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, March 27, 2012

When Donuts Surpass Sleep



We have been hanging out in Grayton Beach and the surrounding towns along HWY 30-A for over 10 years or so.  Every time we come back we peruse the towns to check out what’s new, especially restaurants.  In addition to hitting our long-standing favorites, we try to hit a new restaurant or two.

So this year when we arrived, Betsy found a donut truck – Charlie’s Donut Truck in Alys Beach.  There is no having to convince me that we should try these sugary, soft, fried works of wonder.   

Gotta love the old
fashioned glazed donut!
Started with four and now down to two.
But, the kicker was when she said we needed to leave the house at 6: 15 a.m.  “Why,” I asked.  “Because they open at 6:30 and close when they are sold out,” she replied.  It was obvious Betsy was serious about sinking her teeth  into these donuts and I was glad she was so dedicated to the cause.  So off we went with coffee in hand, money in the pocket, and dog in tow.  Spirit became part of our sinful indulgence because we convinced ourselves that if we walked her afterwards some of the fat and calories we consumed would magically disappear.  We arrived shortly after our 6:30 target time and assumed a position in the line that had already formed.  The choices were many with the old favorites like glazed, lemon filled, cinnamon twist, and chocolate covered.  But there were many other tempting flavors like red velvet, blueberry, and their signature - sour cream. 
Note how dark the sky looks.  That is because the sun was not up yet!  But we had donuts in hand.
The truck is an old Sunbeam Bread truck that has been converted to a donut destination.  Don’t expect it to move anytime soon, since the engine was removed.  They boast that the donuts are made the old fashion way by hand.  They are rolled, cut, dipped, and filled using “elbow grease.”  However they make them they tasted good to us and we will certainly be coming back to Charlie’s for more. 
So many choices.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FROM THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS………


RVers, totally unknown to Nancy and me, have become great neighbors, acquaintances and friends after we pulled into a new campground.  It’s funny how people are drawn to each other when they share a common interest like RVing.  It doesn’t take long to recognize people who you “click” with almost instantly, and those who talk too much, or want you to do things their ways, or have a sad story to share, or who make you laugh, or who you recognize have a lot of good experience to share………and on and on.  It’s really like that in everyday life everywhere if you just slow down to realize it.  And that’s really what RVing does for you and is part of the blessing of this life.

Along the way we have valued these strangers and they are who have made this adventure for us so special.  Everyone prints their own cards similar to business cards and we always exchange ours with them.  We have an RV-A-GOGO card with our names and emails and cell phone.  Some put their photos on them or their dogs or cats names and photos.  Then later on down the road we may get an email with an update from them or we can watch their blogs like they watch ours.  Again we may hook up with them at another campground and the fun continues and the strangers become friends.

Some of our campsites are pretty close so we hope the neighbors are nice.  This was our campsite
in Mexico Beach, FL when we were next to Bill and Shirley Evans.  
We looked out the window at their catch and they invited us over for a closer look.
Thanks to "Chummy" in Warren, ME who let
us use his canoe where I caught this bass.
Many of these strangers are professionals who wanted to make changes in their lives and see what this great country has to offer.  Others only went to high school and want to offer their trades to help others (like us often!).  When we meet we have no idea of their backgrounds which are fun to uncover.  Like Bill and Shirley from Rustic Sands who are the aunt and uncle of famous country star Sara Evans (they offered us tickets and a backstage tour if we ever get to a concert).  There’s Jim and Lorraine from Sunset Isle who cooked us the best fish I ever ate and there was Jim and Cathy who we met at Mt. Katahdin in Maine who offered us tips about the park.  In Naples, Maine we met Laurie and Putschy who ran an ice cream stand and always gave free ice cream to our dog Otter.  There was Allison in Belfast, Maine who taught us about sea glass and loaned us chairs when we were having company.  In Boothbay Harbor, Maine we found ourselves in the middle of a Montana 5th Wheel Rally and even though we have a motorhome, Dave and Betsy and “Biker Don” (he hauled a huge motorcycle behind his 5th Wheel) included us in their get togethers.  Dave even fixed our windshield wiper fluid tube that had dry rotted (unbeknownst to us).

The sites at Curry Hammock State Park are great and face
the ocean.  They are very desirable and often booked
a year in advance.  We were so glad to meet Hugh and Pat who
gave us tips on getting one of these great sites.
We loved Hugh and Pat who were camp hosts at Curry Hammock in the Keys and offered great tips on securing sites in the high demand state park.  On our way there we met C.C. who took us to dinner and  showed us her town of Stewart Fla.  And we can’t forget Chris and her motor scooter and 2 little pug dogs who we have camped with several times now in Florida.  There was Mark and June and Steve and Toni with their dog Max from South Dakota who we enjoyed and then Karen and Don who we met in Maine but they were from Louisiana so we had an immediate kinship.  We even joined them at Disney World for a week and they took us to Animal Kingdom.  We met Tom and Lynn, lawyers who were part of the motorcycle law group and recently in Cedar Key, Matt and Gail and Mike and Janna who follow our blog.  It’s so great to meet these people who were strangers until we pulled into a campground.

At Lake Louisa near Orlando, Florida we met Rhonda and Susan from Ontario, Canada and shared many a campfire.  Rhonda is a nurse and Susan a professional artist/ painter.  As luck would have it they stayed in touch and we saw them again in Naples and then at Rainbow Springs and had such fun with them.  They also gave us their reservations at Grayton Beach and St. George Island.   These strangers, now friends, kindly gave us their sites in parks when they couldn’t make it.  We know we’ll see them again down the road.  Oh yes, we introduced them to Catdaddy moonshine we discovered in New Orleans!  Don’t think they’ll forget us.  And Rhonda introduced us to a Canadian word “frack” to be used when your dog acts like a nut and runs and runs out of control on the trails and beach!  Spirit fracks a lot! 

Also at Lake Louisa we met Jim and Debbie from Maryland and they turned up at Disney and on a beach near another campground where we stayed.  We had a lot in common with them because they were avid kayakers and outdoors people.  And small world but Debbie had been Nancy’s sisters’ kids favorite art teacher in Maryland.  Our current neighbors, Tom and LoAnn from Michigan, are sharing lots of RVing ideas with us while sitting around a pizza buffet (they treated us to and also introduced Spirit to marrow bones) and campfires.  We will miss them.  I could go on and on.
Spirit and Kimber (Paul and LoAnn's 7-month old golden retriever).


Thanks Kimber for being a chew toy for Spirit.
Debbie and Spirit after "fracking" on the beach.
This is just a partial list of some of the great strangers we have met and shared times with.  We have learned so much from their experiences and camaraderie.  Some we may never see again and others will not stay strangers.  They have become our friends through campfires and blogs.  They have known Otter and have watched Spirit grow.  They have broadened our thinking and made us laugh and cry.  They have accepted us as we are and we have accepted them without hesitation.  RVing is a whole new world now opened to us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loving the Panhandle

On our westward migration we spent a relaxing week on St. George Island.  Thanks to our friends Rhonda and Susan who passed along their reservations for 3 great weeks in Florida.  Love you gals for sending us back to our favorite state park in Florida – Grayton Beach and allowing us to try St. George Island State Park for the first time.  We did not have the forethought to make reservations at either of these parks and would have had to pass them up.  So when Rhonda and Susan mentioned they were going to cancel their reservation, we jumped on the chance to grab their reservations.

The drive out to St. George Island State Park.
St. George is a barrier island perched between the Gulf of Mexico and St. George Sound.  The island is great!  Not too much happening here but you can find everything you need for a quiet island vacation – a beautiful beach, grocery store, funky good restaurants, lighthouse, and bait store.  Come to the island to relax.  We stayed at the state park and filled our days with hiking the trails with Spirit, kayaking, fishing, and visiting the lighthouse. 

One of our favorite hikes takes you over a beautiful marsh and winds through the pine/oak forest. 
The Cape St. George Light is the prominent feature welcoming you to the island and lies smack in the middle of town – a location that has come about due to hurricanes and concerned citizens.  The light began guiding sailors in 1833 and has had a long hard struggle to stay lit.  Hurricanes took a major toll on the lighthouse which was rebuilt in 1848, 1852, and 2008 at several different locations on the island.  In 1994, the Coast Guard deactivated the light ending its 160-year tenure of providing navigational aid to mariners.  The light  remained a symbol of the island, so much so that when it fell for the last time in 2005 the community rallied around the toppled pile of bricks.  Local volunteers gathered on weekends and picked up bricks, iron works, lens pieces, and artifacts.  Plans of the original 1852 lighthouse were obtained from the National Archives and a massive reconstruction project was underway to resurrect the light which was re-built in the middle of the small town for easy access by visitors.  Recovered bricks were cleaned of their old mortar and used in the reconstruction.  The standing lighthouse, museum, and light keepers house are testaments to the sentiment people feel for their lighthouses. 
The lighthouse museum.
The recreated light keepers house is quite impressive and has great artifacts.
After the lighthouse, we made our way to Harry A’s.   We heard about this restaurant when we were in Cedar Key from a woman who said, “You have to go there, everybody that visits the island goes there.”  Good recommendation.  The restaurant was an eclectic mix of artifacts (many that look like they were stolen) hanging on every square inch of the walls.  There were dead things, metal things, a beer can collection, sports paraphernalia, and much more.  Oh, and in the corner was a library.  The grouper ruben and jalapeno cheddar oysters made our mouths water and the cold beer washed it all down.  Yes, the food was great, the place is a hoot, and the waitress was enjoyably peppy.  All this excitement exhausted us and it was time for us to head back to the RV and go to the beach. 
Love all the stuff on the walls.
We had to try some famous Apalachicola oysters with a cold draught and Tabasco.
Harry A's outdoor bar.
The restaurant has a library.
 I just wanted the white shrimp boots on top.
The only inn on the island.  I love how they describe themselves -
"The Uncommon Inn on the Forgotten Coast" 
Using oyster tongs to collect Apalachicola oysters.
Spirit swimming in the bay.
Major piece of driftwood on the beach.
The pirate stands outside the grocery store greeting patrons.
Yum!
After a week on St. George Island, it was time to head to Grayton Beach.  Grayton Beach is just one of the charming towns in an area called 30-A.  Quaintly named towns like Water Color, Seaside, Seacrest Beach, and Rosemary Beach have popped up between the white sand dunes, coastal lakes, and expansive bays.  The area has been luring us for many years and we have blogged about it before because we love it so much.  We are so comfortable here that as soon as we drive into the campground we say, “we’re home” to  each other.  Once the rig is parked and set up it is time to head to our favorite restaurant, Bruno’s Pizza, for  all-you-can-eat buffet on “ladies day.”  Five bucks will get you all the pizza, salad, soft drink, and cinnamon dough knots you care to eat.  The day after we arrived we made the short bike ride to Water Color for the spring art fair.  We don’t have much room for “art” in the motorhome and limit our buying of “stuff” but it was great fun to look.  We did make one purchase that always fits in the motorhome – Girl Scout cookies.  We are so glad to be back in the area and look forward to the two wonderful weeks we have here.
Water Color art festival.
Spirit sleeping between us with her lamb as we drive down the road.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Year of Full Time Motorhoming…What Have We Learned?


March 15th marked our one-year anniversary of living full time in our motorhome.  One year passed quicker than we expected.  Our travels led us away from New Orleans, across the gulf coast and up the eastern seaboard.  We visited small towns we had never heard of before, some we remember from childhood, and others just because we liked the sound of their names.  Some towns lured us because they looked like Rockwell paintings and others because they were the subject of Wyeth paintings.  We parked our motorhome in driveways, in wide open fields, in forests that we could barely fit in, and a few feet from the ocean surf.   

We met many, many new interesting people, managed to entice old friends to visit us along the way, and spent time with family.  Our loyal companion Otter departed us in Maine but we managed to find her “Spirit” to accompany us the rest of the way.  Our summer was spent having new adventures like running an inn, volunteering at festivals, and learning how to fly fish.  We made sure we didn’t miss out on local foods and traditional dishes including lobster in Maine, key lime pie in the Florida Keys, Brunswick stew in Georgia, oysters in Apalachicola, and shrimp and grits in South Carolina.

A few months ago my brother asked Betsy and I what was the biggest surprise of the trip.  Within a flash and without thinking we said that it was how much we enjoy living in the motorhome and traveling.  Yes, it surprised us how much we enjoy our new lifestyle!  We don’t mind having new neighbors every few days or not having a house to go “home” to.  We don’t miss any of the “stuff” we sold or having to chase the armadillos out of the garden.  The motorhome never feels too small – not even on rainy, cold days. 

So what have we have learned in a year?

We have no regrets…
We love staying in state and federal parks…
Rabbits like herbs…
Staying overnight at Wal-Mart is not as scary as one might think…
New acquaintances are great but old friends are the best…
I don’t need 15 pairs of shoes in a motorhome…
A dishwasher is more important than you think…
Maine is hands-down our favorite state so far…
The Florida panhandle feels like home…
Lobster is good and homemade pie is wonderful…
This country is gorgeous…
Splurge at times and buy a good bottle of wine...
Try to remember your neighbor’s names and not just their dog’s names…
Carry a weather radio and know the name of the county you are camped in during tornado season…
We love our motorhome…
Life is too short to lose patience…
I love building camp fires…
Every child should go camping at least once…
Having a dog in a motorhome is hard, but not having one is much harder…
Don’t forget to watch the sunset…and rise…
Keep family close…
Learn to ignore the alarms, beeps, buzzers, and bleeps that go off in the motorhome…
Find new things to do…
Love your partner…
There is a kindness from strangers…
Spend time doing nothing, especially if it is on the beach…
Live, laugh, and love like there is no tomorrow…

Thanks to all the people that read our blog.  We hope you enjoy traveling with us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spirit Saves the Day!


Our intended visit to the Crystal River area was diverted due to a problem with our coach.  We knew things would go wrong with our 32,000 pound house on wheels so we just try to roll with the problems and pray the repair bill does not cause heart failure.  At $120/hour it’s expensive to use RV repairmen.  What rendered our machine inoperable was the failure of the entry steps to retract.   (For you non-RV’ers, the steps automatically retract and fold under the door when the key is in the ignition.)  It’s a great safety feature so you don’t drive off with your steps extended – although we have seen people drive with them out.

We stood around for a while scratching our heads when our friend Rhonda came over and suggested maybe it just needed a “shitload of silicone.”  Good idea, I thought!  After our attempts to silicone and push and pull parts did not work, we rooted out the manual.  No help there, unless we completely wanted to rewire the entire mechanism.  The last resort was to call our awesome service guru at Sherman RV “Benny.”  He suggested we might have road dirt lodged in the mechanism and we should get a hammer out.  What a service guy telling us to get a hammer and start banging?  Little did he know I already had the hammer out. 

It wasn’t too long after we had given up on trying to fix it ourselves when a man and his wife stopped by on their bike ride and said, “Is that Spirit?  We met her in Key Largo a few months ago.  Wow, has she grown!”  Of course Spirit relished in the attention and quickly flopped on her back for a belly rub.   After a few minutes of idle chit chat, he asked “are you having a problem with your steps?” 

“Why yes!  Do you know how to fix them?” I said. 

“I think so, I had the same problem a while back.”

So he (embarrassingly I don’t even know his name) dropped to the ground and crawled under the coach and asked if I had wrenches.  (And I thought a hammer could fix everything.)  Within a few minutes of loosening bolts, readjusting things, and cleaning out road gunk, they were fixed.  How nice he was to stop and fix our steps and saving us a chunk of change.  This is certainly not the first time complete strangers have helped us fix small problems on our coach and we are sure it will not be the last.  That is just the way RV’ers are.  But, having a cute black lab puppy sure has made us some friends and plenty of conversations.  Spirit has made so many friends along the way and just brings us along for the ride.  Hopefully, she will stay cute and nice enough to lure in handymen!
Spirit chasing pine cones and playing in the sand at Rainbow Springs State Park.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Missing Mermaids


On our migration north thru Florida we were on the hunt for mermaids.  You may think that mermaids only exist in mythology, but that means you have never heard of Weeki Wachee.  There is not much to the town of Weeki Wachee, except for the famous mermaid show set along the beautiful clear river and springs.  Once I told Betsy that there was a mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, she said “we have to go!”
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park entrance.

We drove an hour south from our campsite, boarded the Spirit pup, paid our $13 admission and only then did we come to find out the mermaids were on a photo shoot and not performing that day.  How could this be?  Our one and only chance to see live mermaids and they are on a photo shoot!  Please tell me it was not the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.  We looked at each other with long faces and then turned to brochure to see what else would occupy our time and how we could redeem our admission cost.  Turns out there was an animal encounters show that had just begun.  “Let’s go see that.”  Much to my dismay, it was the reptile show – not my thing, especially when the animal handler is wielding a 6-foot long serpent in front of the crowd!  Enough of that, we headed for the 30-minute boat tour on the Weeki Watchee River.  After our half an hour wait, the tour turned out to be very relaxing and informative.  The 30-passenger boat glided down the shallow, crystal clear water and we marveled at the clarity as we saw various fish swimming by.
Beautiful Weeki Wachee river.  
The name “Weeki Wachee,” comes from the Seminole Indians and means “little spring” or “winding river.”  Nearly 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 72-degree water bubbles up from subterranean caverns.  So how did mermaids come to swim in these waters?

A man by the name of Newton Perry was looking for a place to start a new business that would involve pretty girls breathing and swimming underwater just like mermaids.  Perry was a former U.S. Navy man who trained “Frogmen” to swim underwater in World War II.  When he came to Weeki Wachee he found a beautiful spring but it was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars.  After cleaning out the junk, he experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing oxygen through a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor (instead of from a tank strapped onto the back).  This new breathing technique gave the appearance of being able to survive underwater without a breathing apparatus.
The only mermaid we did get to see -
"Princess Wonderous."

Newton built an 18-seat theater six feet below the surface of the spring so spectators could look directly into the spring.   In order to attract visitors, Perry scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time.  The mermaids took etiquette and ballet lessons and soon Perry was ready to put a sign on the highway advertising the underwater show.  In those days, few cars travelled the highway so when the girls heard a car coming they ran to the road already clad in their bathing suits and beckoned unsuspecting drivers to the show. 

The first show was in October 1947 but by the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops.  The attraction received worldwide acclaim, attracting superstars like Elvis and Don Knotts and becoming the set for movies.  While the star attraction was the mermaids, the park also included orchid gardens, jungle cruises, and Indian encampment and a new beach.  Weeki Wachee’s real heyday began in 1959, when the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) and was heavily promoted.  Under ABC’s ownership, the current 500-seat theater was built at a depth of 16 feet below the surface.   ABC also developed themes for the underwater shows with elaborate props, music, and story lines such as the Mermaids and the Pirates and Underwater Follies.
Mermaids in action.  (photos courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)
Mermaid Stayce performing.
Mermaids Marcy and Cyndi posing underwater.
Mermaid Tara swimming gracefully.
In July is the 65th Mermaid Reunion.  Too bad we will have to miss that.
We had no idea there was so much history to Weeki Wachee and the famous mermaids.  While we didn't get to see the mermaids we were at least glad we got to go to Weeki Wachee to experience the place.  We suggest calling ahead to make sure the mermaids are swimming so you don’t miss out on the star attraction.  Bring you bathing suit because Buccaneer Bay is a water park on the grounds where you can take a dip in the springs.  That is if you don’t think 72-degree water is too cold.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

One Great Year


Betsy here……..it’s hard for us to believe but next week we will have been “on the road” for one year.  Last year at this time we were packing up, selling and giving away the last of our personal items, having last lunches and dinners with friends at our favorite New Orleans restaurants, setting up mail forwarding and walking away from the lives that Nancy and I knew for the past 15 years.  Many of our friends thought we were crazy to give up what we had built in New Orleans and others gave us great encouragement to move on in our lives while we had our health, could afford it and longed for this adventure of exploring the U.S. in our “house on wheels.”  Mentally we were excited to see what the road had to offer.

When we left New Orleans we thought we would travel for a couple of years.  We are so enjoying this lifestyle that now we are talking about ten years!  Maybe even a new motorhome in 2014.  We didn’t realize how long it takes to see and explore everything that we want to.  If you have followed our blog you know we went up the east coast, spent the summer in Maine with my brother then came back down to Florida.  We have met so many wonderful people, have seen and learned so many new things, lost our precious dog Otter then welcomed a new pup, Otter’s Spirit, broadened our thinking, took up hiking, kayaking and fishing and spending time with new friends around campfires, dodged tornadoes, searched out wonderful state and national parks, put our toes on many new sand beaches, learned to live in a confined space in the motorhome that has a new back yard every week or so, learned that truck stops to buy diesel fuel can be a whole new experience and on and on.   So many things to mention.  The memories that we are creating give us something to talk about each day as we travel down the road.

We hope that you enjoy our blog and the photos and that it may inspire some of you to take on a similar adventure in your life.  Don’t wait too long and don’t be afraid.  We had never even driven a motorhome when we bought ours.  There will never be a perfect time because nothing is ever perfect.  You’re not giving up your true friends and family because they will always be there.  But you are adding new friends and experiences that can broaden your world and the fun times and feeling of freedom is SO worth it.

One goal of our adventure was to experience areas of this country that may open our eyes to a place where we might want to buy a stick house again one day.   So we will keep moving on to places where we have not been and who knows where we will be after our second great year!

After leaving New Orleans we headed to our favorite beach in Florida at Ft. Pickens (Gulf Islands National Seashore) in Pensacola to celebrate our decision to hit the road.
Sunset over Ft. Pickens.  In 2011 we became
 official Florida  residents.
The Maples Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine where we spent the summer.
We worked here for one week to give my brother the Inn Keeper a break.
Famous blueberry stuffed French toast of the
Maples Inn


4th of July parade in Bar Harbor.  What else but
a lobster!
Golden Isles of Georgia heading to Jekyll Island.
View from atop Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire.
Our precious Otter.
Our angel pup Spirit.
Betsy and her brother Mark in Maine.  Clams, butter and martinis!
Mystic, Connecticut harbor.
Portland, Maine head light.  One of so many beautiful days
in Maine.
Monhegan Island, Maine when our friends Sandy and Kim met us there.
Freeport, Maine KOA, a campground that had a moose
for a golf cart
Lighthouse and museum on Monhegan Island
Route 11 potato chip factory in New Market,
Virginia.  Nancy hugged a potato chip!
Camden Harbor Maine one of our favorite towns.  We could
sure live here.
This says it all!