(September 28 to December 31, 2007)

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September 28 to October 13: Douglasville, Georgia (217 miles)

Road conditions: I-40; I-75; local roads

Campground: Jill's driveway

Fuel:  Flying J in Resaca, Georgia for $2.929

After a nice week in a time share in Fairfield Glade we headed to Douglasville to visit with the kids and grandkids and take care of some chores.  There were two highlights of our stay this time.

One was to take our oldest grandson, Richard, to see the Global Drum Project concert at the Georgia Tech campus. The project was lead by Mickey Hart who was a drummer in the Grateful Dead band. In his words:

"This is a deep drumming groove. We're taking the archaic rhythm worlds into outer space. The Global Drum Project explores rhythm and noise; it's a sound yoga of processed acoustic percussion headed straight for the trance zone that becomes a dance of ancient and modern worlds. Deep drumming is a skeleton key into these realms." -Mickey Hart

We had a good time at the concert and the drumming was fantastic.

The other highlight was being in the area to help celebrate granddaughter Ashley's seventh birthday. We usually aren't in the area for birthdays so this was a treat.

With visits and chores completed it was time to continue south to Florida to get closer to where my mom was now living so we could spend some time with her in her new surroundings.

October 14: Lake City, Florida (307 miles)

Road conditions: I-75; I-10

Campground: Oaks n Pines RV Campground I'm happy to say that Jim and Cherri have been doing a nice job with this campground and the WiFi worked perfectly this time, at least in the sites towards the back of the campground where we were parked.    

Fuel:  Flying J in Lake Park, Georgia for $2.889

This was just an overnight stop. Diane's brother, Jerry came over for a visit.

October 15: Ocala, Florida (83 miles)

Road conditions: I-75

Campground: Cummins Coach Care parking lot

We had an appointment to take care of some annual maintenance on the motorhome and we have found the Coach Care facilities to be reasonable and do good work. It's pretty exciting to see your 30,000 pound motorhome up in the air supported only by a lift on each corner.

October 16 to October 21: Orlando, Florida (82 miles)

Road conditions: I-75; SR 44; US 27; US 192

Campground:  Encore Lake Magic RV Resort  Although we favor this RV park when we are in the area for the space and the people we know here, the new management is making it harder and harder to go there. Their short term prices are getting way too high. When I called to check on the price of a week in October I found out they had a special for $150 for the week, which is a good price. However, not knowing exactly when we would be there I couldn't make a reservation. By the time I called back with firm dates the price had gone to $386 for the week, which is outrageous. I started to look around for other choices, but there aren't many in that area. My research had me learn that Lake Magic had gone back into the Coast to Coast network and had sites available for the dates we would be there. We ended up staying at Lake Magic for six nights for $13 per night. We knew that meant a standard gravel site rather than the large pullthrus, but the manager was there when we arrived and she gave us a concrete pullthru site. What was amazing was that the park was virtually empty and yet had a price point of over $350 for a week. That made absolutely no business sense to me. Seems that it would scare people away to other parks more reasonably priced.

Our purpose in stopping in the Orlando area was to use our Disney World passes which were still valid. Actually, they'll be valid until January 9, 2008. We spent a couple of days in Epcot where they were having the annual Food and Wine Festival. One of the days was spent walking around Epcot with Chuck and Linda Dombrow who had already arrived from Wisconsin for the winter months. Little Richard performed the evening we were there. That was a treat. He's now in his 70s but still gives a good performance.

I got to play a round of golf with Chuck. We had a coupon to play the Legends course at a good price and I've always wanted to play that course. Ron Cells lives in Kings Ridge, which is near the Legends course and he joined us for an enjoyable round of golf.

We met Keith and Marie McQuinn-Roberts a few years ago when they traveled from England to the USA to pursue RVing across America. Our paths hadn't crossed since then, but they were going to be in Orlando while we were there so we made plans to visit. They drove over to see the paint job on our Dutch Star and then we went out to eat and to catch up on each other's travels. It was so nice to see them again.

October 22 to October 28: Cocoa Beach, Florida (74 miles)

Road conditions:  US 192; I-4; SR 528 (toll)

Campground: Parked on a friend's property a block from the ocean

We first visited Cocoa Beach in 2004 where our friend, David Spain, owns a hotel where he allowed us to park our motorhome for a few days. He told us we could come visit whenever we wished to do so. One of the things on our list of things to do was to see a launch of the space shuttle. There was a launch scheduled for October 23rd so we decided to head over to the coast to visit with Dave and see the launch. He was kind enough to get us complimentary tickets tickets for the Kennedy Space Center. The tickets were not valid on the day of a launch so we watched it from the rooftop of his hotel. The weather was great the day of the launch. It was a spectacular sight seeing the shuttle hurtling skyward into space.

We spent the entire next day at the Kennedy Space Center. They have added a new attraction, a simulation of a shuttle launch. The two 3-D movies were fantastic. Dave's brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Bonnie Spain, were also there in there motorhome and we all got to go out to eat one evening along with Dave's wife, Linda, who we didn't get to meet back in 2004. We ended up spending a week in Cocoa Beach and enjoyed a very relaxing week.

Former RV fulltiming friends, Bill and Martha Verity, had purchased a house in The Great Outdoors (TGO) in Titusville, so we drove up there one day to visit with them. We had a nice afternoon catching up over lunch at one of the restaurants in TGO.

October 29 to November 25: Port St. Lucie, Florida (107 miles)

Road conditions: I-95; Saint Lucie West Blvd; US 1

Campground:  Port St. Lucie RV Resort We stayed in this park back in 2003 when we were in the area to visit with my brother Charlie. It's managed by Rick and Ruth Ann Cross who live above the office. This time we were parked up front near the office which afforded us a better chance of using the free WiFi. However, the WiFi network wasn't perfected and was down quite a bit. When it was up, it was very fast, but it was not a reliable network. They were in the process of trying to get it fixed. The park has concrete backin sights with good electric. However, the sights are a bit tight and they do have some drainage problems after a heavy rainfall.

Fuel:  Flying J in Fort Pierce, Florida for $3.139

Over the summer we had to help my mom move from Ocala to Port St. Lucie and get settled into an assisted living facility (ALF). My brother, Charlie, lives in the area and she opted to live there rather than in Ocala where there was no family. She seemed to be doing well with living in the ALF, although there were some minor complaints about missing her house. However, she had gotten to the point where she could no longer live alone and this was the best alternative for her. Diane and I did get to visit with her a few days each week while we were there and take her out to see some movies and to shop. It also gave my brother a break from taking her places.

One of my high school friends, Frank Pesile, still lived in Palm City and we got to visit with him for the first time since 2003. Frank has always had a great singing voice and was singing twice a week at an ALF in Stuart. When I told him that my mom was in an ALF in Port St. Lucie he asked me to find out if they would like him to go there and sing for the residents. The activities director jumped at the chance. Frank went there to give them a sample of his singing and planned to sing for an hour. He loves to sing and sang for two hours. The residents loved him and wouldn't let him stop. So they invited him back again and, once again, he sang for two hours. That time I had my video camera with me and recorded the session and then copied it to DVD.

Frank was always one of my favorite people and we lost touch for many years after high school. We were both on the baseball team and I remember the times we would be traveling to, or from, a game where he would be singing some popular songs of the time. One of the favorites was "In the Still of the Night" where he sang the melody and the rest of us would sing the background. What fun we had. I found out that Frank was now retired and it was great to see him doing well. My brother worked part time at two private golf courses and he was able to get us out for a round of golf on each of the courses.

Back in January when we were at the Tampa RV Show we met Peter and Christiane Ermke who live in Germany and desire to come to the USA to RV around this beautiful country of ours. I received a note from Peter telling me that a friend of his was coming to the US to buy an RV and travel. This is how we met Gustav Bruenn. Peter gave him my email address and suggested that he contact us to talk about RVing. One day I received a note from Gustav asking if we could meet to talk about RVs and RVing as he was totally new to it. He was staying at his niece's house in Satellite Beach, which was up near Cocoa Beach. Too bad we didn't make contact earlier as it was closer than Port St. Lucie. We invited him to come down and spend a day with us and we would try to answer all of his questions.

We first met Gustav Bruenn on November 15. He had told us that his English wasn't so good, but I always respond to foreigners who say that to us that their English is much better than my German, or whatever language it is. It was true that it took some concentration to follow along with Gustav, but he spoke English well enough for us to understand and his English will improve greatly as he travels the USA over the next year. Yes, one year. I could tell that Gustav was a real character and a charmer. He arrived in Miami with a six month visa and tried to get it extended to one year. When the customs person said he couldn't do that, Gustav asked to speak to the supervisor. It turned out to be a woman and I'm sure he sweet talked her into giving him the extra six months. He had all of the necessary paperwork to demonstrate that he could afford to live in the USA for one year. He also told her that he wanted to buy an RV and six months just wasn't enough time to see the USA. So she stamped his visa for one year.
What a coup for him to have gotten a one year visa. That is not easy to do these days.

Gustav spent an entire afternoon with us as we talked over lunch and then somemore back at our motorhome. We showed him our Dutch Star and answered all of his questions. He came with the intent of buying a truck and a fifth wheel, but decided a motorhome and car would be the better option. He was so excited to purchase an RV and get on the road. His excitement was infectious and he had such a fantastic upbeat attitude. It was a pleasure to spend time with him. We promised to stay in touch via email and phone and try to help him through the buying process as much as we could. Naturally, we played up the fact that we have loved our Newmar Dutch Star for the almost eight years we have lived in it and suggested he check out Independence RV in Winter Garden.

Subsequent notes from Gustav indicated he was looking at several different used motorhomes and then I received a note from him three days later saying he had purchased a Newmar Ventana from Independence RV. His note was so upbeat and it was obvious he was happy with his choice. He had also purchased a used Honda CR-V that was already almost ready to tow as it had been owned by an RVer. Gustav named his motorhome "Lucky" because he felt very lucky to be in the USA with a one year visa, and he named his Honda "Happy" because he was very happy to be here. It was obvious he was thrilled to be moving toward his goal of touring the USA.

November 26 to November 28: Winter Garden, Florida (131 miles)

Road conditions: Florida's Turnpike

Campground:  Independence RV parking lot

Our plan was to go to the Escapees (SKP) RV Resort in Wachula to visit with several friends who were there and to play some golf. Those plans changed when we noticed three problems that needed to be tended to with the motorhome. We noticed some water occasionally spraying out from the back of the toilet, there was water dripping from the shower faucet when it was turned off, and the water pump was leaking. We thought it best to move our December 3rd appointment up a week and have these things looked at as we tend to get a bit paranoid when we see water where there isn't supposed to be water.

We knew that Gustav was probably still there after taking delivery of his new Newmar Ventana motorhome the previous Friday. He was very surprised and elated to see us again. Lots of hugs and chatting about his new motorhome and car.

Independence RV has always been good to us when we have come in for service, mostly routine maintenance. Todd Simpson is the service manager and runs a well organized and quality shop. I had called him and he said it would be okay to come in early and he would squeeze us in to fix the problems. It was Monday when we arrived and on Tuesday all the problems were fixed. I watched the service tech, Jeff, do the work and he was very adept and fast. He diagnosed the spraying water from the back of the toilet as a defective vacuum tube assembly and he put a new faucet on the shower. He had both of those done in about half an hour. The water pump was a bit trickier given it's location but he installed a new one in about half an hour. 

While we were waiting, we spent more time with Gustav who, by now, was in heaven with his new purchases. He needed some help with getting the right equipment to put on the Honda so it could be towed and with getting set up with DirecTV. Both of those efforts took a lot of time, including a trip to the Camping World in Kissimmee. He had to special order some adapter brackets from Roadmaster to merge with the Blue Ox tow bar he purchased.

DirecTV was another problem. Gustav tried to set up an account online and got all the way to the end where it asked him for a social security number. That was a dead stop as he had no social security number. He told me about the problem the next day and I offered to call DirecTV to help him get set up. It turned out that they would set up an account for him without a social security number, but he had to put down a deposit, which was not a problem for him. So we got that done.

Diane and I stayed an extra day at Independence to hang with Gustav and see if there were any other things where we could help. On Tuesday, another couple was looking around at motorhomes. They were Peter and Elisabeth Blaser from Horgen, Switzerland. Gustav met them first and introduced us. I told them that we knew Horgen because we have friends who lived in Wollerau where we vacationed this past summer, and our friend's brother lived in Horgen. What a small world. That evening, Gustav invited Diane and I, the Blasers, and a couple of sales people who helped him with the purchase of his motorhome to have some snacks and a drink of champagne. It was Gustav's first party. Afterwards, Diane and I along with the Blasers and Gustav went out to eat and had a lovely evening. Peter and Elisabeth also had a desire to spend more time traveling around the USA. However, they were a bit younger and still working where Peter is an oral surgeon and owns his practice.

We had a very pleasant surprise while we were at Independence when we saw Jim and Mary Harpold come in for maintenance on their Dutch Star. We saw Jim at the Escapade in Indiana in September, but we hadn't seen Mary for quite some time. It was great to see them again, albeit for just a short time.

With everything done that needed to be taken care of, we decided that we would backtrack and go to Wachula for a week. We usually don't backtrack, but there were four couples in the area with whom we wanted to visit.

November 29 to December 5: Wachula, Florida (91 miles)

Road conditions: SR 50; US 27; SR 64

Campground:  The Resort Florida SKP Co-Op  This is one of our favorite SKP Co-Ops to visit. Nice concrete pads and full hookups. However, they were having trouble with the WiFi as they did when we were there in the spring. By the time we left, though, they had a tech support person come look at their network and I was able to get on reliably for the last two days we were there.

As I said, we usually don't backtrack, but we really wanted to visit with everyone. There were the Andruses (Paul and Diane), the Eberlys (Bob and Donna), the Ackermans (Dick and Kay), and the Hendersons (Dennis and Cindy).

What brought us first to this area were our friends, Paul and Diane Andrus, who we met before we purchased our motorhome. They were fulltimers for about two and a half years before settling in Sebring. Both are avid golfers and where they live is perfect for them. Plus, they are also world travelers and we have a great time talking about their trips. This year they went to China and then to France on a barge trip.
One of the big draws for me to come visit is to get to play the two golf courses with Paul at Sun n Lakes where they live. However, I managed to hurt my back while in Port St. Lucie and it wasn't healing as fast as it had in the past. So there was no golf to be played and I was very disappointed about that, for sure.

We met Dennis and Cindy Henderson one winter when we stayed at the Encore park in Crystal River. If you've been following our travelogs you may remember that we visited with them in June up in Pennsylvania where they were workamping. Our paths weren't going to cross for a while until I got a note from Cindy saying they would be staying at a new campground (Torrey Oaks) where the owners were selling RV lots and the Hendersons were going to help with some public relations tasks. That meant I had a chance to get a round of golf in with Dennis. Sadly, no golf for me this week.

We have known the Eberlys and Ackermans since back in 2000 when we met at the RVAMERICA forum's Y2K party in Harlingen, Texas, although we "knew" each other from the forum for some time before that. They have been coming to the state park in Bowling Green, which is just north of Wachula, for the past several years to workamp over the winter. We usually get together for a meal, and Diane and I get out to play a round of golf with Bob and Donna at the Torrey Oaks course next to the campground.

Dick had some great news to share. He was in Vietnam during the early years of the war and fought at the battle of Ia Drang Valley. The movie "We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson tells that story. Dick's unit fought in a battle after the time portrayed in the movie and they lost more soldiers in a few hours than the unit depicted in the movie lost over several days. The latter battle was kind of pushed under the rug because of the severe loss of life, which meant that there was no recognition for service during that battle. Dick was proud to show us the Bronze Star he was awarded with a "V" device for valor during combat. It was unfortunate that it took 42 years for the government to recognize actions taken during the Vietnam War. Dick talks about it on his website.

Friday night at the Elks Lodge was always fun when we went there with the Eberlys and Ackermans. We were able to get everyone, ten of us, together for an evening of eating, drinking, laughing, and camaraderie. The common link was Diane and me as we knew everyone else. Now everyone knows everyone else. It was a fun evening.

Diane and I were able to go over to Paul and Diane's house one more time and then out for dinner. We chatted about our plans for 2008. We plan to go west and tour British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies over the summer. Paul and Diane had a trip planned to go to Turkey that sounded exciting. We all want to do an African safari and maybe one day we'll be able to pull that off and do it together.

Towards the end of our stay at The Resort I got a call from Dirk Harrington who was going to pass through on his way to Fort Myers. He stopped at The Resort and we had a nice visit. We hadn't seen Dirk since we hooked up in Indiana.

We also heard from Gustav that Peter and Elisabeth purchased the last Newmar Ventana that Independence RV had on their lot. They will get to travel in their new rig until early January when they will put it in storage to go back to Switzerland. Then they plan to return to more extensive traveling around the USA in the spring.

December 6: Lake City, Florida (244 miles)

Road conditions: SR 64; SR 62; CR 39; SR 674; I-75; I-10

Campground:  Oaks n Pines RV Campground

This was just an overnight stop on the way to Douglasville for the holidays and to spend a short visit with Diane's brother, Jerry.

December 7 to December 31: Douglasville, Georgia (307 miles)

Road conditions: I-10; I-75; I-285; Camp Creek Parkway; SR 92

Campground: Jill's driveway

Fuel:  Flying J in Lake Park, Georgia for $3.189

The three weeks we spent in Douglasville seemed to fly by. Highlights, or course, were to visit with kids and grandkids and hook up with our former neighbor (Ron Tarlton) and my former colleague (Carolyn Green).

This visit to Georgia was even more special this time because we were finally able to cross paths with a high school friend and neighbor of mine, JoAnne Morreale, which is how I knew her as we were growing up in Levittown, Long Island.  The last time we saw her was at my 40th high school reunion in 2001. Her husband, Rich, wasn't there so we didn't get to meet him.
Now she is JoAnne Hintze and they  were in the process of having a house built and moving to the Atlanta area where their two kids and two grandkids live.

We got to visit with them twice over the three weeks. JoAnne and I had a great time talking about our times at Island Trees High School, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other. JoAnne was also friends with Frank Pesile and remembered his singing when we were in school. We all were in some of the same classes and we all went to the same church. I surprised JoAnne by showing her the DVD of Frank singing at the assisted living facility and she loved it. She was even more surprised when I told her that the copy I was playing was hers to keep. Sadly, she told me that the DVD wouldn't play properly on another computer or DVD player, and that was disappointing. Unfortunately, there are incompatibilities between these machines that prevent them from being portable from machine to machine. I made a second copy for her and suggested she keep them both and try them on different machines.

The two visits seemed to go very quickly and there always seemed like more to talk about after the visits ended. We wished them luck and good fortune with their new home. Our plans for 2008 have us being out west most of the year after the winter so we wouldn't be back to Georgia until September or October. By then, Rich and JoAnne will be settled into their home and neighborhood and we will definitely go visit with them. Unfortunately, I can be a dunce at times and I never got a photo of Rich and JoAnne, so I've asked her to send me one when she gets a chance and then I'll update this travelog and photo page.

The rest of our time in Douglasville was spent shopping for Christmas, walking around the Arbor Place Mall in the mornings, and relaxing with tea and cappuccino in the Borders store. Before we knew it, the time had come to leave and head south for the winter. We planned to leave on Sunday, but we awoke to heavy rain and decided to stay another day. Monday was foggy, but it broke by mid morning and the drive was great. We settled in at the Oaks n Pines Campground and went out for an early New Years Eve dinner with Diane's brother, Jerry and his wife Janet. Diane and I have never been big New Year's Eve folks so we did what we usually do and brought in the new year by watching TV and seeing the ball drop in Times Square.

Oaks n Pines has a great cable system with HD stations, so we decided to stay there for New Year's Day to enjoy some bowl games in HD. We left on January 2 and made a stop at Independence RV to have a small water leak in the shower taken care of before going to the Encore Lake Magic RV Resort where we will stay until April 1.

Diane and I hope everyone had a great 2007 and will have a better 2008. For those of you who are still working, but dreaming and/or planning to hit the road as fulltimers, we hope the time passes quickly for you so you can enjoy this lifestyle. We can't begin to tell you how much better we have loved this lifestyle for the past almost eight years over living in a house. We have more contact and social situations now than we ever did when living in a house, and that seems to be the case with just about all other fulltimers we have met along the way. That's not to say that we won't ever own a house again. We probably will. But, for the past eight years, and foreseeable future, this is the lifestyle we enjoy.

Take care and HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Until next time, safe travels.....

Copyright © 2008, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved

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