Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Routine of Sorts in VB

The snow melted about a week ago here in Virginia Beach.
Rain and 70 degree weather changed things dramatically.  Regardless of the weather, we are excited to be within 100 yards of the beach.  In cold weather or warmer weather, I love the beach!

I have had many walks along this beach and no doubt will continue them during the next few months that we will spend here.  We are thinking we'll be around until the first part of May.
While here, I had a followup appointment with the retina specialist.  He liked the looks of things and said I should go see the cataract specialist to see if I should do that surgery now or get a new prescription.

He recommended surgery so that is what I did.
This amazing journey through this segment of the high tech medical field continues.  Cataract surgery looked like this for me as I waited.  About 15 minutes after this I was done.  Now 10 days later -- results are terrific.  I am SO thankful.  I have 20/30 eyesight now and in about a month when I get new glasses, it could get even better.  

Seven months ago I could not tell the nurse how many fingers she was holding up.  Now the prospects are good for better than 20/30 eyesight.  -- Amazing!  

The real reason we are here in Virginia Beach is to be grandparents!  That is one special job description.   We love the whole idea and like spending time with Brooks and Kelly during the daytime.

He is one busy fella and cute as he can be.  Nothing makes his day more than playing outside!
He likes running around and teasing Lennon (black/white dog) his bone.
You will notice a green golf club on the ground.  He isn't too excited about that yet, but we are working on it...

He does like kicking the soccer ball, or raking through his garden - he can spend hours in the yard every day when it is not raining.
 Sometimes he just runs around and plays hide and seek behind the trees. Or on his little climbing fort and slide.
Other times he takes a break and drinks a smoothie.  And he points to the airplanes in the sky that he can hear when they take off.
 Other times, he chills out inside and watches some of his YouTube videos on his iPad.
 Or he comes over to the Roadrunner and plays 'pick up sticks'.

Yesterday we went to the local library.  Its pretty excellent with a little kids area that has a lot of activities.
Seems as if we end up spending about 1/2 our time over at Kelly and Jon's which is wonderful.  And the other half, we are digging out of the snow, working on the blog (I have been doing a lot of catchup) and reading.

I have read a number of books over the past few weeks and and currently enjoying one on Lincoln "Team of Rivals" and one of local history, "Virginia Beach, Then and Now".

That's about it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Sort of a 'day in the life' post of what we've been up to.  Hope you are having a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Roadrunner Rewind: 2009 Travels - Our First 6 Months

We started full-timing in May 2009.  It took a couple of years of planning, research, decisions, project management (my worldview) milestones, and action -- and we launched into one of the best things Pam and I have ever done.

Looking back helps remind us of the excitement we felt and the new territories we covered and the things we felt during those first few months.  What an exciting time.  We had big plans and felt like sponges:  we couldn't soak it all in fast enough.

Everyday it seemed like we were learning a hundred things!  Everyday we felt excited and energetic and the whole idea was daunting. Our learning curve was steep and our brains could not take it all in. Something I have only recently been able to do is put together a contiguous map of the places we stopped.

Google Maps limits how many locations that can be displayed at one time on the map.  I had to learn to use overlays.  There are more features to learn I am sure but here's a look at where we went:

The day we bought the Roadrunner (2007 Tiffin Allegro Bus):  May 22, 2009
What an exciting day!  During the next six months we made our way to Maynardville TN to see Pam's sister and family.  Then we headed to Oklahoma City to see friends Kirk and Susan.

Our next scheduled stop was in Pontiac Illinois for a three week stint with the NOMADS - a volunteer group.

We then traveled to Canada (Petrolia across from the Port Huron border crossing and onto the beautiful Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory.)

We headed west to Mount Rushmore and then south again to another volunteer project in Greensburg KS.  After that, we visited brother Reid in Albuquerque.

We drove the Roadrunner south after that and headed to Kerrville TX for our first rally (with RV-Dreams).  We then went to the Fort Worth area to see brother Brad and then explored that area of Texas.

From there we went to the Rio Grande Valley and the border town of Nuevo Progresso.  Once there we crossed the border (on foot) and tried out Mexican dental care.

Our volunteer efforts to us to Galveston TX for a few weeks and then we headed west again.

It was on to Tucson next where we spent some time before heading to the San Diego/Camp Pendleton area for the holidays.

From there we went north to Redlands CA, near where we lived in the mid 1980's and visited former neighbors Bob and Sue.

It was a busy first six months on the road.  We tried to see a lot.  We did!  And we learned a lot and were pretty excited to be on the road.

We were asked, "What's the most memorable thing you have seen so far your travels"?   Ugh... that is always a hard question but some of the more notable memories include:

  • Taking in the morning fog over the lake at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Benbrook Lake, Fort Worth, TX
  • Disaster Relief volunteering, meeting like-minded folks in Galveston, TX
  • Getting shivers at the exceptionally well done evening ceremony honoring military at Mount Rushmore
  • Enjoying middle America at a lovely evening town 4th of July concert in Pontiac Illinois
  • Crowding 17 friends and family into the Roadrunner over the holidays on the beach at Camp Pendleton CA
For a more complete listing of our experiences during the year, you can click on the right panel of the blog under '2009'.

That's a recap of the Roadrunner Travels during the first six months of our time on the road.  Its fun to look back!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Roadrunner in 7 Degrees!

The temperature outside said 19 degrees but 'feels like 7 degrees'.  Which meant it was cold outside.  We had been preparing for it for a couple of days and now after a couple of nights of cold weather -- so far so good.

We have a lot to learn in winter camping in the Roadrunner but I thought I'd tell you a number of things we have done:
First of all, we made sure we had a couple of good electric ceramic heaters.  We already had a small one from Walmart.  Believe it sells for about $16.
We weren't too sure about our larger oscillating one we use up front, so we replaced it with one from Costco
This one is listed at $60.
Plug the holes:
Next, we spent time fill up every nook and cranny where air could come into the Roadrunner.  Pam stuffed some 8" foam insulation.  She cut off lengths of it and then folded it under the seam where the slide outs overlaid onto the floor.  
There is a thin strip folded under the PS slideout area beneath the sofa.
On the DS bedroom slideout, we put a $2.97 pillow and some towels down to fill up some gaps to the outside.
 And some more strips of the 8" foam along the lip of the PS slideout.
 Finally, underneath the bed on the DS nearest the closet, there is a area that can collect some cold air from the outside, so more towels went there.
Cover the windows:
Another project she took on was to get a couple of curtains and hang them over the front door and the Passenger Side (PS) window and console near the front door.
Pam found a small curtain rod and then engineered a way hang it up so she could thread a pair of drapes over the windows and door.  We pull down both the day/night and blackout shade, then pull out the curtain.  We used to do a variation of that in our sticks and bricks home years ago.
In the bathroom, I cut a couple of pieces of leftover from the water heater blanket and taped them over the bathroom windows.  It looks pretty bad from the outside, but works well on the inside.

Pam wanted to make curtains for the bathroom so she took down the blinds we had there.  New look and warmer!
Insulate and heat the wet bay:
I put a lot of effort into making it as warm as I could in the wet bay.  I got an 8" roll
Get commercial heated hose:
The water pipes were frozen when we arrived a couple of weeks ago. I don't know how much difference it made to wrap the handle and top of the faucet in fiberglass insulation, but so far so good.
The real difference is probably the commercial heated hose that we have hooked up and plugged in.

One of life's joys in the midst of cold weather is turning the faucet on in the morning and see the water come out in the kitchen sink.  

If it freezes, we have a back up with a two gallon jug of water on standby just in case.
Consider pulling in the Slides:
The main reason I pulled in the slides was to protect the new toppers over the slideouts.  We just had new toppers put on and I know ice and snow tends to take their toll on them.  
We were expecting 8"-12" so I knew I'd probably have to get up on top of the Roadrunner and get all the snow off.  Pulling in the slides meant I wouldn't have to do that. 
The other reason we thought it was a good idea was we thought it would be warmer inside with less space to heat.  We kept it closed up for a couple of days.  It was cozy but not a big deal.

Put away the sewer hose:
I like to put away my hose when it is freezing outside.  It might crack or I might step on it and then I'll have to repair it or get another one.  Also by capping off the sewer connection in the wet bay, we have one less exposed hole/pipe into the RV.  If the tanks fill up, you dig out the sewer hole and hook up the hose, empty and then put it all back.  Takes 10 minutes.

Go easy on the gas heat:
Some installed an adapter to their propane gas tank so they can connect portable propane tank to their RV.  We've chosen not to do that so far.  But that means we have to keep an eye on how much we are burning with the hot water heater (for showers) and we watch the heater furnace.  If it is kicking on too much, we turn it down and rely on our electric heaters.  Our experience has been the coach heat pump is pretty worthless in cold weather.

One thing just started doing is leaving the portable ceramic heater turned on at night so the gas heater doesn't engage.  

We know we will have to pull in the slides and drive about 2 miles over to the KOA and fill up once or twice during the winter, but that is OK.  Its not a bad idea to fire up the Roadrunner and let it run a little bit once every few weeks.

Wear more clothes:
Hate to state the obvious but I will. Winter time is when I pull out those T-Shirts that are too snug on me.  They are great as undershirts.  I usually then have a long sleeve T-Shirt over it with a fleece or sweatshirt over that.  

Put a Snuggie on the Lazy Boy:
Makes a big difference to me when I sit down in the leather Lazy Boy.  I hate to sit on a cold chair and this really works.  I also manage to put a throw blanket on if I need it.
Pam usually has an afghan/blanket on her legs most of the time and she especially does during cold weather!
Flannel sheets and an extra blanket on the bed:
This shows the flannel sheets with a blanket, bedspread, another blanket and a blue throw afghan on top.  Layers work, especially with the flannel sheets!
Heat engine switch:
If you have one of those switches on your Driver Side console, you might want to keep it turned on during the really cold weather - even if you are not planning on going anywhere any time soon.
Ours is turned on and is the second one from the left on the top row of the console.

There are probably some other things we could do to make it warmer inside the Roadrunner, like add more rugs or get carpet for the main area.  And that cold ceramic floor in the morning IS cold!  But we don't intend to spend winter in the cold too often, so we'll probably not do that.

There is a look at some of the things we do to keep warm in cold weather.  It is all part of the adventure.  You probably have some other tips - so please share them!

Thanks for taking a look today and joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Roadrunner Review: 2016 Travels Across the US - Some Highlights

We covered a lot of ground in 2016.  The interactive map below allows you to zoom in and see the finer details of where we were throughout the country.  That feature also lets you to see and enlarge the more congested areas of our travels -- like the places where we camped in Florida.

My goal in providing this is really for our personal record -- We want to be able to get a synopsis of what we did in 2016.  For the many tales and memories along the way, we can refer to the individual posts along the right sidebar that are organized monthly.

Meanwhile, we look back fondly on what was a great 2016 and the end of our 7th year on the road!

In 2016 we started in Cedar Keys, Florida and ended up in Virginia Beach, VA.  We spent  120 days in Florida and another 51 in Virginia which accounted for almost half the year.

We stayed in 70 campgrounds during the year and camped anywhere from an overnight stop to a full three weeks in one location (Portland when I had eye surgery.)  16 times we stayed a week or more at one place including eight days in July at brother Marty's cabin in the Sierra's and a full week in December at Key West.

So here's my take at some of the highlights of our travels:

One of our goals during the year was to get to know more of Florida.  We were in Cedar Keys on the Gulf Coast when the New Year began.  That was an interesting place with some history.  I learned that John Muir of Sierra fame actually visited the area in 1916.  It was part of his 1000 Mile Walk to the Gulf which originated from Indiana.
While in Florida we found out some resorts have a 'one time' deal where campers can stay for a week free.  We did that in Hudson FL at the Word of Life Campground.  We also found out again how great County Parks are in Florida.  Almost all the parks are great in Florida.  We camped at some new places along the east coast for the first time and also located a couple of professional golf tournaments to attend.
While north of Tampa, we toured the museum in Tarpon Springs and learned about the sponge industry of years ago.

We got to see a golf tournament not too far away.
One of my favorites, Patrick Reed, is putting out at the Honda Classic.  The PGA really does a nice job with vets and their 'Birdies for the Brave' program which has tickets and lunch for former military members.  
We also saw an LPGA event in Ocala.  We saw Christie Kerr and Paula Creamer but neither were competitive that week.

While in Florida last winter we also got to see a few special friends:
Bob and Patty

Ed and Candace

Marge and George

Mike and Helen

Howard and Linda

Joe and Carolyn

Bill and Marg
We had a couple of 'at the right place at the right time' moments during the year.  Our first , we were leaving the Roadrunner in Florida and going back to Virginia to celebrate Brooks' first birthday.  We had just read on FaceBook that long time friends Steve and Teresa were spending a few weeks in Hilton Head.
Steve and Therressa
 Another was being about to catch up with Cousin Kevin and Wife Sue (here with one of their three sons Tristin).
Last time we saw these folks was in California when they were in the San Diego area.  Later we were out in Walla Walla WA and I sent a message to cousin Gary who now lives in Costa Rica.  He grew up in Walla Walla and I said, 'Guess what?  We are here in your home town for a few days. Unbeknownst to me, he was having a high school reunion the next day in Walla Walla.
We got to join him and Lisa for lunch.

But back to our travels early in the year.  We spent some time around Tampa and Hudson in Florida, and then made a quick trip back to Virginia Beach to celebrate this guy's first birthday.
He amazes me.  At one year old, he had already been walking for a couple of months.  What a fun guy!  And he has really changed now in January as he approaches his

Next it was off to Macon Georgia for another Habit for Humanity Care-A-Vanner Build.  We got to work with these fine folks and make some new friends.  We had worked there before with the two couples on the left.
And a few weeks later we joined up with Tom and Carol at the North Ft Myers HFH for more Habitat work.
We always find some time for the beaches...We love the Florida beaches!
We could stand being away from little Brooks for too long, so we headed back to Virginia Beach for a few weeks.
It doesn't take too much to tire Grandpa out sometimes...
 He loved for daddy to push him in his front yard swing.
 And for Grandma to read to him.
 Sometimes he just contemplated life as he looked out the front window.
We started our journey West the first part of May.  We had stops in Maynardville TN to see family and also Red Bay AL for some maintenance at some local businesses near the Tiffin factory.  While there we saw friends Steve and Karen.
We had short visits with Kirk and Susan in Oklahoma City
and brother Reid and wife Amy in Albuquerque.
From Albuquerque, we journeyed past the Grand Canyon AZ and onto the San Bernardino area and stayed in Yucaipa County Park, near Redlands. While there, we had a bit of deja vu hanging out in Mr. Bob's garage.  We were neighbors in San Bernardino in the mid 1980's and spent hours doing just that while he worked on his many projects.
Bob and Sue
A few days later, we found ourselves north and in Bakersfield country at Tehachapi visiting with Paul and Bobbi at their beautiful place.  We met them in 2010 at a Habitat Build in Santa Fe and have seen them almost every year since then.
We inched farther north past Fresno and then took a couple of weeks to stay in one place at Chowchilla.  We had time for golf and day trips to see Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 
Nephew Nate and wife Angela 

We were here on the West Coast to see my brothers and wives at another Warner Brothers Reunion.  Brother Marty has a cabin in the Sierras with a parking space, power and water for the Roadrunner.  We enjoyed a week together this time.
We had lots of activities plus some good downtime.  One day we went to Big Trees State Park.
 Marty built his cabin in the 1970's but had the forethought to make the drive way wide enough for a motor home.  Never thought in a million years we'd be parking ours there one day.
 Pam and Reid
 The ladies inside the kitchen
 Eating dinner outside on the large deck
 Coordinating schedules
It was a beautiful time together and we continued on our travels.  The first night out from there, I pulled into a station and put gasoline in our diesel pusher.  Oops.  Not good.  We got towed and six hours later we were all fixed up and made it to our campground for a few days at Travis AFB.

Then it was north to see the California Redwoods again before making it over to the Oregon Coast.
Years ago we traveled north-south along the Oregon Coast, but this time we went in the other direction.  It was breathtaking, spectacular and one of America's most scenic areas.

Our first time seeing the Oregon Coast we liked the Newport area and returned there. 
Yaquina Lighthouse in the distance
Along the coast in the dairy town of Tillamook, we visited the local museum.  We love to do that in small towns.  And here was another one with a great taxidermy collection.  After a couple of hours, we returned to our car and it wouldn't start.  Yikes.  Starter went out and for the second time in three weeks we were getting towed!
We did some walking to find a parts store, a garage and waited a while to get the tow truck.  We were able to get the work done at a rundown looking place on the edge of town.  But when you are out of airspeed and go with what you've got.  Everything turned out well and we were back in business the next morning.  So it was all part of the adventure!

We got back on the road and made our way as far north as the Columbia River before turning east.  Pam and I were fascinated by the history of Lewis and Clark and made it a point to see as many of the places they traveled when seeking the 'Northwest Passage'.  We spent a few days in Astoria OR and made it out to Cape Disappointment
And to Fort Clatsop where they spent a winter after reaching the Pacific Ocean.
While in the Portland area, I sensed a bit of change in my eye and found a doctor who said said I did in fact have a retina detachment. Hmm...  This was on Friday and I was scheduled for surgery on Monday AM.  Everything went very well.  Now that I'm back in Virginia Beach, another retina specialist said it looks good and the doctor in Portland did a great job.

Back in Portland while recuperating, long time friend Kimberly came by to see us at the campground.  We hadn't seen her in years and it was nice of her to come by.
After a little more than two weeks there in Portland, we continued along to Columbia River headed east to Walla Walla, Montana and then south to Memphis:

Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge
Meeting up with friends Marge and George in Walla Walla

Another one of America's scenic places is Montana.  We had hoped to go by and see Glacier National Park again, but weren't able to do that.  During our first summer on the road in 2009, we had the chance to visit Montana and thought it was amazing.  It still is.

Though we didn't get to see as much of the state as we would have liked to, we see a lot of the wonderful vistas and sweeping valleys and meadows in Montana.
It was breathtaking and one of our favorite places.
 Last time through Montana, we weren't able to stop and visit with high school friend Donna and husband.  But this time we did just that.  We met up for dinner one night and they invited us out the next day to their place which is way out in the country (as in 7 miles beyond the paved roads).
Their little slice of heaven sits right on the banks of the Stillwater River.  It was nice seeing her again and meeting Paul.

We had done some route planning and wanted to see Custer's Little Big Horn.  This time it was right on the way so we were able stop for a couple of hours at Custer's Last Stand (Little Bighorn National Battlefield),
We found a campground for the night in Sheridan Wyoming where friends Cindy and Tim (on each side of Pam below)
were with the others in the picture at a Habitat Build.  We had planned on being on that build, but had to back out to get my eye worked on.

We continued on our trek back to Virginia for a few weeks with stops at the famous Wall Drug

and Sioux Falls -- where we got to see Steve and Therressa again since its their hometown,
Steve and Therressa
In Des Moines, we carved out time to visit the Iowa State Capitol
(and saw the state capitol)
then St. Louis to see more RV friends
Geri and Art
Next we went to Memphis.  In Memphis we went to Graceland.
Then it was on to Red Bay and get togethers, scheduled repairs and friends and interesting food.
Chocolate gravy and biscuits.  Only in Alabama

And then we drove over to Tennessee and then back to Virginia Beach.
Within a few days, we were greeted with cool weather and some great views.  But then Hurricane Matthew came nearby and our topper over the Drive Side slideout tore.
 That required we include a stop at Red Bay in December to get it fixed.

But for the six weeks we were in VB, we tried to take advantage and spend lots of time with Brooks, Kelly Jon and Adam and Melissa in Fairfax.
 Brooks and his goat buddy
One of the great sites at Sea Mist RV Campground (military) in Virginia Beach.
We are about 30 minutes from Kelly and Jon's house and get to spend a lot of time with them and Brooks.
 Brooks hanging out with his best buddy dog Lennon.
 And we get to go on outings with them to the petting zoo.
 And we got to see him get his first school picture done.  He goes to school 3 1/2 hours a week.
 And back home, Jon is a master chef on his Big Green Egg (GBE).  He's some of his handiwork:  Boston butt done just right.
 And some tenderloin steaks.
Six weeks seemed to fly right by and we were back on the road to Florida for a about a month.  Then back for Christmas and the holidays.

 Our first place on the itinerary was the state capitol of South Carolina.  We got a tour and checked out the grounds.  Very nice.
Our next capitol visit was to Atlanta.  We toured the grounds outside since it was closed on Veteran's Day but it was worth it.
 We stopped in Macon GA to see more friends.
 Steve and Tara
Later that night we also got to see friends Barbara and Ross but somehow forgot to get a picture.

Down in Florida, we spent a week at Lakeland
 And then went down to the Keys.  Here we had dinner with Tim and Cindy.
 The drive to the Keys is always a fun one and unique.  It was beautiful and the 45 miles went pretty quickly.
 The spot we ended up at in Key West for the majority of our time there was close to the water and picturesque sunsets.

We made it a point to stop in Fort Myers for a couple of nights and got to see Tom, Carol, Christa and Bonar.
After we left the Keys, we stayed at a number of Florida State Parks on our way to Red Bay Alabama.  Here is our site at Manatee Springs SP.
And we went by Fort Walton Beach and got to see Karin.

We drove further north to Montgomery AL and took a tour of the Alabama State Capitol.

 And then made it to Red Bay to get our toppers and some other things fixed.  While there, we made an office call on Mr. (Bob)Tiffin, president and CEO of Tiffin Motorhomes.
 I am always amazed that he takes the time to visit with regular folks.  Those 10 or 15 minutes we will long remember.  He was one of the nicest CEO's I have ever met.

And after a short stay in Red Bay, we beat feet and headed back to Virginia Beach and a spot again at Sea Mist RV Campground.

We were able to spend time with our kids and Brooks during the holidays and look back with wonder on all that happened during 2016.
Adam, Melissa, Pam, Me, Brooks, Jon and Kelly 
Christmas Day Picture 

I told myself this edition was going to be a 'summary' and I'd hit the high points.  That translated into a very long post.  But this will serve its purpose for us-- we can look back in one place and see some of what the year included.

If you have persevered through the entirety of this, I thank you.  We love hearing from you and always look forward to your comments and when you send them -- your emails.  Thanks for joining with us in this great adventure.  It's something we feel very privileged to be doing and look forward to many more years of it.

Thanks again for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Happy New Year!