Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Berry Pickin'

Adam and Melissa knew of a place to go blackberry picking and we went on Sunday.  It was supposed to be overcast and rainy but really was a very nice day.

We are about 45 minutes away from them.  We are staying at Fort Meade RV campground.  It is a bit of a drive, but there are not a lot of good choices in the area.  We like our campground (especially the $28/night price which is very good for this part of the country) and are glad to make the drive to spend time with them.

We met them in Chevy Chase, then all drove out to Butler's Orchards, parked the car in the field and boarded the wagon out to the area.
We arrived at our area and found other folks already there among the rows.
I think it is toward the end of the season, so lots of berries had already been picked.  We were prepared with our own tupperware and small buckets and we wandered up and down the rows getting all we wanted.
It was easy to pick the ones that were ripe and leave the rest.  There was some good looking berries waiting for us!

After we spent about 45 minutes picking, we had all we wanted and rode the tracker wagon back to the cashier.   $12.45 for about 1/2 gallon of berries.  Good price plus a nice outing.  Sadly no pictures of the berries...
Then we made a stop at the produce store and bought some jams and jellies that always make good gifts.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In the DC Area Again

We left Little Creek Campground before 8:00 AM yesterday and drove up the Eastern Shore across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Tunnel.  It was a day full of adventure and surprises.  Our first surprise was about 10 minutes into our 4+ hour trip when we paid the toll - $31 !

Yikes!  We were expecting $10-$12 for some reason.  We didn't remember how much we paid the last time we did  this, but what are you going to do?  We paid the toll.  Meanwhile the lady at the booth could not have been nicer.  She was very pleasant and after we asked if she was sure that is what the price was, she showed us the charge guide and where we fit on the chart.

Then she suggested we could do up I-95 for free and would help get us turned around and headed back that way.  We have made that drive about ~793 times over the past 20+ years and wanted to see something different this time...

Then she asked if we were headed to the  Cherrycreek Campground in Cape Charles?  A couple of days ago it was the site of a tornado that cause havoc and devastation and the deaths of two people.  It was an awful situation and cause for us to consider what we'd do in a bad storm with a fast moving water spout/tornado in a campground.   We told her we were headed to the DC area.  But she was as nice and as helpful as she could be.

The drive up the Eastern Shore was terrific.
There were good roads, a pleasant and sunny day and beautiful.  We didn't get into traffic until we got to Annapolis about 12:30 PM and then it was typical beltway stuff.

We arrived at Fort Meade and found our way over to the RV Campground.
We backed into our assigned space, put the jacks down, got leveled, set up the TV and got a good signal through the trees.  Meanwhile I was plugging the cord into the pedestal for 50 amp service and it didn't come on after a couple of minutes like it usually does.  Nuts!

We tried the 30 amp circuit and it worked fine but this is July and we could need both A/C units on and need the 50 amp.  I went to the front office about 3:30 PM on a Friday can guess where this is going....

The lady behind the counter said she'd put in an 'Emergency Work Order' and someone should be out in a short while.  I asked a few more questions like, "What if you go home at 4:00 PM and there is no one around?"  She thought someone would be out in a little bit to check things out.

She offered another site.  I thought it had a lot of trees but we went over and looked at it.  We really like our current spot. We decided to stay put and if we needed to, we would work around the 30 amp by turning off things if we had to.

Then in about 20 minutes a maintenance electrician showed up at our site.  Wow!  That was quick.  Not only that, but he did some troubleshooting and replaced the 50 amp circuit breaker switch and we were in business!
So despite the high cost of the toll road, we decided we would gladly pay it instead of driving up the I-95 corridor to DC.  And then we were surprised at how quickly we got our electrical problem fixed once we got to our campground.
It was a great start to our time in time in 'DC'.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Day at Shiloh and Corinth Battlefields

When we were in Red Bay AL a few weeks ago, we took a day trip to Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee which also included some time at Corinth, Mississippi.
It was a good three-hour roundtrip, but we took our time and spent most of the day.

Our first impression was that is had some similarities to how Gettysburg National Military Park is set up, though a much smaller version.  It has cemetery area, lots of monuments and a driving tour through the property.

We went over to the Visitor's Center, saw a video and learned of Grant's victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson before heading toward his next objective at Corinth.  He landed his troops at Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh).
After the video, we stopped at the bookstore, then walked over to the cemetery.
After a few minutes there, we were approached by a girl and her friend who asked if we would like to do a local newspaper photo op for them.  We were glad to do so and listened to a local tour guide who gave us some of the history of Shiloh and Corinth.
You can read the article here.  That was fun and an added bonus.

Next our driving tour where we tried to image the flow of the battle and skirmishes.
I always prefer a picture of how one side was pitched against the other.  As an intel analyst from my military days, we tried to present a snapshot of what the battle forces looked like.  As you can imagine, pretty wall map is a far different story than the reality of the chaos on the ground.

Shiloh was an critical location for the Union forces to secure in the bid for the important Confederate railroad junction at Corinth, MS 23 miles to the Southwest.  The battle at Shiloh was the beginning of a six-month siege at Corinth to take control of the railroad and supply centers.

I had started the book months ago but am currently in the process of finishing Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant - (his autobiography).  Very interesting reading.  Grant was injured when his horse fell on him during the heavy rains and heat of the battle.  The battle at Shiloh (or Pittsburgh Landing) on the Tennessee River was the first major battle won in the Western Theater.

On April 6 and 7, 1862 Union forces (65,000) under U.S. Grant and D.C. Buell were surprised by those of A.S. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard (40,000).  Combined dead approached 24,000.  Hard to fathom what war is like if you've never been in one.  Union forces prevailed at Shiloh while the Confederates retreated toward Corinth.

After our driving tour around the battlegrounds, we had lunch under a big shade tree at what was once Pittsburgh Landing.
Then we were off to Corinth and our next museum.
Once we got to the Interpretive Center, we saw a number of artifacts embedded in the cement.
It was a unique way to build some curiosity.  And effective.

Inside, it was a collection of good displays and information that told the story of Corinth and its key role in the Civil War.

To the South, it was a vital distribution and supply point at a junction of rail lines going North and South (Ohio and Mobile Railroad) as well as another railroad route going East and West (Memphis and Charleston Railroad).

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard again suffered defeat from Union forces, this time under Gen
Henry Halleck.  However, he was able to pull off a hoax and escape in the night prior to the arrival of Union forces.  He boarded the Ohio and Mobile Railroad along with his soldiers, artillery guns and a large amount of supplies.
We walked through the museum and before departing for Red Bay in the late afternoon.  I think this is another one of those places I am going to have to visit again to digest the ebb and flow of battle and  the key events throughout the siege.

It was a great battlefield to see for the first time and I'm glad we took the time to spend some time there.  The National Park Service has done a nice job with it.  My main take away from this and Vicksburg the better understanding of Gen Grant and how he rose to prominence in the Civil War.  That has always been a mystery to me.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Until next time...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summertime Baseball!

We love to go see live professional baseball games.  While in Virginia Beach, we got the chance to see the Norfolk Tides - the AAA affiliate for the Baltimore Orioles.
It was $.50 Hot Dog Night so it was crowded.
And they were stacking them high.  The orders were usually at least 6 or 8 hotdogs at a time.

But it was a fantastic night and a really fun time.  We went with Kelly and Jon and friend Dan.
With box seats at $14.00 we got a great vantage point.  The Tides played a great game, had a lot of offense and won 10-4.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Roadrunner Reflections: 5 Years on the Road - Take 2

Here's a run at another set of thoughts on being on the road in our 2007 Tiffin Allegro Bus aka 'the Roadrunner' for five years.  I couldn't decide which way I wanted to put the post together, so I decided just to go with both versions.  Here is Take 2:
Before we started this adventure I said to Pam that I thought we had to 'do this thing' at least five years.  She said, "I was thinking more like 10 years."  At the end of May completed our 5th year and are now into Year 6.  As I have said many many times, we feel lucky to be able to do this and can't think of what we would rather be doing.

Each year I try to do a recap on our past year and this is what I came up with for our last 12 months (and our first 5 Year - Increment).  The following thoughts are in random order and an assortment of thoughts.

I think we have adjusted to the fact that our routine changes.  We adapt and make up a new routine depending on where we are.  Some things stay the same -- like when we get up and when we got to bed and when we like to eat.  But each place brings a new set of experiences.  We like that.

Folks ask us how long we stay in a place and it's never a straight forward answer.  It depends.  We find we like staying at most locations at least a month.  There are several advantages for this.  We can check out the area and get to know some of its history and hangouts and we can cool our jets and get settled a bit.  And if we are parked--we are not spending money on diesel fuel for our 7.4 mpg motorhome.  And the campground rates are usually cheaper by the month.

In the last 12 months we have only been to a few notable churches.  We miss that since one of the things we enjoy is a sense of agreement -- nothing feels the same as when we hear and see things and connect with what's going on.  There is so much in our world is dis-connected and at odds...its good to be in a place we enjoy and can say 'that's what I'm talking about!'...
We knew that one of the downsides of travel is the absence of a church we call home.  It's definitely one of the challenges we deal with.

On the other side of things, I think the internet and social media changes everything!  I never imagined the hundreds of people we've met and learned about through this blog and FaceBook and with Instant Messaging.  In that way - we feel way more connected to our friends and acquaintances than we've ever been.  It has been great!

I think some people are just made for this lifestyle.  Their sense of adventure and who they are with and their family circumstances are such that full-timing just fits them.  Such is the case with us.  For now.  We love being with each other.  We love the adventure  and travel.  We love seeing new places learning about history and what happened at different places.

Goals for last year were to spend time in the Midwest at Tom and Cathy's, spend time with my brothers, see nephews nieces and cousins in CA, and to see the Oregon Coast.  Gladly, we got to do all that.  We also renewed our wonder of the Grand Canyon, deepened our love for the desert and Arizona and the beach!

This past year I didn't do that great on exercising or watching our diet, didn't play that much golf nor did we work as much as we would like in the volunteering and Habitat for Humanity end of things.  But some of those things are more conducive to getting it done.

When we are on a military base we can usually find a gym that makes it pretty easy to workout.  Or if we are on the ocean and in warm weather, I find it easier to bike and exercise.  But then I need to be motivated.  Sadly some of the best motivation is that I get tired of the way I feel or my belt needs expanding. I'd rather to have inertia working in a positive way.  Like when I feel good about being a little sore from working out or a little hungry from watching what I'm eating and laying off the snacks.

We knew we didn't want to play golf all the time.  But we've probably played less than we thought we would.  Most of the time it is a subconscious decision not to spend the money.  But we still love getting out there.  Its always a great place to enjoy ourselves and each other.  You almost always meet nice people on the golf course.

On the upside of exercising, this past year we did quite a bit of hiking, especially in California and Arizona.  There is something wonderful about wandering through the mountains and hills or along the desert.  We love those.  Even though most of our hikes aren't long and strenuous, it's great to get out and do it.

Our finances have turned out better than I expected.  I was hoping to work a little and we considered being Workampers.  There are literally hundreds of different kinds of jobs that full-timers work at in order to support this lifestyle.  Some do it because they like it.  Some do it to augment their retirement or so they don't dip into their life savings.  I am very fortunate to be able to work a few days a month which takes the pressure off.  That was a big consideration when we contemplated fulltiming.

One of the things we have overcome is how to handle the question, "Where are you from".  I remember how that simple question stumped us our first couple of months on the road.  We were an an orientation meeting for a three-week volunteer stint with NOMADS in Pontiac IL.  We went around the room to introduce ourselves and our spouse and to, "tell everyone a little bit about yourself and where you are from."

For a newbie, that was a hard one.  Instead of, "We left Fairfax, VA three months ago and live full time in our motor home" --- quick panic and a lot of things raced through my mind....
- "We are from Virginia but it never really like home...."
- "Pam is from Tennessee and I'm from New Mexico..."
- "We are state residents of South Dakota, though we don't really live there..."

Now we have a ready answer depending on the audience and how much time they have.

Another tough question is, "What is your favorite place so far?"  We love a lot of different places we've been so we really don't have a favorite per se.  Usually, I just pick one and that satisfies the person asking the question.  Few people really go beyond that one.

But if they did I'd list these in the top 10, "Key West, Bar Harbor - Maine, Texas, Arizona, the Oregon Coast, The Arches National Park (NP), Glacier NP, Grand Canyon NP, Pebble Beach - CA, The Masters in Augusta GA, Virginia Beach.

Another question is, "Don't you miss your kids?"  Yes we do.  The 'kids' are now in there early thirties and on the East Coast.  We only got to see them once in the last 13 months and we decided that was way too long.  What has been great though is that they each have flown out to see us in Miami/Key West, Tucson, Southern California and in the Bay Area.

We know lots of people that travel across the country visiting their kids in different places.  Or some that don't full time because they miss their kids and grand kids and don't want to be gone long.  So they half-time or have extended trips.  So many ways to do this.

Some ask, "Don't you miss your house and everything?"  No!  We had a great house that served us well.  We were in it for 17 years and selling it allowed us to do this.  But miss it?  And Northern Virginia in the winter time?

Another question we get is:  "What are you going to do when you quit doing this?"  My answer is, "Beats me!"  I don't know.  But just as we figured this out little by little, I am betting we will be able to transition to the next chapter as well.

As I wrap it up here, I think of all that we are learning and remember part of the motivation that added to our decision.  We knew of people who were getting older and their health was slipping and only got to be together on the road.  We decided we were going to 'go for it' while we were still 'young'.  (We see a many folks RVing and full-timing and are in their 70's. )

That's enough for now.  One of my brother's often asks, "What is your takeaway here?'.  So on Take 2 of 5 Years on the Road, here have been some of mine...
Hope your are having a great summer!  And thanks again for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Roadrunner Reflections: 5 Years Full-timing, Take 1

I remember wondering what it would feel like to 'be out there' on the road.  It took over two years for us to really decide to do this.
But the 'fulltiming' mindset began back then--way before we sold the house and bought the motorhome.  The planning and talking and imagining what it would be like has been part of the journey.
The perspective of a fulltimer is something that took us a while to grasp and figure out.  The thing I thought about when I actually got the picture of someone living in an RV was wondering how people afforded a second home.  How did they pay for these things?  

Then once we decided we were going to give it a shot, we had to figure out how to live with less and embrace the idea downsizing.  And at the same time we wondered if we were crazy to pull up roots and leave it all behind.

Now, after five years of this the verdict is out:  Its been great!

Even with all the planning and research and thinking through things -- it still is not quite how we think it might be.  One big notion was all the wonderful campsites and campgrounds.  The beautiful scenery, never ending mountain ranges or beaches or whatever.  Truth is, we have been to some good campgrounds but they have been few and far between.  Most are adequate but often times are not anything special.  The special part is how close we have to beautiful places or parks or beaches.  But the actual campsite?

Another notion we had was that we would gravitate toward State Parks and National Parks.  Instead, the bulk of our time has been at military campgrounds.

We had friends over last night who knew us before we launched and left Fairfax, VA.  We moved into the motorhome (subsequently named The Roadrunner) in mid-May 2009 after our home sold.  We were then able to rent back from the new owner for a couple of weeks and complete my time at work.  One question they asked was, "How long are you going to do this?"  

We set out thinking at least five years. Now that we are at that point - we don't have any other plans or desires to do something else. The thought of 'hanging up our keys' does not appeal to us.

We still love it. Seeing people and new places and new things is great. It is like reading an adventure travel book only we are living it and enjoying it with each other.

Along the way here are some thoughts/reflections/stream-of-consciousness take aways:
  • If you think you'd like to do this - give it a try. We have met many folks who lament they wish they had done it sooner.
  • A good sign would be if you and or you mate is excited about it. If one of you has to be convinced, it probably won't work. Or work very well for long...
  • Some people do it for a year or two, and then sell the RV and do something else. Some get on the road and travel south in the wintertime. Others travel only in the summer. There are many ways to do this.
  • Some folks travel from rally to rally or on caravans. Others plan and travel around on their own and basically travel alone.  We gravitate toward traveling alone.
  • We are more comfortable now with the change in scenery.  We no longer feel like 100 things are coming at us from 100 different directions.  When we first started sight seeing, it was too much to absorb and process.  Now we feel like we have an approach to sight-seeing that works for us.
  • Learning about how to operate and maintain the RV was a bit overwhelming at first.  The learning curve was steep for about 18 months.  It is normal.  We learned to 'not panic' as a first reaction when things come up that we do not understand.
  • Learning to drive this big thing was better than I expected and not too difficult.  I only remember laying awake at night a couple of times thinking about driving it.  The key is to use the side mirrors, not drive too fast, learn where the exhaust brake is and take wide slow turns.
  • We love volunteering and helping friends and family with house projects.  We volunteered with NOMADs for a while, then found we really liked Habitat for Humanity.  Then we do Habitat for _____ (insert family member name here) which we name our family relations projects.
  • Without good TV, Internet and cell phone service, we feel disconnected.  Even if we don't use it, we still like to be able to have the option.  We have DirecTV, an HD Traveler satellite and use Verizon MiFi for our internet.  Our phone service is with AT&T.
  • We love national parks, state parks and out of the way stops, but we are not drawn to being out in the boonies with no services for more than a few days.
  • Boon docking is fine as long as we plan for it and it is not in the middle of extreme heat or cold.  We need our a/c and heaters.
  • The Roadrunner does not do well on uneven or unlevel or steep sites.  I hate it when the wheels are off the ground after we get it level. The only time we sheered a bolt on a slideout was pulling the slides in and had the back wheels jacked up pretty high.  
  • RV rallies are not our cup of tee.  We have been to a few (RV-Dreams, NOMADS annual meeting) and enjoyed them but have never been to Escapees, FMCA or Good Sam rallys.
  • Military campgrounds work well for us.  We never intended to use military campgrounds but they are mostly adequate and usually cost less than commercial or National Park Campgrounds.
  • Despite downsizing to go full-time, we (I) still have a lot of stuff.  Especially T-shirts, baseball caps and books.  I have the Kindle app on my iPhone, then I got a Kindle and yet I am still drawn to the free exchange book racks at campgrounds and the $1 books at flea markets.  Some  times you can't get away from yourself.  No matter where you go, there you are.  I just need to read faster and read more...
  • We are lucky to be doing this.  I don't believe in luck, but you catch my drift.  We are very fortunate to have each other and to be able to share our experiences and love for travel.  
  • $4100 is a good number for us to live on.  While I know that is a lot of money to some folks and less than what others spend each month, after 5 years, that number is pretty much what it has cost us to live.  All things considered: regular expenses, repairs, gifts, unplanned for maintenance, pop up trips, insurance, books, gas and diesel gas, big items, little items--all of it) 
  • Enjoy the days.  Probably won't get the chance to do this again once we get off the road.  Meanwhile, joy, purpose, fulfillment--are worthy goals.
  • This lifestyle is not a panacea.  So take the bad days with the good.  Life continues and hard things happen--as the death and or sickness of family and friends.  Can't avoid it. Some friends and family are in the midst of tough times.  We do what we can but this life style does not prevent us from hurting along with those folks that are hurting.  But if you can't have a good outlook on life while doing something you love (like full-timing) in spite of the ups and downs, when can you?  Now is the time to enjoy life.
  • We've been coast-to-coast, border-to-border a couple of times and we need to do it again - especially the northern border of Montana and Wyoming in the summer time.  And New England in the summer. And beaches - we are drawn to the beach and love to sit and just enjoy it. 
  • Some favorite places:  Glacier NP, Zion NP, Acadia NP, Key West, Grand Canyon, Oregon Coast down highway 101, Monterrey, CA, Virginia Beach, Fort Myers
  • I have a lot to learn about blogging and picture taking and photography.  These are two hobbies I have picked up since we started this adventure.  Both can be a lot of work and can seem more like work than fun if I let them.  And it has been fun. I have met and corresponded with a whole lot of great new friends 'out there'.  One of the big benefits of doing this.
There are lots more bullets rattling around in but enough for now.  Maybe I'll start putting together Reflections on Year 6...

I intended to get this out shortly after our 5 Year Anniversary on June 1, but I couldn't decide how I wanted to organize it.  I drafted a couple of different versions and this is Take 1.  My next post will be Take 2.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  And to all you loyal readers, viewers, followers, commenters and the like - a big THANK YOU! over the last 5 Years!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Beach Time in Virginia Beach

Few things I love more than hanging out at the beach.  The great thing about Virginia Beach is that it has a lot of beach and for right now the temperatures and sun have been great.

A couple of weeks ago we went to the dentist who had an office on Atlantic Av on 34th about a block from the beach and boardwalk.  We were early so we checked out the beach.
We only had time to walk a few blocks but down at the end of were we had to turn around we saw a crowd of 100+ folks gathering.
Turns out an injured sea turtle was rescued by the Virginia Aquarium and being returned back into the water.
I just love the boardwalk with separate bike and walking paths.  I've never been to a downtown beach front that is done better.

Next time we hit the beach was the day after the 4th of July.  It was another gorgeous day.
We just enjoyed the sun and the beach and watching the waves and the people and sights.  I guess you can rent the inflatables.
 Then one evening we watched the sunset from the beachfront on base.
I love the beach!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hanging Out at the Campground - JEB Little Creek

One great thing about being here in Virginia Beach is that our campground is about 5 minutes from Kelly and Jon's house.  We are at Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek RV Campground.
There are a lot of good things about this older park.  We noticed that the grass has been mowed.  I asked about the pot holes and puddles but that is a different matter.

We like our camp site.  It has 50 amp and we are able to get satellite TV despite all the trees nearby.  They have cable just in case.

The weather has been mostly great.  It has rained a few days but the sunshine and temps are great.  Even in the high 80's and low 90's at times which I like.  Its been good weather to clean the Roadrunner.
Plus I like the fact that the water here is not hard and therefore does not leave ugly water spots.  I still need to wipe it down with the Solution, but it still takes a few hours to get it done.

We've had plenty of time to enjoy the campground.  It has a nice fire pit and a picnic table that we took advantage of when Jon and Kelly came over the other night for hamburgers.
 Then it was time for s'mores.

One evening I stopped and chatted with a guy in the campground who had a interesting vehicle.  He said it was a 1986 edition of an Austrian personnel carrier used by the Delta Force back in the day.
 Never heard of this company.
But then, I have never known anyone involved with Delta Force either.  I found this very interesting.  Don't know how useful but at 18 mpg to the gallon, this diesel ought to be good for something. 

It's great to be close by these guys and to be able to hang out with them.  Now if there were only a good campground up near DC close by Adam and Melissa in Chevy Chase MD we'd be all set. 

Thanks for checking in on the Roadrunner Chronicles today.  Until next time...