Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12 DAYS, 2,400 MILES, 10 STATES, AND A LITTLE SPIRIT


All this traveling and not one mile spent in the motorhome.  This was our longest road trip without the motorhome since we started full timing eight months ago.  The trip was filled with sadness and joy.  We originally planned to travel to Indiana to pick up a new puppy and then head to St. Louis for a holiday visit with my family.  However, the death of my grandmother caused an unexpected detour. 

It was with sadness and heavy hearts that we left the motorhome in Florida and traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  The trip made me realize that sometimes we take family and friends for granted.  It had been over eight years since I had visited Fort Smith and spent time with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family.  The void of time was much too long.  Fond childhood memories remain in my heart and mind but cannot be recaptured in space and time.  Luckily, there are always new memories to be made.  Upon saying goodbye to family in Arkansas, we vowed to plug Fort Smith into the GPS so we can spend time exploring the beautiful mountains and forests that flank the city, and definitely, spend time with family.

Thanks to my sister Lora who knew all about the 1920's replica pharmacy and soda fountain located in the Fort Smith  Museum of History.  Since we never like to miss a meal, the soda and ice cream made for a perfect lunch. (Ft. Smith Museum of History photo.)
Fort Smith National Historical Site offers lots to do, including seeing an old jail/courthouse/barracks. The visitor center has a wonderful movie highlighting the history of Fort Smith and the importance the city played in the westward expansion of the U.S.
A replica of the 1886 gallows stands ominously on the grounds. (NPS photo.)
Our stop in St. Louis was enriched by a visit from Betsy’s brother Mark (the hard working Inn Keeper who is on his well-deserved winter break; see our previous post about the Maples Inn: Inn-keeping 101 ) and getting to spend more time with my family.  Mark and I decided to spend one rainy day at the St. Louis Art Museum.  My mom’s jaw fell on the floor when I said I wanted to go to the museum.  After all, I was the teenager who refused to see the artistic wonders displayed in the Louvre when my parents took me there.  I opted for sitting on a bench in the entryway rather than staring into the eyes of the Mona Lisa.  Yes, I went to the Louvre and never left the bench by the front door.  Mark’s immense knowledge and appreciation of art opened my eyes to color, space, depth, and lines that are the foundations of treasured works of art created by classical and contemporary artists.  Mark and I are in agreement that the contemporary works by Rothko are our favorite.  After the museum, I took Mark to a St. Louis culinary institution – Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (well known for their “concretes”).  We eagerly ruined our dinner appetites by indulging in pumpkin pie and caramel apple sundae concretes. 

Soon we were leaving St. Louis and heading towards Indianapolis where we would pick up our new bundle of joy…a seven-week old black labrador retriever.  When our dog Otter died last summer, we felt a void (see an earlier post: One Less Passenger).  We contacted Otter’s breeder about another lab.  Our inquiry was timely as another litter of black labs was on the way.  We watched the litter grow up on Facebook and YouTube and checked for updates constantly.  Betsy picked the name for our new dog, “Otter’s Spirit.”  We call her “Spirit” and she is adorably sweet.  Thanks to Dale Brummett of Black Rock Labradors for another wonderful pup that has melted our hearts.
Spirit after being on the road 850 miles, three hotels, 7 interstate rest areas, and being kissed
countless numbers of times.
Nancy, Spirit, and Betsy in Indiana at Black Rock Labradors.  (Dale Brummett photo.)
Relaxing in the butterfly garden, Watercolor, Florida.
Our last stop took us to southern Mississippi for a brief visit with our friends Sandy and Kim.  We thank them for a relaxing time and the chance to get caught up over a bottle (or two, or three,) of wine.  Another dear friend, Ann, joined us and we sat around their wonderful house talking, laughing, fishing and watching Spirit explore her big new world. We are already making plans for future visits and can't wait!
Ann's catch!
We love our vagabond lifestyle and enjoy making new friends at campgrounds, but we realize how much we miss family and friends.

Enjoying a glass of wine at Sandy and Kim's lake house.
Thank goodness for a sleepy puppy!
One of Spirit's favorite toys is a blowing leaf.
The motorhome has been turned into a dog nursery.






Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Neighborhood

Before we started this adventure, Betsy and I had wondered how we would feel about “living” so close to total strangers. We were always blessed with having great neighbors when we lived in stick houses. We grew to trust our neighbors…they had a key to the house, fed the cats, brought us food, cut the grass when we were out of town, and so on and so on. Now, we live next to someone on an average of 4 days! Let’s face it at no time in our lives have we had so many neighbors while living in one house. It is like a revolving neighborhood.

We have to say that we have not minded the revolving neighbor door one bit. There is a certain bond or camaraderie that RV’ers feel, especially when you are neighbors. Maybe it is because we are so close and sometimes can look into each other’s windows. Or, maybe because we all share the common interest of camping.

One of the campgrounds with close neighbors.  Fortunately, we loved Bill and Shirley (the RV
to the left) and Bill helped us learn about cable tv.  Bill is the uncle of country music star Sara Evans and they offered to get us back stage passes to a concert.  Too bad we have never been in the same town where her concerts are. 
We have been so fortunate to meet so many wonderful people. We were recently at a National Park campground in Florida and developed a quick friendship with many of our neighbors. At no time have we gotten to know so many people in one campground. The campfire quickly turned into BYOC (bring-your-own-chair) or it was standing room only as so many from the neighborhood gathered at campsite A4, our campsite.

Our campsite at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida.  Just across the dunes in the background is the beach. All this for $10/night! We could never afford this kind of beach front property.
Total strangers have helped us fix things on the motorhome and give us valuable advice. There was Bill who showed us how to get the cable tv hooked up, Dave who replaced our dry rotted windshield wiper fluid tubing (that we didn’t even know was dry rotted), Allison who loaned us patio chairs so our friends would have a place to sit, Jim who loaned us his ladder so I didn’t have to get mine out, Gil who helped fix our awning, and the list goes on.

We also like to share advice as we did most recently in Florida…like don’t miss the Blue Angels free practice show on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, get the Bacardi 151 rum in your bushwhacker from The Sandshaker, eat at Pet Leg Pete’s and definitely order the spicy Lafitte oysters, and watch that your dog doesn’t walk where there are sand burrs.

Our campsite in Branson, Missouri gave us lots of neighbors.  One of our "closest" neighborhoods.
We have met so many wonderful people and often exchanged cards with contact information. Yes, we still keep in touch with those we met over six months ago when we were “newbies.” We never know who we will see down the road, where or when but we also look forward to meeting new people.

Nancy and Otter in the "front yard" at Sagadahoc Bay, Maine.  For three days
we did not have any neighbors.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Update to the Last Story…

Since we posted the last story, we have been surprised and excited to be in a campground with so many women drivers. In this small campground of 40-odd sites, we have managed to meet five women drivers. Any there may be more, but we just haven’t met them. Way to go girls!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who Drives?

The answer to this question is … we both do!

This just might be the most frequently asked question we get. In fact, more people ask us that question than what our names are. It is amazing to us how few women drive RV’s. Obviously, there are many women that do drive but most of them are women traveling alone or with another woman. (By default someone has to drive, right?) Specifically, what we are talking about is when there is a man and women in the RV, the man almost always drives.

So why do so many women not drive? What we have learned (through first-hand conversations) is that most women are afraid to drive and flat out refuse. They claim that their motorhome is way too big and they are scared of it. Then there is the fact that some men don’t want their female partners to drive. Some men have told us that they don’t want their wives to drive because they are more experienced and feel they are better drivers. Let’s face it – the more you drive, the more comfortable you will become. However, the more you drive does not necessarily make you the better driver. For us, the truth is, each of us feels more comfortable driving rather than riding, especially when we are on winding roads, narrow bridges, metropolitan areas, etc. But we have certainly come to trust each other’s driving abilities. And we are equally at fault for the minor scratches that are scattered along our coach.

Neither of us had driven an RV of any size or shape before owning this motorhome. But we had both pulled boat and horse trailers before. This gave us some confidence. (Nancy thought that since she had piloted a 38’ boat in the wide open ocean she could pilot a slightly larger land yacht through the nation’s road system – boy was she cocky!)

Yes, this sight was a little daunting when we first sat down to drive.
Our decision to buy the particular make and model of motorhome that we have was not based on a test drive. In fact, we only drove it for 15 minutes before we bought it. We figured that once we bought it, we would learn how to drive it. Hey, we even bought a DVD on how to drive a motorhome! (Well worth the $24.99 investment). Also, remember we tow a car with us behind the motorhome and the total length is 56 feet when we’re heading down the road. With the large front window, sometimes we feel like we’re driving a bus. But it’s a lot easier than you would think and that’s what we try to tell the women that we meet that are afraid to drive. We recommend they just try it because what would happen if their partner got sick or had a heart attack and they had to get somewhere quickly or get home. One couple even told us about the women having to take over control of the motorhome because he had a minor stroke while driving. She managed to safely maneuver the vehicle off the road.
So come on ladies…get out there and drive! After all, driving is far better than having to navigate.

Betsy driving along the gorgeous Pensacola Beach.