Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on a year well spent!

As always at this time of the year, I like to look back and see what we have done, where we've traveled and "tally up the year".  Each year is different (yea!) adding it's own adventures and it's own challenges into the mix.  This was "year 4" for us, so a bit more experienced, and a bit more wear & tear on the coach, (and us) as we found out.

I love flipping the calendar backward, looking at all the places we've gone, revisiting them, so to speak.  It's an extra little reminder of what a wonderful life we have...this vagabond adventure of ours.  Seeing this incredible country, visiting great landmarks, National Parks, fabulous beauty, meeting interesting people and seeing old friends... all of it. 

When I do my "tallies" at the end of the year, I'm always amazed at the numbers...they are never as low, or as high as I imagined them to be.  Keeping track of our campground receipts is done by "stuffing" them into a small plastic bag that I keep up at the front 'Co-Pilot's' seat with me.  I don't pay to much attention to it all year, just making sure to carefully add each receipt to the bag so that at the end of the year I have them all in one safe place for my year-end calculation and blog.  Additionally, I mark our calendar with each campground we stay at, so I know how many campgrounds/nights we've paid vs nights we've stayed with family or friends, or at our time share.

Jack keeps track of mileage, gasoline, propane and maintenance costs.  Having a 2007 RV, she has started "showing her age" a bit, so this year's maintenance and repair bills were higher than ever - but, I kept reminding myself, if we had a sticks and bricks house, it wouldn't be much different!

This year's travels took us from 'coast to coast' as we wanted to see our eastern grandchildren and spend some time with them.  We also had a nephew getting married in Baltimore MD, so what better time to check off one of my bucket list items: Washington DC, while we were so close!  That was something I had wanted to do for most my life, and was not disappointed one bit!  I had high expectations, and they were even exceeded!  Such a thrill to go up into the Washington Monument!  I love our country, and to spend days visiting so many of the Smithsonian Museums was truly a dream come true.  I even had one of my pictures published in the Humanities Magazine and got to meet their Art Director while I was there.  So cool.

Another change this year was meeting up with special friends.  Usually we travel pretty solo.  Not that this is our preference, it's just that this is the way it just seems to be.  In February, we were able to snag a large two-bedroom suite in Orlando in our time share, so we invited some friends to join us.  It turned out one couple could make it the first week, and another the second week!  Yea!  Then, later in March, we joined some friends in Arizona for a couple of days, then were able to meet up with others in Vegas in April, and visit with Colorado friends in May & then they joined us in NM in Oct for a few days!  We made a quick stop at our friends in Utah before heading to family in WA for the holiday.  That's more "company" than we've ever had, but not nearly enough!  Here's hoping 2016 brings even more!

The ups & downs of the year...I have to say that the ups have mostly been the people and the places we visited (I guess no surprise there) and the downs have been the amount of repairs to the RV (& to me).  We've also not had the best weather this year as well as we've run into some really nasty spots along the way, from freezing slush to flooding!

Besides what I've already shared, I'd say some of the highlights this year have been the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee in general.  I loved Chattanooga and visiting Ruby Falls and Rock City and even seeing Dollywood!  We love train trips, and taking the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR through NM was an absolute delight.  We stayed a month in Albuquerque NM, traveling all over the area, really enjoying our stay there.  Of course, starting the year off taking a Caribbean cruise is pretty wonderful, then coming back and discovering the two great towns of Ft Pierce and St Augustine FL was fun lead-in to meeting up with our friends.

Here's our stats for the year:

We stayed at 58 campgrounds, for a total of 302 nights
Total campground fees: $11,293.36
(That averages about $37.39 a night, which is about right...some places were really low,  but overall, most places averaged around $40 a night with discounts)
Mileage for the RV: 13,984
Mileage for the toad: 12,268
Gasoline for the RV: $5,427
Gasoline for the toad: $1,210
Propane: $338
Maintenance & Repairs RV: (oil change, roof sealing, skylight replacement, waste connector replacement, wind shield wipers & motors(twice), slideout fix,  2 tires, hot water heater, water pump) $6,822
Maintenance on the toad: (4 tires, wheel bearings, brakes, 60,000 mile check-up) $4,055

Well, here's to next year!  This will be year number 5 for us, and another exciting one, I'm sure!  I know we are looking forward to it, so hopefully we will see you...down the road!

...on the road in California,  Marie

Monday, December 21, 2015

Adventures in Santa Rosa...Two days can sure make a difference!

It was Saturday and sunny, so we thought we would take advantage of it and go see the Charles M Schulz Museum while we were in Santa Rosa for a few days.  Good Ole' Charlie Brown and Snoopy are my all time favorite comic strip characters, so there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to go see "Sparky's" memorabilia!  Seems he lived and worked the last 40 years of his life here in Santa Rosa.  He was a "regular man about town", building an ice rink, naming it Snoopy's Home Ice, so he could enjoy his passion of ice hockey, right here in California!  He grew up in St Paul MN, so was used to snow & ice, so to speak!  (we visited his home town back in Feb, 2013)  He would walk from his office (two blocks away) each day and have lunch in the adjoining cafe (Warm Puppy Cafe) and watch the local skaters, talk with friends, etc. then walk back and work until about 4pm each day.  He started his own hockey team for "seniors", people from 40 to 75 years!  From the looks of the pictures I saw, it appeared like they had a lot of fun.

His museum was wonderful, not only filled with fun statues and artwork, but some of the original comic strips from the 1950's when he began.  It was really fun to see the changes in his drawings.  I hadn't realized they "morphed" like they did!  It was also fun to read and learn the history behind the names of his characters and stories, like every one's name is an actual friend of his.  He said once in an interview, that to read his strip, is to know him, because everything he writes is about him, one way or another.  When he knew his days were numbered (he had colon cancer) he discussed the future of the strip with his family (5 kids/2nd wife) and they all felt very strongly that no one could/should carry it on.  That once he was gone, it was done.  HE was the only one who had ever written, drawn or created Peanuts, so no one else should ever even try.  (Merchandise, etc. however, was another thing!)  So, now we only have "reruns", and that's how it should be.

The following day we had planned to go see Point Reyes Lighthouse along the Pacific Seashore...and wouldn't you know rained!  "Oh well", we thought, "we'll go anyway, how bad can it be?"  So, we drove the 2 hours out there, from the 101 to the 1 then along the bumpy Francis Drake Blvd.  All the while the rain kept coming down.  The scenery was nice, with lots of moss covered trees and historic ranches along the way, but the road was rough and long.  Well...we finally got there and found that you couldn't see the lighthouse from the parking lot (that would be to easy!), you had to walk another half mile, most of it up the pouring rain, to the lighthouse visitor center.  My good natured husband didn't send me out alone (after all, I'm the one into lighthouses, he's not!)  When we got to the visitor center, which was small, but warm, we found out that the lighthouse was still out and around and down several flights of stairs and down a path and out to a far pouring rain and blowing wind!  Well...I went out and around and took a look and decided that my camera lens could capture it "just fine" from there!  We had done enough craziness already, we didn't need to do anymore!  So, back into the little visitor center I went to "thaw out" a bit, buy a souvenir post card & magnet and tuck my camera back into my coat and take a big breath and head on back to the car!

Once we made it back to the car, we peeled off our soaking wet jackets and sat and ate our picnic lunch while the car heater blasted full on to help warm us up and see if it could dry out our soaked pants.  While there, we had wonderful lunch entertainment watching couples drive in, park, start to get out, only to change their minds and get right back in again and drive away!  Smart people.  ;-)   Then, we drove another two hours all the way back to our campground in the pouring rain again...

Cows being moved across the street at the 1869 Historic E Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Cypress lined pathway to the Historic RCA Building (c1929),Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Dare I say that we should have switched the two outings?  If only we had known... 

...kicking back in Santa Rosa CA,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip (I took much more at the museum!), you can at my Flickr account at:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH RAIN!

We all have to put up with rain sometime...Traveling south along the Oregon coastline in December, one knows your just going to run into rain and fog sometime, it's inevitable.  Better that, than ice and snow we figure!  Last year, traveling south to California at this time, we took Highway 5 and did battle areas of ice and a little snow, so this year we decided that the coast would be a bit warmer, and a whole lot more scenic, to say the least. 

We started out in Portland, and headed south, with our first stop in Cannon Beach.  From the time we left Washington, it began to rain.  On and off, on and off.  But, the temperature crept up bit by bit as we headed south, so, we figured, that was an okay trade off. 

When we reached Cannon Beach, we decided to "hunker down" for a few days and see if the rain would lighten up enough for us to get out and see the area a little.   There were times when it would pour down so hard, you could hardly hear each other talk, then there were times it would stop for awhile...those times we dashed outside and went for it! 

We went to the tiny town of Cannon Beach and enjoyed some of the shops and had a wonderful late lunch then wandered down the beach a bit picking up a few pieces of driftwood.  There was only one other crazy couple and their dog out on the whole beach with us...

The following day, rain and all, we decided to venture out Hwy 26 and go see the Camp 18 Logging Museum.  It turned out to all be "outside" (not "inside" as we had hoped) so, we drove around it and looked around as much as we could.  The Loggers Memorial was closed, so we couldn't go in.  Their very large, and quit beautiful restaurant was open, but it was a bit early for us to eat, so we just looked around a bit, and I took a few pictures of their incredibly large chainsaw statues out front.  In spite of the rain, it was a fun stop. 

There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH we found when we finally left Cannon Beach after our three day stay there when we headed south.  We got about 45 minutes out from our campground on Hwy 101 and bang, stopped dead in our tracks - because the road was FLOODED OUT!  Not good.  Jack pulled over and went and talked with the Highway Patrolmen to ask them about which way we could go to get back to where we wanted to be, which was Florence Oregon.  They basically told him he couldn't.  The highway was flooded from here to Tillamook and parts were even caved in.  We needed to go all the way back north, the way we came, back by Portland to Eugene.  Bummer.  There went our three-day reservation in Florence.  I made the call to cancel.

So, back we went.  Guess who made an appearance the rest of the day?  The sun!  Wouldn't you just know it!  We made Eugene by 4:00 and called it a day.  One thing about traveling in an RV, the WEATHER is the one determining factor as to when and where we go, not us!  Oh well, another adventure awaits us tomorrow! 

...on the road in Oregon,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: 

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Brrrr....time to hit the road again and travel south!

Every year we spend the month of November in Tacoma Washington with part of my family.  The reason is two-fold.  You see, we got our most perfect coach by a "guardian angel" situation that just happen to take place in the month of November, so when it came time to register it, and knowing we were going to sell everything and move out of state, we had two choices:  we had family in California and in Washington.  With the cost of registration and taxes etc. it was a simple decision, Washington!  So, every November we make the trek to Washington, update our tags, see our doctors, visit family, enjoy Thanksgiving...and freeze our tushes off!  Then we hug everyone goodbye and promptly leave before the ice settles in!

Here it is December and we've only made it as far as Portland...but we always have to make a stop here for a couple of days!  After all...Powell's Bookstore is in Portland!  If you are any kind of a reader, you simply must stop at Powell's...there's just nothing like it anywhere!  We've been to bookstores all over the country, and none match this one.  A full city block square and four stories high, and 63,000 square feet!  Plus, a staff that really, really knows their stuff.  We love it (as if you can't tell...).  Then, of course there is always the little "reward" after going up and down all those stairs all day at Powell's, to Voodoo Donuts before we leave...

So, books in hand, we will head down the Coast Hwy 101 in search for the elusive sun in hopes that as each mile south the temperature rises bit by bit, because as the saying goes "you can take us out of California, but you can't take the California out of us"...or something like that, anyway....or..."once a sun-bunny, always a sun-bunny"?  Either way, all I know is that anything less than 70 degrees and it's to dang cold for me!  Brrrrrr

...on the road heading south,  Marie