Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Daytona!


Gail:  Two things that Jack has always wanted to do are visit Daytona International Speedway and drive out on Daytona Beach...and he got to check them both off his list this trip!

Jack:  When you turn off I-95, the grandstands loom above the trees and buildings.  Your heart races a bit knowing that this the real deal.  As we got closer and began to see the speedway, it is everything I'd dreamed about.  We parked and headed toward the museum, passing over the hand prints in the sidewalk of many past winners.  There were statues of Bill France, his wife and Bill France Jr. but the one of Dale Earnhardt is the most awe inspiring.

Gail:  At the Speedway, we took the 90 minute "All Access Tour".  It took us around the track, along the infield, down pit road, into the NASCAR Sprint Cup garages, the Drivers' Meeting Room and Victory Lane.  We saw the Daytona Rising Project, the Daytona Championship Car, damage, confetti and all, and sat in the VIP Suite along the backstretch.

Jack:  The first stop on our speedway tour was outside of turns three and four.  Looking over the edge was like looking straight down.  I never realized what a 33 degree grade actually looked like.  We passed that area again later from the inside apron and, yes, it almost hurts your neck looking up at the catch fence above.  We stopped several times to see the backstretch VIP tower, driver's meeting room, inside the garages, a cup car vs. a Rolex 24 prototype, etc.  We toured down pit road and out onto the front straight stopping at the start-finish line.  Walking on the 18 degree banking was a thrill!  Oh, we had our picture taken in Victory Lane (so cool!!).  Our tour ended back inside the museum, viewing the 2012 winning Jimmy Johnson car number 48.  It's in the exact condition it left Victory Lane last February.  How cool is that!!  Also saw the Harley J. Earl Trophy, which is absolutely awesome.



Jack, on the Tri-Oval, walking up the 18% grade by the Start/Finish Line.  He managed it just fine; I stood back and took the photo...I know my limitations!

We had our picture taken on Victory Lane.


Championship Car -  notice the confetti


The Harley J. Earl Perpetual Trophy rests year round inside the Daytona 500 Experience and bears the name of every Daytona 500 Champion.  No name appears more than Richard Petty with 7 victories.

Below: (left) Dale Earnhardt's and (right) Jeff Gordon's 
Plaques on the Daytona 500 Champion's Walk of Fame 




Gail:  It was a bright, sunny, cool day, and so windy that I lost a favorite earring, but it was an awesome day at the Speedway!!!

Jack:  If you're ever in Florida, it's a must see/do experience, well worth the money.  If you're a racing nut, it may even bring some goose bumps.





Gail:  A couple of days later, the temps were up and the wind was down so we drove over to Daytona Beach.  Just as Jack was wondering if you could still drive on the beach, we came upon a road that lead right to the beach...so onto the sand we went.  I'm not sure monster trucks like ours are meant to drive on soft sand but Jack put it into 4 wheel mode and drive we did!  I got a few pics of the beach but, unfortunately none of us driving on it. 

Jack:  Visiting Daytona Beach was really cool.  After reading about it and seeing it in movies and TV shows, driving on the beach was absolutely awesome.  The waves within 40 feet, the sun shining with a gentle breeze, people enjoying themselves all along the 2 miles of beach access. The only bad part was I couldn't stop and park.  The dually was just too heavy and sunk into the sand whenever we got off the packed roadway.  All in all, a great experience, one I always thought would never happen.

Scratch two items off my bucket list!!
   





On Daytona Beach.  All in all, a very cool experience!  Maybe one day we'll be back for a race...




While we were visiting Daytona we stayed at Nova Campground in Port Orange and had a very nice, although very shady, campsite.

St Augustine...

Bridge of Lions
We only had three nights and two days in St. Augustine and it wasn't enough.  It is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the country, founded in 1565.  Who knew something I learned in fourth grade would be useful information now?  It is also a beautiful city, the old architecture, red tile roofs, narrow streets, landscaping and, my favorite, the Bridge of Lions.   I've visited three times and love it; this was Jack's first visit and he loved it too.

We stayed in a Passport America campground, St. John's RV Park.  The rate was good, especially considering how expensive the St. Augustine area is, but the campground...not so much.  We knew it was a no-frills campground and that was fine, but the sites were small and cramped, with many permanent units in poor shape.  It is a tribute to Jack's driving skills that he was able to back our rig into our spot without any damage.  They have a few pull-thru spots up front and, if we can get one of those, we will stay there next time, otherwise we'll opt for one of the more expensive campgrounds.

We spent the first day wandering the Old City, the second day we visited The Lightner Museum and Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US.  As for the beauty of St. Augustine, the photos speak for themselves...

Flagler College - used to be a hotel
 
Lunch at Scarlett O'Hara's













The Lightner Museum


Some pieces on display in The Lightner Museum.
Wish I could remember the dates and details of these...they were so interesting!
Click to enlarge...


                  
Mummy of a child
We are standing on top of Castillo de San Marcos



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Frozen Water Pumps and Tearful Good-byes...

We are finally on the road.  As I expected, saying good bye to my Katie and Jackson was very hard.  While I didn't sob, I certainly got teary.  It didn't make it any easier that, when I went to hug her, Katie quietly said, "Don't leave."  It is making me tear up just writing about it.  We talked and hugged and kissed and discussed the ways we will keep in touch...and I promised I will fly back for a visit if we are gone longer than I can stand.  Jackson hugged us longer than usual, then as we were leaving, my dramatic grandson jokingly grabbed onto Jack's leg yelling, "Don't leave me, don't leave me!"  I know he was playing around, but it was how I felt inside.  It was also hard saying good bye to Rebecca, we are very close.  Thankfully, she has been very encouraging of my pursing my travel dream.

Our plan was to leave Wilmington, NC on Jan 9th...that was the plan, anyway.
Earlier that week temps plummeted to low 20s...maybe even teens.  We (thought) we took necessary precautions...filled our fresh tank, turned on the pump, disconnected from city water and kept the furnace running.  It worked the first couple of days, then we woke up one morning to no water.  We figured the water pump had frozen, but temps were warming up that day to the 40s, so we bought a new water hose (current one was frozen), shut off the pump, reconnected to city water and...voila, water!  We were happy and went about our preparations to leave the next day.  That evening while watching TV, Jack heard a POP...then he heard water running.  He went out to investigate and found water pouring out from under our RV!  We thought a pipe had burst; he turned off the city water supply and we knew we weren't going anywhere the next day.  Next morning we called a mobile RV Tech and were lucky he had a cancellation and was able to get out to us the same day.  Turns out it wasn't a pipe, but the water pump that burst, which he replaced.  We got on the road on the 10th...only a day late.

Being without water for a couple of days put me way behind on laundry...our little washer/dryer does miniscule loads...so I decided, since we were delayed anyway, going over to Becca's and catching up on the laundry would be productive.  I was concerned over having to say good bye again, but also loved the idea of a little extra time with the kids.  When I arrived, I said to the kids that I bet they didn't expect to see me and told them about the broken water pump and how bad it was.  Katie grinned and said, "Well, it wasn't completely bad."  Got all my laundry done and enjoyed an afternoon with Katie and Jackson.  We kept the good byes simple this time.

So...we are on the road.  Spent an overnight in Walterboro, SC at New Green Acres RV Park.  It boasts the longest pull-thrus this side of the Mississippi,...and I don't doubt it.  It is an easy on/off from I-95 and has room for the longest RV combo to park without unhitching.

Next stop, St. Augustine...


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Random Reflections...

The best thing about retirement is having no particular place to be every morning.  My only responsibility is walking our dogs, Maggie and Ryan.  I really enjoy the fact that the dogs appreciate my efforts.  They are quite easily pleased and they don't ask more than a little food, water, and attention.  I can handle that.  I really love our dogs.

Since Gail and I were married, we've been traveling.  We finally got to try out our 5th wheel.  We discovered a wide variety of uses for bungee cords after finding many of our belongings misplaced at the next campground.  Some of our country's wonderful interstates are in serious need of some TLC, to say the least.  Not that we had any loss or damage, but finding things that were once in cabinets on one side of the 5th wheel suddenly on the opposite side concerned us both.

A real downside has been the weather.  In Topsail it rained for 3 or 4 days prior to our leaving the campground and we remained under the same storm until we reached our Washington, DC campground two days later.  Setting up our 5th wheel and tearing down in the rain is not a task I relish.  Oh, and we left 75 degree temperatures and landed in 48 to 53 degrees.  I can't wait for winter, right!  Overall our trip has gone quite well.


Speaking of our trip, we found many of our greatest national treasures being held hostage both in DC and National Parks.  I have some very unkind words for the so called elected "representatives" in DC.  I must admit I will never understand why some people have such an aversion to compromise for the greater good.  To be so arrogant as to think they know what the people want without asking is unconscionable.  My feeling is when elected officials determine they know best what's good for the country, they should be replaced.  We did not put them there to take care of us, we put them there to speak and act on our behalf.  Sounds as though changes are required to reacquaint them with reality.


Moving on, we have found we don't like being under large trees with acorns and squirrels.  There's nothing like leaning back to take a nap and having dive bombing squirrels dropping acorns on the roof.  Will definitely sit you right up when you're half asleep.  Autumn's leaves cause problems when closing the slides.  Sweeping the roof and slides is required before leaving a campground.  Crows can be very athletic when they find a loose acorn on the roof.  If you've ever wondered what a soccer game sounds like underground, I can tell you.

We spent one of the best Thanksgivings I've experienced in years in Myrtle Beach.  I attribute that to the company I am now keeping.  Gail and I went to Ryan's Restaurant and had quiet a dinner.  It was buffet style so we got more than we could eat, which we paid for later.  Another perk was the price, it was very easy on the wallet and was quite good.  The best thing was that we were together and had lots to be thankful for this past year.  The soothing sound of the ocean made for a wonderful month on the beach.
We've spent the Christmas holidays in Wilmington.  Gail needs to get in a lot of grandma time because after this we head to Florida for two months and then on to parts west.  We went to have lunch with the youngsters at school one day, Gail babysat them several times, and we spent Christmas with them.  Not to mention the occasional drop-bys from time to time.  She has decided that, while on the road, should she miss them too much, she may hop a plane and make a weekend visit.  I can't blame her, I fully understand how she feels as I don't get to see my grandkids as often as I'd like.
Wilmington has one drawback: it has one way into town and one way out.  Trying to get in or out of the KOA here is tricky and time consuming.  Turning right takes a minute or two depending on traffic but turning left can take up to five or more minutes.  This is just to get into the center turn lane, getting into traffic sometimes takes more time.  I've considered writing a letter to the editor but think it is a waste of time as the town has been this way for years and I guess no one else is complaining.
To be honest, we haven't tried to banish one another to the couch, the dogs haven't tried to leave home, we haven't gone broke nor have we been asked to not return by any of the campgrounds we've stayed at, so I guess we are doing great.
Once we leave Wilmington we are embarking on new ground, places we have no ties to in any way.  So far we have been in areas familiar to us and had people close by, but now we will really be on our own.  It's both exciting and a little scary but, overall, we are looking forward to the travel and the adventures.  Time will tell.   ...Jack

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

2013 has been quite eventful.  A year ago our life was very different.  We were living together in Jack's townhouse, both working at jobs that took a lot out of us.  Now we are retired and living in a fifth wheel, traveling.  Oh...and we got married along the way.

In January we went to an RV show, learned about fifth wheels...and bought a truck.   That month I also did a favor for a co-worker and ended up drowning my car...and the seeds of early retirement were not only planted, but fertilized and blossomed.  The job was becoming too much for me and I needed to get out.  Jack was very supportive and encouraged me to go ahead and retire early.  I went out with a bang the first of April.  We went to Indiana in mid April and bought our new fifth wheel and moved into it the last of June when Jack retired.

Today marks six months of full-timing.  It has gone quickly and has been quite a learning curve...most of it documented in previous posts.  We have learned to live together in 400 square feet of space.  We are learning what kind of traveling we do and don't like and mostly seem to be on the same page.  Three months in one spot is too long, moving every three or four days is too frequent.  Other than overnights to get somewhere, we prefer stays of a week, maybe two, interspersed with a month here and there.  We've also learned that weekly and monthly stays are kinder to our budget.  We spend a lot on food, eating out too often because we enjoy it, relying more on convenience foods and less on cooking.  We do okay when we are parked somewhere for a month, but fall into vacation mode when we are traveling more.  Vacation mode is fine if you have deep pockets, which we don't.  I'm told that is common in beginners to this way of life and will wear off after a while.  I know there is lots more we will learn along the way.

Both our dogs are seniors (13 and 14) and we are seeing the older one, Ryan, age quickly these last six months.  I'm not sure if he'll be with us this time next year, but for now he is comfortable and pain-free.  Maggie is in good shape and seems to be adapting to this new life, she hates when it is time to get in the truck to go anywhere, but she's always been like that.

We have limited our travel to the East coast for several reasons and were able to return home for Christmas with Rebecca and my grandchildren, but we will be spreading our wings starting next week.  We are heading to Florida for some warm weather, then we'll head west.  I am going to hate saying good bye to my family, but I'm excited about our coming adventures.  I know Jack is looking forward to going west and seeing his family when we hit California.

Living in one place in an apartment would probably be easier than living on the road, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.  We want to have some adventures while we still can.  If there is anything that my hospice work taught me, it's that we never know how much time we have left.

Looking forward to 2014 and whatever adventures it holds...