like Rainbow Caves, Battleship Rock, Indian Head, and the turn around point was Spray Falls. You also pass the Grand Island Light House built in 1861. You may have seen on the news recently the story about parts of these formations falling into the lake. Like the Grand Canyon, the erosion has been going on for hundreds of years and will be going on for hundreds more.

Long time RV’rs will tell you it’s all about the people you meet and the places you will see. While we were waiting in line for the boat tour, we met Miss Lumsden, a first grade teacher, who came up with the idea of adopting us as her “Travel Couple.” She thought following our adventure was a great way for her class to learn about our country thru our experiences.

Our campground is adjacent to a series of mountain bike trails. Since it was a picture perfect day, I decided to test my “foot placement” skills on Mount Marquette. If you don’t hike, what that means is, you don’t move this foot unless you are sure that one will stay where you last put it. (down is still harder than up) I was hoping for a view of Lake Superior from the top but the only clearings were to the West and North, not East. Still a fantastic day, ending in the pool and hot tub!

“That there’s an RV Clark. Now don’t you go fallin’ in love with it, ’cause we’re takin’ it with us when we leave next month.” Cousin Eddie, National Lampoon Christmas Vacation.

When we left the UP and crossed the Mackinac Bridge to head back to The Mitt, we left our Yooper status behind to become Trolls again. (see the “We’ve Learned The Language” post) Our sixth and final campground in Michigan was in Birch Run, just South of Frankenmuth.

Frankenmuth was founded by fifteen German immigrants from Franconia, Bavaria who settled this area in 1845. It remains as a visit to Bavaria today and will save you lots of money on airfare! Money you can then spend on sausages or cheeses of absolutely every variety. There are fountains and beautiful, large, flowers everywhere you look even on the side of the carriages. The village feels authentic thanks in part to the bell tower on the Bavarian Inn Lodge announcing the time of day.

If you tell anyone you live in Venice, Florida, they will mention Sharky’s On The Pier Restaurant. In Frankenmuth, the famous restaurant is Zehnder’s who have been in business for 160 years. They are famous for their chicken, served family style at large round tables, by servers in costume, in a dining room that can seat 1,500 people. We got a tip from a local who told us the same chicken is served downstairs in the Z Chef’s Café, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy their chicken in the comfort of our own home. A pleasant surprise was the Café also has a bakery and a huge candy case. (Photo 2 by Kathryn)

Another reason to visit Frankenmuth is BRONNER’S CHRISTmas WONDERLAND and the Silent Night Memorial Chapel. The Chapel is a replica of the Memorial Chapel of Oberndorf, near Salzburg, Austria. The chapel celebrates the birth of Christ thru the hymn “Silent Night” in more than three hundred languages.

Across the parking lot from the Chapel is the CHRISTmas Wonderland. The outside is decorated as you would expect, lighted of course every night. The inside is unbelievable! Think about five football fields filled with every Christmas item of every description. In season, this store employees one thousand people and yes, they do have an employee Christmas Party. They have to rent the Dow Event Center in Saginaw to hold it. (Photos 2 & 4 by Kathryn)

The (Chestnuts) Reunion Tour took an international turn as we left Michigan and crossed into Canada to visit Margie and Al. This completes visiting with ten of the twelve Chestnuts, (see Lake Kandle, NJ, Selinsgrove, PA and Trego, WI above for more details) and we will meet up with the last couple when we return to Florida in November.

We crossed into Canada at Port Huron. I’ve been warned before, “Don’t joke around and don’t kid with the customs agent. They are not paid to be friendly and certainly will NOT be amused. My first mistake was following the trucks into the commerce lanes and not going where the cars and RVs go. The conversation with our border agent started with, “See all those RV’s over there? That’s where you were supposed to go!” And deteriorated to my saying “Not all Americans own guns” and, “Have I ever lied to you before?” Fortunately she let us in anyhow!

We had a great visit with our most gracious host and hostess. They even took us to The Lake House where they met on their first date. We’ve heard about this restaurant before so it was very special for them to share it with us.

We were also treated to a tour of Queenston Heights Park where their marriage ceremony and reception were held. If you are ignorant of history (like me) QHP is a formal park in Niagra-on the Lake, Ontario, nestled high atop the Niagara Escarpment where the battle of Queenston Heights was fought during the war of 1812. More than 1,000 American soldiers crossed into upper Canada to fight for this territory. (we lost) The monument is a tribute to Isaac Brock, a British Military leader who was killed during the battle, and Laura Secord who was instrumental in alerting the troops of the impending attack.

In a conversation over cocktails (what are the odds?) we mentioned that we could also be calling our trip the “Great Lakes Tour” since we have visited four of the five Great Lakes: Michigan, Huron, Superior and Ontario. The only one we will have missed will be Erie. Next thing I knew we were in the van headed to Port Colburne at the Southern end of the Welland Canal. All five, check! (Photo 5 by Margie)

We left the very crowded KOA Niagara Falls, in the middle of a commercial district, 600 sold out sites, back to back, side to side, and moved to KOA 1000 Lakes, literally the end of the road. This campground holds 300 but since it’s after Labor Day, there are only dozens in camp.

Once you leave the interstate and head toward Lake Ontario, the roads thru the cornfields get smaller and smaller until they are one lane wide and you see the sign: 5% downgrade, dead end! Then you cross the rock causeway onto an island. (if my photo is blurry it’s because the wind is so strong I could hardly stand up) Yes, the entire campground is an island complete with a marina, pool, clubhouse and lake views. We are really getting used to the water views! Especially the sunsets!!

We took a day trip back into Canada to visit Kingston, Ontario. Ain’t we the international travelers? Along the way we saw St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Clayton, New York. It’s hard to believe how large the churches are in these small towns. And there are windmills in Canada everywhere. The small island of Wolfe Island had twelve I could see.

To get to Kingston, we took two ferries. The first from Cape Vincent to Wolfe Island. It was a small ferry with only three cars onboard. The second was from Wolfe Island to Kingston, quite the opposite. The line to board went for miles along the road. The ferry was large enough to hold multiple school buses, tractor trailers hauling milk from the island dairy farms and of course cars and pedestrians. Since the two ferry’s schedule do not coordinate, this was a beautiful trip but time consuming. We had to wait an hour to board the second one. We decided to return to the US via the 1,000 Island Bridge. The last photo below is of the Kingston City Hall.

Our next stop was the Colbrook RV Park in Ganesvoort, New York. Where’s that you ask? Near Saratoga Springs, Glen Falls and Lake George. We took a ride into Saratoga Springs which is a posh little downtown, but how much Retail Therapy (aka shopping in cute little stores) can one do?

What a difference a day makes! We moved from a spectacular view of Lake Ontario to the view of an _ss end of a Foretravel Motor Home. Change of plans! We delayed our arrival near Boston one day, left here one day early, and created a two day hole to stay in Massachusetts on our way East.

If we have learned anything so far on the road, that is – there is the plan and there is what really happens. The above mentioned two day hole was booked at the KOA in Westhampton, Massachusetts. We decided to reward ourselves by upgrading from a “normal” site to a “deluxe patio” site. The only thing deluxe about it was what they charged us to stay there. We were wedged between a cottage you can rent and an exit road. Next!!! ( no photos means it was worse than above)

Back on schedule, our next camp ground was Beach Rose RV Park, a small independently owned camp ground in Salisbury, Massachusetts, a short distance North of Boston. I chose this site as it was near Salem, Rockport, Gloucester, and Newburyport. I’ve been to all these places as I lived in the Boston area for five years and wanted to share them with Kathryn.

We knew the beach was just a mile down the road but little did we know what else was there. The road ends in an amusement area complete with an outdoor carousel, arcades, open storefront food vendors, and a boardwalk. Forget Motif One in Rockport.

Remember the Penny Arcades? Upgrade to the Quarter Arcade and you get the picture. We had a ball blowing tons of quarters playing Skeet Ball, Wheel of Fortune and Deal Or No Deal, one quarter at a time!

To end the day, we asked the locals “Where do you go for a Lobster Roll?” The answer came back, “Markey’s Lobster Pool in Seabrook, New Hampshire, just ten minutes down Route 1 A.” It was fabulous! And the portion was more than one can eat. Not me of course, I ate every last piece. The only compliant was, the two commemorative sweatshirts cost less than the meal!

We did manage to visit Newburyport, the quintessential New England village right on the ocean. When we lived in New Hampshire, Kathryn managed Nestlenook Inn, a beautiful B&B in Jackson. We were always told the owner “had a place on the beach on Plum Island, which is a part of Newburyport. It didn’t take us long to find his home. Just as amazing as the Inn.

On the way back to the camp ground we came upon a fitting tribute as we approach September 11th. Yes, Kathryn and I do realize how lucky we are to be discovering the United States one place at a time.

We took a day trip into Boston so I could show Kathryn one of my favorite places. I worked in Boston for five years. In that time, I learned where some very special places hide, especially The Mapparium, inside the Christian Science Church Center. This is a three story, stained glass globe, showing the countries of the world as they existed in 1935. You stand on a glass bridge that goes thru the middle of the earth. Just amazing!

When we left Salisbury, we headed North to the Mount Washington Valley, specifically North Conway, New Hampshire. We lived here for seven years and know what a special place it is. The Valley is surrounded by mountains, which are filled with the sound of the train whistles from the Conway Scenic Railroad. North Conway Village has a view of Mount Washington, 6,288 feet elevation from main street; hosts Zebs, an original general store; an actual functioning 5 and 10 cent store; Horsefeathers Restaurant, where I asked Kathryn to marry me, marked by a granite block in the sidewalk that says, “Yes I will marry you,” while Dennis and Davey our favorite performers played Merry Mary Mack. They also played at our wedding reception; Schouler Park, home of the New Year’s Eve ball drop; the stars are so close you can touch them; and of course the Victorian Train Station built in 1874. I also had the chance to meet with former coworkers Heather, Chris, and Frank.

Our memories of living here also include being married at the White Mountain Hotel, our first home in Stillings Grant with the occasional moose and bear in the yard, endless hikes, RSN Television, Nestlenook Farm Resort, and the annual trip to the North Pole to visit Santa on THE Polar Express. Am I suggesting we move back? No. But, I sure do miss this Valley! Of course, we are here during perfect weather doing all fun things not the ice, shoveling snow, extreme cold, sand, mud, and black fly season of living here full time. (Photos 8 & 9 by Richard)

While in The Valley we stayed at Glen Ellis Campground in Glen, New Hampshire. We used to pass this site every day twice a day when we lived here, but never had any reason to visit. The grounds are spacious and spread between where the Ellis and Saco rivers converge. The common area down the center is spacious due to the ball fields, playground, and swimming pool, but the sites are actually quite close together. There is no TV coverage of any kind, cable or antenna, and the internet is spotty at best, so we watched lots of our onboard DVDs. Kathryn also turned some of the apples into a delicious apple sauce!

Although we lived here for seven years we never did all the tourist things. I’ve hiked Mount Washington three times, have driven it many times, and even went up in a snowcat, but I have never taken the Mount Washington Railway to the top. Our friends Kitty and Rich came up from Venice to spend time with us here and really wanted to take the train to the top, so up we went! (They rented a nearby condo. This completes the Chestnuts part of the reunion tour although there is much more reuniting to come) We had a perfect weather day with unlimited visibility. While we were on the top, two hang gliders passed by. And if you look carefully at photo nine, you can see The Mountain Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods down in the valley. The last picture is the grand old wooden hotel from the ground view. This hotel was the site where the International Monetary Fund was founded December 27, 1945.

Our perfect weather days continued so Kitty, Rich, and Paul strapped on the hiking boots and headed up the Willard Trail in Crawford Notch, near the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center. It is a 3.2 mile round trip hike, elevation 2,865 feet, rated as moderate. For an easy trail, the view from the top is just amazing! The arrows show the view from the top looking down, and the view from the valley floor looking up to where we stood. The perfect day ended ’round the campfire back at the RV.

“Adventure to me, is the beauty of stepping forward into the unknown and learning about yourself in the midst.” Kyle Miller, Snowboarder

While the ladies shopped, Richard and Paul enjoyed a 2.8 mile walk in the woods at Diana’s Baths off West Side Road in Bartlett. This trail is a series of pools and cascades on Lucy Brook. The water level was very low, but climbing all over the boulders was great fun!

Talk about fun, the next adventure was the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour. The brochure describes it as “descending over 1,000 feet of elevation, the tour takes nature lovers and thrill seekers across a series of nine treetop zip lines and is one of the longest canopy tours in New England. Hiking trails connect the high-flying zip lines.” By the way there are also two suspension bridges and three rappels off platforms, the highest of which is a drop of fifty feet! Photos courtesy of their website as I didn’t want to risk dropping my camera. While we were zipping, Kathryn made a delicious dinner of chicken stew, applesauce, and mulled wine. Livin’ the dream!!

On another perfect weather day, time for another perfect hike. This time Black Cap Trail in Conway, 3.2 miles, elevation 2,369 feet. The boulders on the top are great for a game of I’m here and want to be over there, how do I get there? The views below are 1. to the North, 2. to the East, 3. to the South, and 4. to the West. The day ended with a perfect fire built by Kathryn, the Master Campfire Builder.

Before the four Chestnuts separated to go our different ways, there was time for one more “walk in the woods.” Drive North past the Jackson Covered Bridge to get to the Glen Ellis Falls Trail. After you go thru the tunnel under Route 16, you wind your way down to the bottom of the falls and look up at the rushing water. And this time Kathryn was able to join us! The day ended with the song, “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy!”

Joining us in the campground were nineteen boy scouts from Troop #81 from Topsfield, Massachusetts, their dad chaperons, and two chef dads. After a day of hiking the boys set up camp, enjoyed a hot home cooked meal, and told stories around the campfire.

On day 114, but who is counting other than Kathryn, we left The Mount Washington Valley and headed to Vermont. The leaves are definitely starting to change colors. While in Vermont, we stayed at the KOA near Brattleboro. If you are counting, the trip totals so far are fourteen states, twenty-four campgrounds, (counting Carol and Gary’s driveway as a campground) and 5,352 miles. You never know when you check into a campground what you will find before you leave. We were joined by a vintage travel trailer rally, the playing of the bagpipes at 5:00 pm, and el Pablo rides again!

We took a trip up I-91 to The King Arthur Flour Store, Bakery, Café, and School, in Norwich, Vermont. Kathryn was in gluten free heaven, as shown by her shopping cart! (Photo 6 by Kathryn)

We also stopped at The Vermont Country Store in Rockingham. Talk about a step back in time for everything except prices! A very expensive store.

Our next campground was the KOA in Newburgh, NY. We stayed here for two reasons: it was close to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and also near the Radovich and Dean Music Store. KOA should be ashamed to call this a campground. It’s a gravel parking lot jammed with RV’s side by side, end to end. At least at a Walmart parking lot, it’s paved and you get the store too!

You wouldn’t drive to Newburgh to see this but, if you are ever in the area go to The Walkway Over The Hudson State Park. The Walkway is a former railroad bridge. The deck stands 212 feet above the Hudson River and is 1.28 miles long. It spans from Highland to Poughkeepsie, New York. We walked from the Highland Station to midspan. The photos are looking North up the Hudson River and South to the Mid Hudson River Bridge.

OK I admit it. I can get excited about almost anything, like when the digital clock shows 11:11. So, when I heard about The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, I was really excited! To purchase tickets to this annual event you have to wait until tickets go on sale September 1st, then wait for forty five minutes as you watch the countdown clock tick for your opportunity. The Blaze itself is a walk thru The Van Cortland Manor Estate grounds filled with 7,000 illuminated pumpkins, hand carved on site by a team of artisans. More than 1,000 volunteers scoop, carve and light the displays, many of which have synchronized lighting and music.

We’re not talking about a few pumpkins here. Some of the displays like the Statue of Liberty are twenty five feet tall. The windmill actually rotates and the forty foot long train chugs, smokes and sounds like it is going down the tracks. Words and the photos just can’t convey the uniqueness of this experience!

I’ve been calling this the Reunion Tour and while at this campground, another reunion happed. I discovered David Radovich, a former Seymour High School Class of 1966 classmate, lives in the area and owns and operates Radovich and Dean Music Store with his wife Cindy in Carmel, New York. In our high school bands David played tenor and I played alto saxophone. It was great to meet Cindy, see their store, and get caught up on old times.

Our next campground was the KOA Elizabethtown, just outside Hersey, Pennsylvania a half hour from son Bill, Nikki and nine month old grandbaby Katlyn. This was a very special stop! We upgraded to a deluxe patio site (and it was unlike earlier in our trip) because we had company. Not only did Grandma “kidnap” Katlyn to stay with us for several days, but Aunt Denise and Aunt Linda came too, to cuddle, coo, and all around enjoy Katlyn’s visit.

When I lived in Oak Park, Illinois I was trained as a docent for the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and Unity Temple Tours. I decided then to some day visit Fallingwater. That was thirty-seven years ago. This campground was within driving distance so cross that off the bucket list!

Considered one of the most famous buildings of the 20th Century, Fallingwater stretches the limits of design and technology, while exploring new forms and materials.

Our next stop was the Artillery Ridge Campground and Horse Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Located on the edge of the Gettysburg National Military Park, the battlefields, this is where the Confederate Soldiers used to keep their horses. Yes, you can bring and board your own horse while you camp here and ride thru the battlefields. Linda came with us and staying here gave all of us the opportunity to spend time with Grandson Luke, a newly enrolled freshman at Gettysburg College.

I took the Gettysburg Battlefield Bus tour and thanks to our excellent guide, learned the ebb and flow of the three day battle of 1863, while travelling thru the 6,000 acres of battlefield. 160,000 men fought in this battle and I stood where many of the soldiers actually fought. More than 7,000 soldiers died during the battle and 3,000 more died shortly after. There are 1,328 monuments, markers, and memorials on the battlefield, making it impossible to see them all. The photos below are an overview of the area.

The day ended with a visit to The Soldiers National Cemetery, the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered The Gettysburg Address, on November 19, 1863. Lincoln created the National Cemetery System we have today so all veterans would be properly buried with respect regardless of where they are from, whatever their race or nationality, or in what branch of the military they served. This is true at Soldiers National Cemetery with the addition of many Civil War veterans as well.

When a Veteran dies in battle, it is not one family’s loss, it is our nation’s loss. They died for every one of us so this nation could live.

Welcome to West Virginia, almost heaven. Our next stop was the KOA Flatwood, which is in Sutton, West Virginia. This state is all about hiking, rafting, outdoor activities and ATV trail riding. As I’ve said before, you never know what you will find when you check in. Here, you start at the top of the hill and go to the front desk of the Days Inn to register. Then you go down the hill to the campground. Keep going down the hill and you will find The Mountain Lakes Amphitheatre, a 1,700 seat venue available to rent for weddings, corporate retreats, etc., including full catering. West Virginia is all hills and not small ones either. The interstates are marked 6% downhill grade which must make the county roads and driveways 12%. They just shoot straight up! What does 6% look like? See the shed below. And no, I didn’t tilt the camera.

We’ve added a new state to our “where we stayed map,” Kentucky, The Bluegrass State, known for horses, caverns and caves, and bourbon. We stayed at the KOA Horse Cave. I chose this campground due to it’s distance FROM West Virginia and TO Nashville our next stop. And because it was a good central location to go explore. The problem was, it is in a valley literally a half mile from I-65 which means truck noise all day and all night. There is a small barnyard on site and Kathryn had fun feeding the horse and became very good friends with a goat! If you ever travel to Kentucky, you need to know the time zone for your location. As you travel, you cross back and forth from Central to Eastern.

I took a day trip up to Georgetown, Kentucky to take the Toyota Factory Tour. I had to book this free tour back in August as it is that popular. This factory is the state of the art “Just In Time” manufacturing process, which means the parts arrive or are manufactured just as the are needed on the assembly line. This facility has 7.5 million square feet of floor space, 7,000 team members, produces 500,000 Camrys and Avalons (including hybrids) per year, which equates to 2,000 per day, or one every 55 seconds. In January they will also produce a hybrid Rav 4. No photos are allowed. You can’t even bring your purse, I-phone or camera in. Lockers are provided.

Another day trip was to Crystal Onyx Cave in Cave City. As with most hobbies, there are clubs that walk, climb, rappel and digitally map the caves in the area. I chose this site and not one of the large tourist caves because it was billed as an “up close and personal” tour. It was – only three guests – as we discovered geological features such as stalactites, stalagmites, run stone dams, soda straws, flow stones, and columns. All so close you could touch them, as we descended one hundred and twenty six feet below the surface. I took so many photos but they just can’t do this experience justice.

And later that same day, right down I-65, is Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of the National Corvette Museum. As a car guy, I didn’t learn much new but it was great to see the concept cars that never made it to production. Yes, this place collapsed into a sink hole a few years ago but has been restored. And that is now part of the display.

Our next campground wasn’t a campground at all but the final stop on The Reunion Tour, visiting my sister Kay, her husband Bruce, my nephew Erik, his wife Karen, their son Jack, my niece Jill and her husband Brian. They all live on the family compound, seventy plus acres in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, Northwest of Nashville, by about forty five minutes. This is as far West as we go. Time to head East and work our way back to Florida for the Winter.

We parked the motor home, shut it down, and stayed with them in their house. Pictured below is their house, our camp site, the setting, and of course my sister and brother-in-law.

The gang (minus Jill and Brian) packed into the car to play tourist in downtown Nashville. Here is the view from the Gateway Bridge. The AT&T Building, aka The Batman Building, and Nissan Field home of the Titans.

The daytrip included the Backstage Tour of The Grand Ole Opry. (Thanks Karen for setting this up.) On this tour, our excellent Tour Guide Randy, made us actually feel the excitement of “this is the place where country music history was made!” Photos below are of: The Ryman Auditorium exterior; an original tour bus; the mail boxes where they will put your letter if you send one to your favorite artist; one of the many backstage dressing rooms; the wall of plaques showing the artists enshrined into the Opry; the famous circle where each artist performed; (moved here from the original theatre) the new stage; and of course the tourists.

Our next stop was the KOA Crossville, Tennessee. It is a beautiful, well kept campground on the Cumberland Plateau, which is a large flat-topped tableland. You know you are on the plateau as I-40 climbs up the 5% grade for miles! Since this was a relaxed four day stop and our site was spacious with a patio, we had plans for a few campfires but the weather did not cooperate. (rain) At least my farmgirl wife got to feed the horses some carrots.

So far on our adventure we have not spent a night in a rest area, Walmart, or parking lot, (if you don’t count KOA Newburgh) until now. We spent two nights in the parking lot of National Indoor RV Center, Lawrenceville, Georgia, just Northwest of Atlanta. And this was by choice!

We scheduled a routine maintenance stop at NIRVC due to their excellent reputation online before we park for the Winter in Florida. We were not disappointed. They did a great job! It is interesting to see six hundred thousand dollar motor homes parked side by side and owners “Livin’ the Dream” in a parking lot. On the other hand, our antenna received forty eight TV channels. The parking lot had about thirty million dollars worth of inventory, both for sale and awaiting service appointments. And their indoor storage building can hold another three hundred units. Our coach is ready to be parked in Florida and I think we are too.

Our next campground was more of a hop than a stop. It was a short two hour drive, ninety miles, from NIRVC to KOA Forsyth, Georgia. We planned it this way in case our service appointment ran into Thursday, we could still get thru the Atlanta traffic (the worst) and still arrive before dark. We try never to arrive and have to set up in the dark. We’ve never arrived at a campground so early!

Forsyth is the county seat and the geographical middle of Georgia. One of the main attractions in the area is the Whistle Stop Café where Green Fried Tomatoes was filmed. (we didn’t visit)

Continuing our way back to Florida, our next campground was River’s End RV Park on Tybee Island, Georgia, seventeen miles South of Savannah. This is Georgia “low country” home to shrimp boats and tidal flats. You expect Forrest Gump to come around the corner at any moment. When the tide comes in, the water raises eight feet and can come in a eight knots.

As I’ve said before, when you check into a campground, you never know what you will find. We found ourselves surrounded by a group of eighteen who travel together in what are called, tags and tahs. These cute little trailers don’t look much bigger than our Honda Fit.

While on the island I had to have a local food, a Hushpuppy. A Hushpuppy is a small, savory, deep-fried round ball made from cornmeal-based batter.

We spent a beautiful day on the water with Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tour. It was a great way to learn about Tybee Island and dolphins. I say learn because we really didn’t see any dolphins on today’s tour. Well there was this one by the buoy.

Back To The Future! It’s hard to believe, but our last stop on the “Reunion Tour” was actually the first stop ever in a motor home. The KOA Whippoorill in Orlando was where we went when we rented a coach to see if Paul could drive one. It’s hard to believe that was less than a year ago (see the posts Test Drive one and two) since so many changes have happened in eleven months! And more changes are to come. The campground will be closing on April 25th, as the property was sold for development.

What hasn’t changed is how much we enjoy the waterfront view. Although we are in Orlando, we are not much for theme parks. We would rather enjoy the sun rise over the lake, having a campfire to cook hot dogs and eat smores and soak in the pool and hot tub! This campground was the perfect final stop of our tour!!

And we’re back! Back to Creekside RV Resort in Punta Gorda, Florida, the first place we stayed in our own motor home after we sold the house, cars, and furniture, and decided to live full time in an RV. We will be parked here for six months which will give us time to get caught up with friends and former neighbors, go for the annual doctor’s visits, plan next year’s trip, and set up the coach like a house not an RV parked for a few days. You know, with things like Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and dishes not separated by those non skid thingys.

This large camp ground (two hundred plus sites) is a full-on adult RV Resort, complete with clubhouse, workout room, card room, large gathering room with kitchen, pool table room including chandelier, a large laundry room, ( all spotlessly clean) and of course shuffleboard, horse shoes, bocci ball, pickle ball the heated pool and hot tub. If you want to join activities there are a dozen daily as we are coming into season in Florida. We’ve been in some very crowed camp grounds on our trip, this is NOT one of them. The sites are finished with landscaping, pavers, and are both long and wide. Our neighbor behind us doesn’t even use a tent. He just roams around the property.

We are located right across the street from the Punta Gorda Airport, which on the first weekend we arrived, hosted the Annual South Florida Air Show. So, we were treated to a free show including the Air Force Thunderbirds! It reminded me of staying in Virginia Beach only these jets were Air Force not Navy and this was a precision air show not military training for protecting our Nation.

Even though we are parked for six months we are still “technically” always going to be on the road, so here is a new postcard. Yes, even in Florida when the temperature is eighty degrees, people still decorate for Christmas and sing I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas! Last night, forty nine of our fellow campers boarded a boat from Punta Gorda Harbor and went for a cruise to see the sunset and Christmas lights on the houses along the canals. Great fun!

Christmas in the RV Resort this year was different but fun. There was a small gathering in the clubhouse on Christmas Eve, and a larger group on Christmas for dinner and a gift exchange. It wasn’t our annual party for forty nine but it was nice. This was the first Christmas since 2003 we weren’t in our decorated home, but I did the best I could with decorating the motor home. Santa backed in, serenaded by carolers, to watch the sunset! (photo by Donna our visiting daughter)