Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Times in Virginia Beach

I don't think much about whether or not I'm happy.  But that's the case the last few weeks.  There is something really special about being here and seeing our kids and grandson Brooks.  It's been a happy time.  We've had the time to slow down and help out and spend a lot of time with our kids.

Earlier in the month, we made a fast trip up to Fairfax where Adam and Melissa live.  We wanted to take them out to dinner and help them celebrate their first anniversary.
Though it was a short time, it was great to see them again.  And we got acquainted with the latest addition to the family, their Yorgie Josie.  She has a perfect temperament and fits in great.

Back in Virginia Beach we've been able to spend a lot of time with Brooks.  What a deal!  He is really at a cute time (20 months) and is learning so much and growing up so fast!
 Just hanging out in the back yard.
 A couple of hours at the petting zoo checking out the goats and chickens and birds and lots of other animals.
 Back home on his iPad with Grandma and Grandpa.
 All ready for church.
 Trying out his newly acquired finger painting skills on the back porch.
Sitting still for a minute for his first school picture.

Besides all the stuff we've been able to do with Brooks, we also have been getting trained on this babysitting thing.

We were babysitting while Kelly and Jon went to a wedding.  That was the Friday nite of the hurricane weather.  It all turned out for us fine, but we drove back to the campground and had to make our way through a couple of places with big water and some cars that weren't so fortunate.

In the campground, we listened to the rain and wind for a while before we had to pull in the slides.  Somehow we missed the forecast that changed.  We watched the path of the hurricane as it made its way up from the Caribbean and it was supposed to turn out to sea before it got to Virginia Beach.

It apparently never turned and went up the side of the coast.  It is the hardest rain and wind that we have experienced and not something we want to go through again.  The driver's side of the Roadrunner got the brunt of it and even though the windows were all closed, it was raining sideways for hours and water came through the drainage channels in the window tracks.  It wasn't gushing in but the constant rain produced a steady drip on the inside of every window.

The window sills and counters on the DS were wet and dripped onto the carpet.  In the bedroom the same thing happened.  Places where the sheet or blanket on the bed touched the carpet caused the wetness to creep up the blanket and sheet edges to where we had to pull them off and sleep in our sleeping bags.  Not a big deal.  Dealing with some leaks is easy.  Thankfully we were not around any trees so that issue was not a worry.

The only real damage we had was the topper on the DS slideout.  It was flapping so hard for so long it actually tore.  Ugh oh...

 I got three or four kinds of heavy duty tape to repair it, but it didn't work too well.  I was able to tape and staple some tape up there but it still wasn't the answer.  I was talking with my friend Bob who suggested a marine tape of some sort.  I looked for some on Amazon and got it which so far is holding.
It is a bit of a stop-gap measure so we can get them all replaced at Brannon's in Red Bay.  So our plans for the next month have changed and we will be stopping there to get new toppers.

We still are hoping to go to Key West for a some time and return before Christmas.  We have about six weeks from November 6 to December  15 where we were going to get away and then return before Christmas.  We will be here from then until probably the end of March or April to help with grandson #2 who arrives on February 5.

So our plans now are to go to the Atlanta area, see the state capitol and sights there, then to head to north central Florida, maybe head to Key West, then back up to the panhandle (Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola) before heading back to Red Bay, AL. Toppers for the slideouts seems like an appropriate Christmas present...  There are probably other places we could get them done but its worth us to take the trip and get them done right.

So we have spend time planning on those six weeks and charting our travels so we can make reservations at different places.  I will be posting our updated calendar once I get a chance over the weekend probably.

While here, we continue to get experience with babysitting. After a few evenings of babysitting which went fine, we signed on for a weekend while Kelly and Jon  took a weekend for a little getaway at a bed and breakfast.  I was telling my brother about us doing that and he asked, "That's a little scary isn't it?"  I replied -- "Not when you are with Pam..."

So from noon Friday to mid afternoon on Sunday we baby sat.  There were a few times it got a little long and he wondered where everyone was I am sure, but it worked out fine and we were glad to do it.  I could never quite what it was going to be like as grandparents, but we are enjoying it tremendously.  And it makes us happy!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Roadrunner Rerun: Camp River Dubois - More Lewis and Clark

The idea of 'Rerun' is more of my attempt at "taking a another run at this ("blog" as I will call them from this point forward although it is technically a post and not a blog...)."  I have started and not completed a lot of different ones over the years but want to go back and finish some.  For example, I've completed and published 1128 since 2008 and have 174 "in draft".  Here is one I wanted to complete:
Lewis and Clark at Camp Dubois
We passed Oregon and and Washington in July and August of this year (2016).  We are fascinated by the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806) and have learned a lot more about it since we started RVing in 2009. This summer, after seeing the Oregon Coast, we made it a point to visit the site where Lewis and Clark actually first saw the Pacific Ocean.  Also about that time, I had a chance to complete Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage" while recuperating from retina detachment surgery.  It was an excellent read/listen (via and helped me learn more about their expedition.

The Lewis and Clark entourage ("Journey of Discovery") left the St. Louis area in May 1804. They began their expedition after training and getting outfitted for the journey at Camp Dubois (Camp Woods) which is not far from St. Louis and what is today Hartford, Illinois.  It was astonishing to me on a number of levels.  To me, this whole effort including the planning, preparation and execution of it (1803-1806) was like sending a man like sending a man to the moon in 1969.

The insight and education of Lewis was amazing.  He did a crash course in botany, medicine, politics,  Indian relations, hunting, fishing, survival, etc.  Additionally, he knew how to select and train men of a certain character and skill set that would serve the group well.  Above all, he had leadership skills that postured him for the arduous and unbelievable hardships he and his men faced.

Toward the end of our summer travels and the closer we got to the St. Louis area, the more we realized we wanted to find out about Camp Dubois.  We found an excellent place to do just that at the Lewis and Clark State Historic State Park.  This place is not far from the actual Camp Dubois site which was along the Missouri River.  The precise location of the camp is thought to be now in the middle of the river.  Over time, the course of the river has changed and now flows over the original encampment location.

When we arrived it was in the early afternoon and the Park was almost empty.  There were three volunteers (that we saw) running the place and the only other visitors were a couple plus Pam and me.
The small visitor center was deceiving - it has lots of great displays and information.
One thing the docent mentioned was how many places in America claim "to be the starting point of the "Journey of Discovery".  They themselves were as quoted as saying Camp Dubois was their departure point.

Lewis served with Clark at one time and when asked by President Jefferson to undertake the task, he picked his friend and former commander.  History records them to be one of the all-time most
effective duos in our nation's history.  They both worked very well together and complimented each other's strengths.
The visitor center did a good job of showing the different trades that the men needed for their journey. Both Clark and Lewis took part in selecting the men.  Of the 30+ that comprised the total, only about 20 ended up completing the entire expedition.  One man, Sergeant Floyd was lost due to illness with what was thought to be a ruptured appendix in the first year (1804) after they left Camp Dubois.
The second winter they stayed near what is present day Washburn ND.  They built was was known as Fort Mandan, named after the friendly and hospital Indians of the area who were helpful to them during the cold and brutal season.  The winter was harsh and they built the fort for protection from the elements and Indians.  This was the second of three forts(Camp Dubois, Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop - near Astoria, Oregon.)

Here at the Historic Site, the building itself is unique.  This angle gives the idea of the bow of a boat.  Lewis and Clark made good use of a keelboat (also shown in pictures below) moving their supplies up down the Missouri River.
Also on the property is an old cabin that provides a little insight into what they might have looked like back in the early 1800s.
From a distance on the property, you can see a replica of Camp Dubois and the layout.
When we arrived we began going through the displays inside the Visitor's Center, but then got the offer of an outside tour with a docent which we did that.  Then we returned inside to see the rest of the museum. I thought the displays were well done.  They provide context and some chronology of what happen to whom and when.  I like that.
Surprising to me but, there are more than a dozen Lewis and Clark sites.  Way more -- in fact 53 to be exact as listed here.
I liked this map that gives a good idea of where they left Camp Dubois heading northwest to Fort Mandan and on to the Missouri River, over the Cascade Mountains and onto the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean.  On the return trip, Lewis and Clark divided the men and split up for a time before joining back together and completing the journey.
The keelboat was very important to them and the museum had a cutaway replica of it.
This is a replica of a dugout canoe they used.
There was a lot to see and to absorb, but our stop at Camp Dubois (Lewis and Clark State Historic Park) was a good one.  Makes me want to see the other 50+ museums and sites.
Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Roadrunner Years - Some Numbers

I've tried to keep track of all the places we've stayed since our Roadrunner Adventures began in May of 2009.  The adventures started before that time with the two years of planning which led our dreams to becoming reality.

I don't know where I got the idea but I wanted to start tracking things early.  I have tweaked and retweaked my spreadsheet to where it now looks something like this:
One thing about the numbers - they tell a story based on what really happened and not exactly how I thought it was going to be or as I remember it.

For example, if you'd have said we would have camped in different places over 250 times in 7+ years -- I'd say, "No Way", I find that hard to absorb. But when I look at the data in my spreadsheet there it is:  we have actually moved to another campsite 266 times including a number of repeats to favorite places.
Here's a few of the numbers:
  • Moves to another campsite over 7+ years:  266 times
  • 41 stays at National Parks, State Parks, County Park and US Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds
  • Walmart Parking Lot overnight stays:  10 times
  • Military Campgrounds:  123 times
  • Volunteer sites: 19
  • Trips to Red Bay 15
Numbers of times we moved to another campsite.
I thought we'd hit the great outdoors and see a lot of National Park/State Park Campgrounds.  Not so.  We've only done that 32 times.  I also added County Parks and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds to the category so it's a little  higher.

Stays at National, State and County Parks and US Army Corps of Engineers Parks.
We have stayed at a few Walmart parking lots for overnighters but not that many.  Basically its been about one or two nights each year on average.
Military campgrounds were something we thought about and figured we might do that some.  Wrong -- we do that a lot!  Almost half of our campgrounds have been at military RV parks.  That was a real surprise.

Overnight at Walmart.
I think I was eager to try this out way back in 2009 and we stopped at one on our way to our first volunteer gig in Pontiac IL.  Since then we have stayed at Walmart parking lots 10 times, the most recent of which was last week in Staunton VA en route to Virginia Beach from Maynardville.

I read early on there are some do's and don'ts about staying overnight at Walmart:
Do -
- Ask if you can park overnight
- Keep your area as clean or cleaner than you found it
- Thank the store manager and shop inside for some things

- Put down the jacks
- Open all the slides
- Take up more that a modest amount of space
- Set up tables and chairs and the BBQ
- Stay more than one night

Military Campgrounds.
I guess it is human nature, but after we left the Service, we figured we wanted little to do with it from the time I retired.  Boy was I wrong!  From 1995-2009 we mainly shopped at the base commissary and used the gym or golf course from time to time.  We were thinking about full-timing, I assumed we wouldn't be staying at many bases because the National Parks were there and I thought there were so many other interesting places to stay.

But the military has some very excellent and unique campgrounds.  Like other places, it has a few that are not kept up very well but those are in the minority.  Only a few we've been to would be in that category.  Of the Navy, Army and Air Force campgrounds we have stayed at, the NAVY has the best ones by far.  They have figured out how to do and and have put some resources and personnel in charge (there is an exception or two) that know what they are doing.

We are most impressed with Navy Campgrounds.  In the East and Mid-Atlantic the Navy has installed a 'gowifi' capability that is unmatched.  Campers have bandwidth and internet access that works.  Still at many campgrounds anywhere that is an anomaly.  They have a good reservation system too and many give weekly and monthly rates.  It is not uncommon to pay an average of $20-$25 or less at military campgrounds. There are exceptions to those too but for the most part they are the best rates anywhere.

I would really be surprised with you'd have told me we would be staying at military campgrounds almost half the time, but that is what we've done.  123 times out of 266 total (46%).

Volunteer sites. 
We like to volunteer at places around the country and learn things.  And feel somewhat useful.  When we were making plans to full-time, we found information about NOMADs which is a group of RVers who volunteer and help do projects around the United Methodist Church community.  We did a number of projects and Disaster Relief effort before we moved on to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity's Care-A-Vanners.  We been to places all over the country and no two are alike.  We have participated in 14 so far with plans to do more.

Usually the hosting church (NOMADS) or the Habitat Affiliate has an arrangement for a low-cost or a no-cost campground for volunteers.  Some have been rather sparse, while others were first-rate accommodations.  In every case, it has worked out fine and one of the benefits of volunteering.

Trips to Red Bay.
I love going to Red Bay AL - the home and factory plant of Tiffin Motorhomes.  We always learn a lot about our motorhome and it has become one of our favorite places.  We visited Red Bay for the first time in September 2008 which was about 9 months before we bought our 2007 Allegro Bus.  We went there for the factory tour and to learn as much as we could.  It has paid off and we have favorite businesses that we now call our friends.  We have averaged twice a year visiting the place and have done so 15 times.

Now that I have invested the time to compile a lot of different things, it will be fun to go back and see some other items about our travels.  But for now -- that gives a snapshot of what living on the road has been like for us since May 2007.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Back to Virginia Beach for a Few Weeks

Once we left Red Bay, we traveled over to Maynardville, Tennessee where Pam's sister lives.  It is outside of Knoxville, about 25 minutes to the northeast.  

We love going to Maynardville and hanging out for a few days.  We get to see Joan and Mike and their kids and that's always fun.  We got some work done on the Roadrunner and had some time together to catch up with everyone.  I played golf with cousin Joey one day and he was smoking it!  He was 1 over par after hole 11 and beat me handily.  Its always fun to see these young guys smack that ball.  He sure hits it a long way.

We needed to be in Virginia to babysit some while Kelly's husband Jon was away on business so we drove the Honda to Virginia Beach from Maynardville and left the Roadrunner at Joan and Mike's.

The great thing about being at Kelly's was getting to know Brooks more.  He is quite a guy.  He's growing like a weed and going to school now.  One 1/2 a week.  Who knew that had 'school' for toddlers that are not even two years old yet.  So from 9:30 AM to 12:45 on Friday's that's what he does.

This time we got checked out in spending more time with Brooks and doing more stuff. Like putting him down and getting him up from naps.  And bath time.  There is a certain routine to all of that which if done correctly, can be successful.  So far so good.

Brooks has quite a personality and is one loving little guy.
He's practicing things like jumping, walking around with his eyes closed, pushing his plastic lawnmower around in the yard, working his iPad (which is really amazing) and he breaks into a dance now and then when the mood hits him...

Pam and I are staying at the Dam Neck RV Campground again which is about 35 minutes away but is a very nice place and right next to the beach.  While here for the next month, we are going to get all kinds of appointments out of the way.

Our first one was to get the oil changed in the Honda and schedule it for an air bag recall.  They are going to call us back on that one after we get the parts in.  I have had some tooth pain so we got into the dentist late last week and got an antibiotic and some pain pills.  And I got a referral for a root canal, with a crown to follow.

Earlier today we got the call to get the root canal done 10 days ahead of our appointment so that one out of the way this morning.  Root canals are not my most favorite thing but we got through it fine.

Most importantly, we got into see the retinal specialist first thing Monday morning.  This was a referral and 10 week followup from my retina detachment surgery in Portland OR in July.  This doctor said that doctor did a very fine job and all is looking well.  That is a relief!  Also the scleral buckle procedure I had as part of the surgery changed the shape of my eye (which is to be expected).  He recommended I wait for a couple of months to get new glasses.  The depth perception and distortion in my vision should return some more over the next few weeks so we will be patient on that.  But it was a great report and again we are very thankful about that.

Daughter Kelly is expecting grandson #2 which is due February 5, 2017 so we are going to spend a few weeks in Florida before returning on December 16, 2016 for four months.  We have been doing some planning and penciling in some things on our calendar for those few weeks and that is always fun.

So that's a quick recap and some insight into our plans here the next few months.  Hope the hurricane slows and goes away soon!  In the meantime, hope you all are well and safe.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Roadrunner Financials - September 2016

Roadrunner Recap
In September,  we traveled east from the outskirts of Memphis, to Red Bay AL for repairs (replaced slide out toppers), then to Maynardville and on to Virginia Beach.
  • Mid South Naval Station, Milligan TN
  • Downtown RV Park, Red Bay AL
  • Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground (private), Maynardville TN
  • Walmart, Charlottesville VA
  • Sea Mist RV Campground (military), Virginia Beach, VA
Here's an interactive map of our travels:

Or, if you prefer and find this easier to navigate, here is a static map:

We drove from the Memphis area to Virginia Beach after stops in Red Bay and Maynardville TN.

Good News Areas We Are Under Budget

Biggest Expenses
We were over our budget in the following areas:

  • Gas for the car
  • Maintenance
  • Cell phone use (primarily our wifi/data plan) and 
  • Medical (the bills for my July retina surgery

Large One Time Cost Item
Our biggest budget buster for the month was in the maintenance area while we were in Red Bay AL.  We had work done at Bay Diesel (Koni shocks) ($1580) and also had a list of things done at Brannon's (Custom RV) ($1630).

Monthly Average

We September was another tough month on the budget.  The maintenance and medical areas were the culprits this time.

Our monthly averages continue to climb and we will be over our 'hoped for' $4100 monthly budget for the year which ends next month at the end of May.  But we have had an extraordinary amount of Maintenance and Medical bills this year.

As always, if you think this spreadsheet might be useful I'd be glad to pass it along at no cost.  Just let me know.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!