Eight Years
  (February 11 to May 26, 2008)

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February 11 to March 25: Port St. Lucie, Florida (132 miles)

Route: US 27; FL 60; I-95; local roads

Campground:  Port St. Lucie RV Resort  Although this RV resort has concrete pads and free WiFi, it wouldn't be our first choice if there was something else in the area. The staff, Rick and Ruth Ann, were very nice. However, the sites are very close together, like VERY close, and the WiFi never did work out at our site. It was even an up and down situation when I tried to use it in the clubhouse. We had hoped to winter at Lake Magic in Orlando and make weekly trips to Port St. Lucie to visit my mom. When it became obvious we needed to be down there more often, we paid the penalty at Lake Magic and went to Port St. Lucie. That meant we had to pay the going rate for February, which was $920. OUCH!!. Next winter we'll make the decision to spend the winter there and get a reduced long term rate. The location of the resort is great so that worked in our favor.

We stayed at the resort for six weeks. During that time we got to visit with Mike & Sherry Krause who we met in 2000 in Lake City, Florida, and then saw them again out in Mesa, Arizona at the Hofmeister's RV rally at the Lost Dutchman State Park near Superstition Mountain. It had been several years since we saw each other, so it was great to visit and catch up.

We also got to visit with Steve & Amy Turney who we also hadn't seen for a few years. They were also a couple of the first folks we met when we started our RV lifestyle.

Other than those visits, the rest of the time was spent visiting with my mom and taking her shopping or to do other errands. I don't get to play much golf anymore when we are on the road, but I did get to play a few rounds with my brother, Charlie, and high school friend, Frank Pesile.

Charlie has a home movie theater in his house and he let us come over to watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies and Ben Hur on his 100" screen. What a great home theater. Nine speakers, overhead projector, nine reclining theater seats. Nice.

For those of you who have followed our travels it goes without saying that Diane and I kept up with our movie watching by seeing one or two movies a week. My mom likes the movies and we took her out every Monday to see a movie we thought she would like to see.

Diane is still a baseball fan. One day we noticed a sign in the clubhouse for someone selling tickets to a Braves-Mets spring training game. We went over to the site and the lady still had them for sale. So we bought two and went to the game on the penultimate day at the PSL RV Resort.

March 26 to March 28: Port St. Lucie, Florida (11 miles)

Route: Local roads

Campground:  Outdoor Resorts St. Lucie West Motorcoach Resort  Outdoor Resorts is a chain of luxury RV resorts that sell sites. We stayed at this resort a few years ago when they had a "pay for one night, stay for three nights" deal. The nightly rate this year was $70, which we find outrageous and never spend that kind of money for an RV site. However, at the Tampa RV Show we picked up a coupon for three free nights at this resort. It's actually several miles closer to where my mom is living than the PSL RV Resort. The Outdoor Resort is a beautiful resort with some marvelous RV sites on which owners have done lots of landscaping with stone walls, palm trees, huge outdoor grills, tiki huts, etc. Plus, the resort has a small par 3 golf course. They were pushing sites in a new section for $129,000. That's for a piece of concrete. That's way too rich for our blood, but there are lots of folks who are buying RV lots in these kind of resorts. Some resorts sell lots for more than $200,000.  I figure that would buy a lot of diesel fuel.

We did some final visiting with my mom and then bid her and my brother good-bye until we return in the fall.

March 29 to March 30: Lake City, Florida (272 miles)

Route: US 27; I-4

Campground: Oaks 'n Pines RV Park  I have written about this park before. Nice park and we always stay here when we come through this area. Great WiFi. Cable with HD stations. Pullthru sites. Nice owners.

This was a two day stop to visit with Diane's brother, Jerry, and his wife, Janet. We didn't even unhook the car.

March 31: Gulfport, Mississippi (414 miles)

Route: I-10

Campground:  Walmart parking lot

Fuel:  $3.959 at Flying J in Midway, Florida

This was an overnight stop. Actually, I had intended to stop for the night at a Camping World north of Summerdale, Alabama, but I must have not been focusing and missed the exit. So we continued on to Gulfport and found a Walmart.

April 1 to April 2: Baton Rouge, Louisiana (137 miles)

Route:  I-10

Campground: Farr Park Campground & Horse Activity Center. This was a nice little park on the grounds of an equestrian center. It was close to downtown and the price was right at $12 for water and electric. You just go in and get a site and then go pay. We heard it could be swampy after a heavy rain, but we lucked out and there was no rain while we were there.

The reason we stopped here was to visit with some old friends. Darrell & Judy Patterson were there attending an Escapees chapter rally. We didn't want to stay for the rally, but we asked if we could stop by to visit and the answer was yes. It was great to see Darrell and Judy again. They served as tour guide and took us to visit the state capital building and the Old State Capitol.

The Louisiana State Capitol was completed in 1932 and stands on a 27-acre tract of land. It is the tallest capitol building in the United States at 450 feet high with 34 floors. Twenty-five rail cars were needed to bring in the limestone used on the exterior and the interior marbles that came from distant places, including Vermont and Italy. The cost to complete the building was $5 million. We walked around the lobby looking at the beauty of the design and marble. We also got to see inside the Senate and House chambers. The grounds were lovely and the view from the top of the building was fantastic.

The Old State Capitol sits on five acres of land. The building is nearly 150 years old and was the first state capitol. The Louisiana legislature voted to secede from the Union in the House Chamber in 1861. It was seized and burned by Union soldiers during the Civil War in 1862. When the seat of government moved from Baton Rouge to Opelousas and Shreveport, and later New Orleans, the old state capitol building was abandoned for 20 years. The government moved back to Baton Rouge and the capitol was restored in 1882. When the new capitol building was finished in 1932, the old building was vacated.

The property was surrounded by a 1,575 foot 160 year old cast-iron fence. The fence was erected in 1855 and is unique in that it is made entirely of interlocking parts. Bolts were only used to secure the posts to the base plates. The entire length of the fence was adorned with quatrefoils and fleur de lis with stylized pineapples on top of each stanchion. Pineapples are the classic symbol of hospitality.

Inside were displays of Louisiana history as well as some recordings of parts of speeches given by former governors. One of those was Huey Long who was the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932. He was assassinated in the state capitol building in 1937. He was quite a character and was noted for his radical populist policies. Listening to some of his speeches it was evident how his charisma could rally the people of his state.

As we walked around downtown we saw St. Joseph Cathedral and went to visit. For more than 150 years, St. Joseph Church, now a cathedral, has stood on the site. It was built in 1853 in a Greek Revival style of architecture. The steeple was constructed in 1891. The parish grew and the building was doubled in size in 1924. The inside was beautiful, but not lavish. There was a chapel on each side of the main altar.

We ate dinner with the folks attending the rally and got to visit with some other old friends who were there: Dave and Sharyl Tholen and Cindy and Phil Devonshire. It was a nice, but short stop on our way west.

April 3 to April 10: Livingston, Texas (253 miles)

Route: I-10; US 69; FM (Farm Road) 1003; FM 943; TX 146

Campground:  Rainbow's End. This is the home RV park for the Escapees RV Club. It's where we "live" and our mail goes.

Fuel:  $3.799 at Flying J in Orange, Texas

We spent a week here to just do nothing and visit with folks. We hadn't seen Mark Nemeth for a couple of years. We used to follow his travels on his website before we met him during our first winter on the road. He now works for the Escapees organization and writes a column for the magazine. Mark is a kind of jack of all trades kind of guy. Very handy. He even brews his own wonderful beer, makes wine, and treated Diane to some home made soda when we visited with him at his house. We look forward to seeing him in June at the Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming.

I got a note from Ernie Fuller telling me that he and Virginia were not too far from Livingston and could we get together. We met them during the winter of 2006 while we were traveling with Norm and Linda Payne. They drove over one day and we went out to lunch to catch up. It was nice to see them again. They are proof that RVing is for anyone who has the will and good health to pursue the lifestyle. They are both around 80 years old and loving RVing.

One day a note came into my inbox from Sherry Krause asking us where we were currently parked. She said they were at Rainbow's End, so we walked over to their site, knocked on the door, and told them we were very close. It was like feast or famine for visiting with each other. We hadn't seen each other for years and then we visited in Port St. Lucie and now Livingston with a few weeks. It's part of what we love about fulltime RVing.

April 11 to April 13: Georgetown, Texas (211 miles)

Route: US 190; I-45; US 79;  TX 95; TX 29

Campground:  East View RV Park   This is a nice small park that is privately owned. It's also a Passport America park with a two night stay allowed at that rate. Free WiFi that worked okay.

Our purpose in swinging over to the Austin area was to visit some former fulltime RVing friends and a former colleague of mine.

We met Liane and Don Holder and son, Tom, back in our early years on the road. They came off the road and settled in Georgetown in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. We went over to see their place and then out to eat and chat. Since Liane and Don are part of my email group that corresponds almost daily, there wasn't much catching up to do, so we had a nice visit as they told us about life in a stick house after years on the road.

Sue Hoke was a colleague of mine when I was working in Audit and traveling around the world. We worked a few audits together and had some fond memories of places we've visited, like the shrines and temples in Japan, and some great meals with other colleagues. When Sue finished up her assignment in Audit she took an assignment in Austin. She lived only about 20 miles from the campground so we drove down to her place where she gave us a very nice lunch. Sue had to drop off her bike for some repairs, so she offered to give us a quick tour of Austin. When we returned to her house, she showed us some photos of the tour she took earlier in the year to the Holy Land. It was, at times, a grueling tour with long rides and short sleep times, but Sue said she loved it and was very glad she went. She saw the pyramids and the sphinx and other sites that are high on our list of things to see.

It was great seeing everyone. Diane and I thought that someday we'll have to come back and spend more time in the area.

April 14 to April 16: Grapevine, Texas (190 miles)

Route: I-35; TX 121; local roads  

Campground:  Elks Lodge. The lodge had several RV sites with electric and water on level ground.

Fuel:  $3.979 at Flying J in Waco, Texas

I have been to Dallas several times during my career, but Diane had never been there. In the eight years we have been on the road our path has never taken us through Dallas. So this time we decided to put Dallas in our path on the way to Phoenix even though that isn't exactly the shortest route. Another former colleague of mine, Merle Stuchell, and his wife, Linda, live in Trophy Club, which was less than 10 miles from the Elks Lodge.

I first met Merle in the fall of 1996 when he first joined the Audit group and came to Japan to work on an audit. Diane was with me there and we met Merle and showed him around Tokyo. We remember doing a lot of walking that day. I was at the end of my first tour in Audit. I was scheduled to be in Tokyo for eight weeks, but had to leave after five as my dad was at the end of his battle with pancreatic cancer. I left Audit at the end of the year and went back to a desk job. When I realized that I really preferred the 100% travel over a job that would have offered more opportunity to advance, I made a request to return to Audit. That took almost 18 months. When I returned to Audit, Merle was still there on his assignment and was then a seasoned Information Technology auditor. I worked another two years in Audit before retiring. Merle and I worked together several times and it was always enjoyable. One thing is that Merle is one of the funniest story tellers I have ever known. We had many dinners where Merle would have us all in stitches with his stories.

We went over to their house and then out to eat and catch up on the past eight years. We have always wanted to go downtown to see the Book Depository. Merle had to attend a meeting, so Linda played tour guide and drove us into Dallas to the depository. It was a very moving experience to relive that horrible day in 1963 when JFK was assassinated. After we finished touring the depository, Linda drove through some areas of Dallas to show us more of the city. Then we hooked up with Merle and went out to eat at their country club. We had a wonderful day.

I gave my IRA to Fidelity to manage and it turned out that my relationship manager, Richard Winters, works out of an office in the Dallas area right near Trophy Club. We set up a date to go over and meet him and have lunch. We spent over an hour chatting about lots of things, including the current horrible stock market. It was nice to meet Richard and put a face with the voice.

April 17: Pecos, Texas (422 miles)

Route: TX 121; I-30; I-20 

Campground:  Escapees Tra-Park RV Park

Fuel:  $4.029 at Flying J in Pecos, Texas

This was just an overnight stop.

April 18: Lordsburg, New Mexico (422 miles)

Route: I-20; I-10 

Campground:  Flying J parking lot

Fuel:  $3.959 at Flying J in Lordsburg, New Mexico

This was an overnight stop. If we can park in the RV area near the restaurant we like staying at a Flying J. We go in and eat and then relax for the rest of the evening. This Flying J was across the road from a rail line. Of course, there was a road just up ahead so the horn blew right at the Flying J. That doesn't bother us, plus the train traffic slowed down during the night.

The next morning I awoke and lifted the shade in the bedroom to look out at the wide open spaces with mountains off in the distance. I laid there admiring the beauty of it all. Every now and then a train would come rumbling by. I love trains. I lay there in awe of the power of the big engines. I always count how many engines are pulling the train. The norm seems to be two or three with a smattering of four engine trains. I have only seen a five engine train a couple of times. I remember when we were traveling across the northern part of the country to tour the Oregon-Washington coast in 2005 we passed many trains that were stopped. That was great because I always wondered how long they were. That sample of several trains yielded a norm of about 1 1/2 miles long with a couple that were a bit over two miles long. That's amazing. What is truly awesome is being able to see an entire train off in the distance from engine to the last car.

April 19 to April 26: Mesa, Arizona (224 miles)

Route: US 70; US 60

Campground:  The Ranchos at Val Vista Village   We found this place in September 2005 and stayed here in spring 2006. The sites were long concrete pullthrus with large brick paver patios, nice table for six, a built in gas grill, a privacy screen between the sites, garbage pickup at the site, and even a mailbox in front of each site. The monthly rate was $550 in 2006 and has gone to $650 in 2008. Still, you can't touch a site like these in Florida for that price, especially in winter. The rate we paid this time was a mix of the winter and summer rate, which dropped to $400 per month. We paid for a month and then decided to stay eight more days through Memorial Day Weekend. We paid $14.29 per night for the extra nights. The only downside was that the WiFi sometimes was iffy and was up and down. When it was up, it was fast.

Our original plan was to spend a month in the Mesa area to visit with Diane's sister, Carol, and her family. The time was split with a week in a timeshare unit in Carlsbad, California. The first week was spent discussing plans for travel to Carlsbad and what to bring along versus what to buy when we got there.

We also got to meet our neighbors at The Ranchos, Cheryl and Smitty Smith from Grand Haven, Michigan.

April 27 to May 3: Carlsbad, California (403 miles)

Route: I-10; AZ 347; AZ 84; I-8; I-805; local roads

Campground:  Carlsbad Seapointe Resort   This is a timeshare resort.

We had never taken a vacation with Carol and Kevin, and this was their first vacation without the kids in a long time, so we were looking forward to this trip. I had a search in with RCI since the beginning of the year for a timeshare unit in San Diego. They kept offering places inland that were of no interest to us. Finally, they offered the Seapointe Resort in Carlsbad, which is right along the Coast Highway and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We scoped out their website and decided to take it although it meant a drive down to San Diego to see the sights we wanted to visit.

The drive was about the same distance I was used to driving from Marietta, Georgia to Ocala, Florida to visit my folks when they lived there. We set off early on a Sunday morning and got to Carlsbad in the early afternoon. We checked in and went to see the condo and it was great. It was a two bedroom unit and we could see the ocean from the balcony.

We decided we would make two trips to San Diego. The first one was with the car to visit the USS Midway and Coronado Island. Back in 2006 when we were traveling with Norm and Linda Payne, Norm and I visited the Midway while Diane and Linda did something else. I was fine with seeing it again as no one else in our group had been there. We toured the ship with the self guided audio player and then went to lunch at Jsix where Diane and I, and the Paynes, had eaten twice in 2006. Joining us for lunch was my high school friend, Rich Gorin, who lives in San Diego. We were shocked and saddened to hear that Rich was recently diagnoses with Hodgkins Lymphoma and will be starting treatments soon. It was nice to see Rich again as we enjoyed a very nice lunch. We wished him well with his treatments and told him we would stay in touch.

After lunch we drove over to Coronado Island to see the Hotel Coronado, which is where the movie "Some Like It Hot" was filmed. The weather was absolutely delightful as we walked the grounds and through the hotel.

For our second trip to San Diego, the goal was to visit the Natural History Museum in Balboa park. The museum had a special exhibit we all wanted to see: Pompei - The Last Day. It was an excellent exhibition of what happened the day Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the town. We noticed that there was a commuter rail line, The Coaster, right behind the resort so we opted to take the train into San Diego. Trains are such fun and Diane and I love riding on trains. When we got to the city we hopped the #7 bus per Rich Gorin's guidance and that took us right into Balboa Park near the museum. After touring the museum we walked around Balboa Park to admire the wonderful architecture of some of the buildings. We also walked through the Japanese Tea Garden before heading back to the station for the train ride back to Carlsbad.

One day we drove up to Oceanside to see a movie at a very nice Regal Theater and to walk out on the pier. At the end of the pier was a restaurant named Ruby's where we had lunch while looking out at the Pacific. It doesn't get much better than that.

Another day we drove over to visit the Mission San Luis Rey which was founded in 1798. It had a museum attached to it with a fee to enter. Unfortunately, you could only get to see the inside of the church by doing the museum which none of us had a desire to do. So we walked around a bit, took some photos of the outside of the church and continued on our little sightseeing drive.

The resort offered a $100 coupon towards dinner at the Chart House restaurant if we would listen to their no pressure sales pitch. We all opted to do that to get the $100 and it was, indeed, a no pressure pitch. The Chart House is one of those restaurants that we rarely eat at given that it would be an expensive dinner. But with the $100 we figured we could have a great meal and it not cost us a fortune. We called in a reservation, but had to wait a bit to get a table by the window. The food was fantastic and we had a great view as we watched the sun set over the Pacific.

We were getting to the end of our week in Carlsbad with a visit from my cousin Gary and his wife, Doreen, coming up on Friday and Saturday. Gary moved from Tampa to Temecula and is my cousin Jay's brother who lives in Tampa and who we visit every year when we do the Tampa RV Show. Neither Gary nor I could remember the last time we saw each other, but we agreed it was at least more than 20 years ago, although I had seen Doreen in the last few years when she brought my Aunt Mary over to Ocala to see my mom. It was great to see Gary again. I wasn't sure I would recognize him, but I told him I would have known him had I bumped into him on the street. Just an older version of who I remembered. When I told them we were coming to Carlsbad and would like to visit they decided to book a weekend at the Hilton about a mile, or so, up the road.

We got together on Friday to go eat at a Bucca di Beppo in Carlsbad. If you've never eaten at a Bucca, and there is one in your area or in your path, give it a try. They serve family style and is a good meal for the money. Our final evening in Carlsbad was spent at the condo with Gary and Doreen over for dinner. Kevin made his signature roast surrounded with potatoes and veggies and we spent the evening eating and chatting. It was a great way to end our vacation week.

Traveling with Carol and Kevin was a treat and I know Diane loved the opportunity. Our body clocks were totally different with them being early to bed and early to rise, and Diane and I just the opposite. By the time we got up and around, Carol and Kevin had their breakfast, got their coffee, sometimes walked down to the beach, and picked up the newspapers. Everything worked out perfectly and we hope we get an opportunity to travel with them again.

May 4 to May 26: Mesa, Arizona (403 miles)

Route: Reverse of the last entry

Campground:  The Ranchos at Val Vista Village

On May 19 we celebrated eight years on the road as fulltime RVers. We continue to love the travel and see no end in sight. We figure we'll know when the time comes for us to come off the road. We are still amused by non-RVers who don't understand how we live fulltime in an RV. It's fun to tell them that we are proof that two people really can live in 384 square feet. I remember my mom telling my brother when we started out in 2000 that she would give us six months. Now we start our ninth year on the road with many more places to see and things to do.

Our time in the Phoenix area was mostly spent visiting with Carol and Kevin, shopping, relaxing, and doing chores. With a great AMC movie theater close by we were able to stay up on new movies.

We also got to have a nice lunch with Ron and Barb Hofmeister who were part of our group of mentors as we researched the RV fulltiming lifestyle and the started out.

Bruce Fogel is Rich's partner and lives and works in Phoenix. We met him back in 2001. We hooked up for lunch to catch up and to get an update on Rich's illness and treatment program. Bruce said he is "cheerleader in chief" as part of Rich's support system while he undergoes treatment for the Hodgkins.

Although we were originally slated to leave the area on May 19 we decided to stay eight more days through Memorial Day Weekend. That allowed us to attend a Memorial Day party at Carol and Kevin's place.

It was certainly past the time to hit the road as the temperatures had reached the 100 to 110 degree range in our last week in the area setting new record highs. We both enjoyed our five weeks in Mesa. We like the area and I know Diane and Carol enjoyed seeing each other again. There's no telling when we will be out this way again.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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