Six Months on the Road

On November 14, 2014, Lee and I closed on our house and headed out on the road.  I thought the six month mark would be a good time to summarize what’s happened so far and share my overall thoughts.

What we have done in the last six months

  • Stayed six weeks in Rock Hill, SC;  ten weeks in Tampa,FL;  three weeks in St. Augustine, FL;  and four weeks in the Outer Banks, SC.
  • Camped with Cori and Greg, Deb and Steve, Jo and Ben, Kelly and Bill, Eileen and Gene, Jo and Craig, and Sue and Guy.
  • Spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my sister and her family. Celebrated my nephews birthday in person.
  • Lee became a certified mobile tech graduating from RVTC
  • Was able to be with my grandfather, mother, and uncle and aunts when my grandmother died in Florida.  Although this was incredibly sad I was grateful I was so close to my grandfather and could be with him.
  • Earned four state stickers (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida)
  • Visited (for the first time) and listed in the order we would be most likely to return: Charleston, SC; Jekyll Island, GA, Outer Banks, SC; Clearwater, FL; Tarpon Springs, FL, Asheville, NC; St. Augustine, FL.  (Charleston and Jekyll Island were long time bucket list places for me and completely lived up to my expectations)
  • Established Florida State Residency.  It was painful but we got it done.
  • Stayed at two state parks, numerous private campgrounds, and one 55+ RV community
  • Established and maintained a monthly budget.  Still a work in progress, but we put a stake in the ground.
  • For  activities we have taken a sunset cruise, conquered an adventure ropes course, watched taps being played at sunset, gone on a ferry, kayaked on the ocean, sang karaoke in a bar, enjoyed campfires on the beach, and gone on numerous nature walks.
  • We have visited (among many other places) Kitty Hawk, Charleston Waterfront park, The Citadel, Charleston Provost Dungeon, Roanoke Island, Bodie Lighthouse, Kennedy Space Center, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Florida Botanical Gardens, Angel Oak, Patriots Point, and The Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Some of our Favorite Moments posted roughly in chronological order

  • Seeing Cori and Greg in PA our first night on the road.  Stopping to be with them made it real and spending the first few days with them was very special
  • Holding my new nephew for the first time and having him give me big smile.  There were many moments with us and Abram but that first big smile was a killer.
  • Having breakfast at Anna J’s with Deb and Steve.  Deb got eggs and catfish and inspired me (not for the first time) to try new things  in this new life.  (the catfish was excellent and I would never in a million years have ordered it)
  • Lee taking my nephew Alec to the magic store.  Alec is 10 and the perfect age for Lee to share his love of magic with.  They spent the entire afternoon together and had a blast.
  • Stumbling across Looking Glass Waterfall in Pisquah National Forest.  I was struggling with a big decision regarding work at the time and when we accidentally found this amazing waterfall, I felt God was giving my my answer.
  • Making my edible “Christmas Tree” for the birds and squirrels.  Lee was not only supportive but really helped me make it a reality and I felt great when it actually worked out the way I pictured it in my head.
  • Spending a weekend in Charleston.  I have wanted to visit the city every since I first read the Prince of Tides and it completely lived up to my expectations of it.  Every single thing we did there was special and I loved it.
  • Spending a day at Patriot’s Point and touring an air craft carrier. Lee absolutely loved it and I had more fun than I thought I would.
  • Spending Christmas morning with my sister and the kids.  Watching the boys open their soccer presents, having Bailey actually like the gift card I got her, and being with Abram on his very first Christmas was so special and something that would never have happened if we hadn’t gone out on the road.
  • Seeing the turtles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.  I love sea turtles and they do an amazing job there of caring for them and releasing as many as possible back into the wild.  Plus Jekyll island itself was an amazing place and I would love to go there again.
  • Kayaking with Gene and Eileen
  • Seeing Jo, Ben, Kelly, Bill, Eileen, and Gene in Fort Meyers. Plus taking a boat ride with Jo and Ben.  Didn’t see any manatee but what a wonderful relaxing day.
  • Seeing Cori and Greg in Florida when they drove down for the boondocking rally.  They drove extra long  so we could spend time with them and I started crying as soon as I saw Cori.  Was so glad she had made it.
  • Getting to spend time with everyone the day we visited the BoonDocking rally.  It was really nice of Linda and Howard to let us crash for a day.
  • The dolphins swimming next to our boat on our amazing sunset cruise with Jo and Ben and Kelly and Bill.
  • Watching taps being played with Lee at Indian Rocks Beach and having Lee take off his shoes and walk in the surf.  
  • Dinner with Jen and Nando at the Pub Waterfront Restaurant
  • Lunch at the turkish restaurant in Epcot with Kat and Micah
  • Seeing where the Apollo missions launched at Kennedy Space Center with Kat, Micah, and Lee
  • Seeing the MD Oriental Market with Lee and buying some crazy stuff
  • The few times one of my new recipes was a home run and watching Lee’s face as he enjoyed every bite.
  • The farmer’s market in St. Augustine, Florida
  • Driving through Pea Island on the way to Ocean Waves campground  and seeing the wild dunes
  • When Cori and Greg rolled into Ocean Waves Campground.  They were finally on the road after such a long wait and it was a very cool to share in that moment with them
  • Bill making me a fantastic rum sour with a little umbrella in it.
  • Walking the same ground where the first flight took off at Kitty Hawk
  • Celebrating Cinco De Mayo with Sue, Guy, Cori, Greg, Bill, Kelly, Jo, and Craig
  • Conquering the adventure park with Lee and Kelly.  I was so proud of Kelly for overcoming her fears.  She inspired me to push my own limits.
  • Watching my very first ever full moon rise.  Very very cool.
  • The night the beach fire exploded
  • Kelly and I singing Karaoke together.  Rocking a little “Jack and Diane”
  • Walking Hobie on the beach and collecting shells
  • Girls night with Jo, Eileen, Sue, Cori, and Kelly and making our shell picture frames
  • Sue cutting my hair outside her camper.  It was so sweet of her and she did a really terrific job.
  • Our last campfire together on the beach where we all talked about what we liked most about the life.  It was a very special moment

Can I just say here that seriously this list amazes me.  I was a real couch potato before we started on this adventure and spent a whole lot of time reading, watching TV, killing time on the computer.  That I managed to do all the things above in 6 months is absolutely incredible.  And I don’t feel over stressed or tired…I feel invigorated and am looking forward to doing more.

Lessons Learned

  • We really don’t like moving days.  And no it isn’t as simple as changing the time we move or how far we travel.  We like to spread out when we stay in a place and the chaos of moving day still isn’t any fun for either of us.  We have gotten better at it, but not our favorite day by far.
  • We like staying in one place and really seeing things.  We are fine with staying in a place 2-4 weeks as a matter of fact we prefer it.  Because of my work schedule we are limited in the things we can do during the work week so need at least two weekends to really see what an area has to offer.
  • We like full hookups.  I say that knowing full well we haven’t gotten out west yet and we are excited about exploring the possibilities of boon docking, but all other things being equal we would take full hookups every time.  It enables you to do laundry in the RV, take long showers, and not worry about how much water you use when washing dishes.
  • The best things to do are free or near free.  The most rewarding experiences we have had to date cost very little money and are fulfilling in ways I rarely experienced while on vacation.  Speaking of vacation you do have to remind yourself frequently you are not on one.  The desire to see and do everything right now is very strong.  Slowing down and really experiencing the life is in our opinion far more rewarding.
  • We do watch television.  Yes I know you think you’ll be out exploring with all of your free time, but sometimes you just want to sit an veg in your coach and watch some TV.  Plus it gives you a sense of normalcy when you’re in a strange place and bad weather days do happen.
  • Everything you read in the forums just isn’t true. Since we knew nothing about camping, let alone full timing, I tended to take everything I read on the forums as the gospel.  Many “facts”  are situational, others are opinion presented as fact, and the one only one thing I have found to be absolutely true is there is no one true way.
  • Being with friends is complicated but well worth it.  The country is a big place and if you want to be with people you need to go to some trouble.  But, for us, the trouble is well worth the added benefit with being with others who truly get the lifestyle.  These friendships have grown deeper and stronger because we are investing in them.
  • Not everyone will be happy for you.  Some people are jealous, others think you don’t deserve it.  Still others think it’s all a scam or a big lie.  That’s ok.  I care less and less what others think as the days go by and that is a wonderful side benefit to the lifestyle.
  • This life can make or break a relationship.  It is not easy and it definitely isn’t for everyone.  If you have problems in your relationship this lifestyle will initially make them worse not better…but that being said if you can truly be honest with each other and communicate, communicate, communicate your relationship can grow in ways you never imagined.

 

Campground Reviews

Ocean Waves Campground  Rte 12, Rodanthe, NC 5 out of 5 pinecones  (2015)

Absolutely fantastic campground with easy access to National seashore.  Their off-season monthly rate was a very reasonable $630 with a $55 electric fee.  Cable television is available.  Wifi in the campground is very strong.  We did have a bit of issues with ATT coverage on some stormy days, but I was able to work consistently the month I was here.  Restrooms are very clean, the staff is paying attention without being intrusive, and they were very good about allowing us to accept packages.  We stayed in site 45 which was fabulous.  We were centrally located and could go north or south to see the sites.  The city of Rodanthe itself is one of the least populated and I like the wild dunes in Pea Island which is right down the road.  I would absolutely return to this campground and give it my highest recommendation.

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Hanging with Deb and Steve

The very next day after we landed in Rock Hill, Steve and Deb came to visit!!  They had rerouted themselves to spend time with us, which was so sweet, and a wonderful way to start our adventure.  We made chili for them and once they got situated we went over and spent some time eating and getting caught up.  Steve works from his rig and we spent some time talking about how he makes that work for both of them.  It was a great conversation and it’s interesting to talk about the similarities and differences between what we are experiencing.

I promised some pictures of Ebenezer State Park in my last blog so here we are.   Our “back yard” looks out on the water and it is a very short walk down to the water’s edge. They have sites that can be reserved for two weeks as well as “drop in” sites that are day to day.  The campground is broken into two sections; a wooded area and an open area with lake views and the rangers are very nice. The price is right at $28 a day for full hookups, including city water, and fantastic water pressure.  They have free wifi which is on the weak side but we had no trouble getting cell signal here.

I was dying to try out my new camera a Canon Rebel T5 so I walked down to the water and took some pictures.  My one big splurge before going on the road was this camera.  I have been using a point and shoot for many years, but I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on a great shot because I didn’t have the right lens.  It was pretty darn intimidating at first, but Lee hooked me up and set the settings at a simple point and shoot mode.  I will get more fancy later, but for right now I loved  how simple it was to use.  Plus I felt like a professional with my fancy camera and strap!!

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

 

 

Our Camper :)

Our Camper. (Comes complete with handsome and witty man.-Lee)

 

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View from our back window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Lake Wylie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Ebenezer State Park beach area

 

Lakw Wylie

Lake Wylie has beautiful houses across the shore

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie has many small islands you can land a boat on

The next night Steve and Deb cooked.  They made chicken breasts wrapped with bacon, new potatoes, and salad, and it was amazing.  Here’s the thing about swapping meals…what’s normal to the people cooking is super good to the invitees.  We all tend to make the same meals over and over so it’s a great opportunity to eat something new and get some fresh ideas.   Deb’s potatoes in particular were awesome.  She medium boiled them in salt water to fork tender then drained them and added butter and a sprinkle of parsley.  So good.  The skins were super soft and it was easy.  I added the recipe below

Oh, and the funniest thing happened.  We have two pretty brazen squirrels hanging out at our site (Rocky and Adrian).  Lee put some birdseed on the ground and now they are our best friends.  Well Rocky did the craziest thing.  He jumped on our chair and then climbed up on the metal hand rail next to our door.  Then he sat there and swiped at the door with his paws as if he was trying to get in.  Crazy.  Couldn’t get a pic when he was on the rail, but he stayed there for a really long time before he jumped down and wandered away.  Never seen anything like that.

Rocky

Rocky  (picture taken by Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next night I made my Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf.  She passed not that long ago and throughout this process I really have felt she was watching out for me, so it was nice to make her signature dish and get to share it with our friends.  Steve and Debbie really liked it (I gave Steve the leftovers for a meatloaf sandwich the next day)  and I have posted the recipe below.   Then we played Cards against Humanity and Steve crushed it even though they have never played before.  I do want to warn you: the game is definitely for adults and can stray into the raunchy.  (That’s not true at all. It starts in the raunchy and quickly devolves into the downright offensive. I love it. – Lee) Luckily they definitely got it and there was a ton of laughter.   Who knew Deb had such a wicked sense of humor 🙂  Deb also showed us how she routes them.  She is the planning master and is an expert at finding campgrounds and routes.  She uses a website called Road Tripper (they also have an app) and Lee really liked it.

The next morning we went to this little hole in the wall breakfast place my sister recommended called Anna J’s.  I love the mom and pop places and luckily it’s what our new budget can afford.  I got silver dollar pancakes, bacon, and coffee for $5.  Can’t beat that.  Deb got the catfish and eggs because she had never seen it before.  I love her adventurous spirit.  The catfish was unbelievably good and the portion was so large we all had a piece.

Look at this piece of catfish...unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Look at this piece of catfish…unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Steve and Deb at Anna J's

Steve and Deb at Anna J’s…they are so cute

 

So what do you do after going to a diner for breakfast in South Carolina?  Well, you go to a gun range of course!!  Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of all of our amendments including the right to bear arms so I have no problem with gun ownership at all.  We never had guns (although Lee grew up with them) because of the kids, and for us personally the potential risk was not worth it.  However now that it is just the two of us we have been rethinking that strategy and since Steve and Deb have a gun in their rig we decided to go to a range and shoot it.  If you are a gun owner, I think it is incredibly important that both members of the couple are comfortable enough shooting it to use it in a dangerous situation.  That means being able to load, cock, and fire the weapon with some level of certainty.  In order to make that work for me (who has very limited experience) it would be important to find a handgun that I felt I could grow comfortable with over time.  Steve’s was not too bad but had a bit of a kick for me, so I rented (for $7) a Smith & Wesson 9MM.  I liked shooting it and found it reasonably easy to cock and load, but I am not ready to “pull the trigger” and buy one.  Sorry couldn’t help myself 🙂  It was fun though and only cost $18 for Deb and Steve who had their own gun and bullets and $57 for Lee and I who rented one and bought 100 rounds. Kind of pricey for an hour’s entertainment but it’s also research so I didn’t feel too bad about it.  Plus of course we got some great pictures and had a really good time.  Although Deb has been shooting since age four, she has never been to a gun range so it was a new experience for her.

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around :)

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around 🙂

Deb is one heck of a shot. She's been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don't mess with her.

Deb is one heck of a shot. She’s been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don’t mess with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve's a goofball

Steve’s a goofball.  He was simulating a man coming at me to get me in the shooting mood. It worked!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and Deb. Do you believe she's older than me?? What I wouldn't give for that Italian heritage

Me and Deb.

 

Lee was into it

Lee was into it

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went over to see my sister briefly after the gun range.  Needed to pick up our new heated fresh water hose. (Even though the daytime weather is quite nice, sometimes the nights can get down below freezing, and there’s no protection from the cold for the fresh water hose that goes from the campground’s water supply hydrant to the camper. It’s a pain to go out and turn it off every night, and then drain it, so it doesn’t freeze up. This hose has a built in heating element that runs the length of the hose, and a thermostat, and keeps the water above freezing, down to well below zero. One of the nicest features is that it is female on both ends, so you can use it whether the power source that you are plugging in to is at the supply end, or the demand end. It comes with a male-male adaptor to use that feature. – Lee) It’s nice to be able to send things to my sister while we are here and we are taking full advantage to get our last minute items from Amazon.  Then we took some relax time in the afternoon and just hung out in the beautiful sun. The weather has been beautiful all week…clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.  As I watched my friends in Buffalo and other parts east deal with nasty weather, I felt so very grateful to be in a place where I could walk outside with just a light jacket.  One thing we hadn’t done yet was have a campfire, so we took advantage of our last night with Steve and Deb and made one.  It was great, and just what we needed to take off the night chill and the first campfire of our new life together.  So glad we had friends there to share it with us.

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Deb and Steve bringing us Stew and biscuits...yummy

Deb and Steve bringing us stew and biscuits…yummy

Deb made stew and biscuits and we sat around the fire and talked until pretty late.  Even though we are going through similar things today, we took advantage of the time to learn a little about each others pasts and since Deb has 4 kids and I have 3 shared our childbirth stories…hey, it’s what parents do.  (No pictures, because….ewwww. – Lee) The best story of the night though goes to Debbie when she told us how Steve passed out in their Lamaze class.   He says it was the heat, but they were playing the C-section video at the time so you be the judge!!!  Steve is a big guy, and he passed out cold in the hallway and they had to carry him into one of the doctors’ offices and use smelling salts to revive him.  The picture of that is still making me smile and it was so nice to get to know each other better.

We had a great time this week and feel really blessed that Deb and Steve changed their travel plans to meet up with us.  They are headed to Charleston, Savannah, and all parts of Forida, but we hope to meet up with them again before they head out west.  I know I keep saying it but it bears repeating…you meet the nicest people in this lifestyle and we are truly grateful for it.

Recipes

Tracy’s Chili

  • 3 packages of chili seasoning (I like McCormick but any brand will do)
  • 3 lbs hamburger
  • 1 – (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 – (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 3 –  (14oz) cans petite diced tomatoes (no flavoring and do not drain)
  1. Brown hamburger
  2. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, and seasoning packets to large pot
  3. Add cooked and drained hamburger
  4. Cook over medium heat until comes to a light boil
  5. Simmer (stir frequently so it does not burn)
  6. Let sit several hours on no heat or overnight
  7. Eat one or two meals then freeze the rest

 

Deb’s Tiny Potatoes

  • Small bag of white or red new potatoes
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  1. Boil potatoes in salt water until fork tender
  2. Drain
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (use generously)
  4. Season with parsley
  5. Serve

Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds hamburger
  • 1 package Lipton’s onion soup mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup crumbled Saltine Crackers
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Glass or metal baking dish
  1. Place hamburger in a large mixing bowl and add soup mix, crackers, milk, and egg
  2. In a separate small bowl mix ketchup and BBQ sauce
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Mix hamburger and ingredients VERY well using your hands (yes it’s messy but it’s the best way!!)
  5. Shape meatloaf into a loaf in a baking pan (I try to not make it too thick or the middle does not get done)
  6. Cover top and sides of meatloaf with sauce mixture (saving 1/2 for second basting)
  7. Cover pan with aluminum foil
  8. Cook 1/2 hour at 350 degrees then remove from oven
  9. Drain grease, baste with remaining sauce, cover with foil, place in oven
  10. Cook an additional 1/2 hour
  11. Remove from oven and check the middle to make sure it’s down
  12. Place in oven for an additional 10 minutes uncovered to lightly brown the sauce on top
  13. Serve

Y001

 

 

 

 

 

 

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