High School Graduation
  (January 1 to June 6, 2009)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page (if there is one).

This travelog wraps up our winter and takes us up to Douglasville, Georgia for the graduation of our grandson, Richard.

January 1: Chandler, Arizona

Campground:  Diane's sister's house

This was our last day of the first time we got to spend the Christmas holidays with Diane's sister, Carol, and family. We had a great time.  It is always so easy to be around Carol, Kevin and family (Jenny, Justine, Jeff). We watched some bowl games and snacked on lots of leftover stuff, including more of the baked goods Carol and the girls made the week before Christmas. Diane and I look forward to having another opportunity to spend Christmas in Arizona.

January 2 to February 5: Port St Lucie, Florida

Route:  via Delta Airlines

Campground:  Rich's brother's house

Our trip back to Florida was uneventful and stress free. Actually, I flew more than a million miles with Delta and found that, for the most part, I am a very relaxed traveler. It helps that I like airports and people watching, so long waits usually don't bother me. Diane and I were lucky that only once was our luggage lost and that was on a trip to Buenos Aires when we didn't have our luggage for three days. Even then it wasn't stressful. We claimed our $50 each from Delta and bought some necessities and waited for the luggage to arrive.

Back in Florida we got back into a routine of staying in Charlie's house. That was working out fine as we all have similar tastes in TV shows and food. Of course, Diane and I continued to take in at least one movie per week and had no trouble keeping up with the ones we wanted to see.

Unfortunately, my mom had an incident in January when Charlie took her to see a movie and she slipped and fell in the lady's room. It turned out to be a stress fracture in her lower back that put her in a brace and a wheelchair. She wasn't very happy about that.

We went over to the storage facility where our Dutch Star was parked to check it out and immediately saw that the refrigerator door
had broken on the upper swivel point and was hanging. It turned out that the door was not repairable with any replacement parts from Dometic. So due to a piece of plastic breaking it would be necessary to buy a new door or to figure out a way to rig it so the door would open and close and not fall off the hinge. Some research on RV sites yielded a potential solution that looked like it would work. However, Bob Ward in North Carolina saw one of my posts on the Newmar Owners Yahoo Group and contacted me. After trading a few notes I found out that his fridge had conked out and he had to buy a new one. He said we were welcome to the door on his old fridge, which was the same model we have.

As luck would have it, Bob and his wife were going to Florida to Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach. That gave us a great opportunity to go up there to visit our friends, David and Bonnie Spain, and Bill and Martha Verity (Titusville). We got the motorhome out of storage and went to Cocoa Beach for a long weekend. Bob said he would be glad to bring the door down with him and give it to us. The RV community stays in touch via forums and rallies and lots of friendships, and everyone is always willing to help out.

A huge highlight for us this month was being able to see one of our favorite groups, Kodo, perform in West Palm Beach. They are a group of taiko drummers from Japan and this was the fifth time I've seen them, and the fourth time for Diane. I asked my friend, Frank, if he wanted to go and he came with us. As usual, it was a great, high energy concert, and it was a lot of fun watching Frank see them for the first time and be awed at some of the drumming.

February 6 to February 8: Cocoa Beach, Florida (101 miles)

Route:  I-95; local roads; A1A

Campground:  at a friend's property

It was nice to be back in Cocoa Beach within view of the ocean. Dave and Linda were in Brooksville at an FMCA rally but got home in time on Sunday for us to go out for a meal and have a nice visit.

We also got to visit with our friends Bill and Martha Verity over a nice lunch in Cocoa.

On the way out on Monday we stopped in a big parking lot near Patrick AFB and met Bob Ward. He brought the door with him and was very kind to help me get it installed on our fridge. We were very grateful for the door and the help.

February 9 to February 28: Port St. Lucie, Florida (101 miles)

Route:  A1A; I-95; local roads

Campground:  Rich's brother's house

Back in Port St Lucie it was more time to relax; play golf with Charlie and my high school friend, Frank Pesile; do some repairs on the motorhome; go to the movies; visit my mom; and sometimes just do nothing.

March 1 to April 14: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Route: local roads

Campground:    PSL RV Resort  and  Outdoor Resorts St Lucie West Motorcoach Resort 

Fuel:  Flying J in Fort Pierce, Florida for $2.389

Charlie was having company come to town to visit him during the month of March so we had to get our rig out of storage and find a campground. The remainder of our time in Port St Lucie was spent at the Outdoor Resorts and the PSL RV Resort. Outdoor Resorts is a luxury RV resort that we have been to, but only with a coupon for discounted or free nights. The rates at luxury RV resorts are way out of our price range. However, we wanted to stay until mid April so we had to bite the bullet and pay the price. It turned out that the Outdoor Resorts was having a special over the winter for half price, which made it about the same as the PSL RV resort. So we stayed at the Outdoor Resorts park for a month and then moved over to the PSL RV Resort when we could get 14 days at the discounted Passport America price.

During this time frame, our niece (Charlie's daughter), Michelle, came down from New York for a long weekend. We got to go see a Mets game, and parked right across the street from the stadium in the lot where our motorhome was stored. Very convenient. It was nice to see Michelle again and we had a nice time visiting with her.

My mother's 86th birthday was towards the end of our stay and, as luck would have it, Frank was scheduled to sing at the assisted living facility where my mom lives. She enjoyed the attention and Frank lead everyone in a happy birthday song for her.

While at Outdoor Resorts we met Harold Parry who was parked next to us. He was from South Wales and was traveling with his daughter, Hannah, who had recently graduated from the university. We had several nice chats about Wales and their travels in the USA. They were heading to Denver where Hannah was to catch a return flight to Great Britain.

April 15 to April 21: Orlando, Florida (138 miles)

Route: I-95; US 192

Campground:  Encore Lake Magic RV Resort

It was finally time to hit the road again. We were having, as they say in the RV community, "itchy tires". We had to get up to Douglasville to take care of medical visits and get ready for the graduation of grandkid #2, Richard.

The first stop was at one of our favorite parks, Lake Magic in Clermont. After we got set up we went out to Chili's for a bite to eat and then decided to drive up to the Citrus Valley RV Resort where we knew some friends of ours that we met at Lake Magic had purchased an RV lot. They also traded in their Dutch Star for an Essex, which is a high end luxury RV.

We met Guy and Carmen during one of our first winters at Lake Magic. They are from the Montreal area and had their 1998 Dutch Star painted by Precision Painting. We liked their paint job and opted for the same design with different colors. It was lucky we decided to drive up there because they were leaving the next day and we would have missed them. We found their lot and rig. They invited us in and gave us a tour of their new Essex and we had a nice visit.

At Lake Magic we stopped to say hi to Chuck and Linda Dombrow whom we have known for several years. Chuck had worked at Disney World again, so we made plans for a round of golf the next day at one of the DW courses while Diane and Linda went shopping.

It's rare that I tout a restaurant, but if you are ever in the Orlando area (around the Encore park), a drive to Manny's Original Chop House in Haines City is a must.  We've heard about the restaurant, including the wait times that could 2+ hours. We don't wait more than about 30 minutes to eat.  Chuck said that they will allow same day call ins to get on the list.  Our wait was about 15 minutes after we got there.

They had two specials going: a one pound T-Bone and a one pound NY Strip.  Diane and I split a strip steak and got an extra baked potato.  The salad with garlic ranch dressing was very good.  The rolls with cinnamon butter were delicious.  The steak was cooked to perfection.  The cost for the one pounder was $15.99.  Now that we know you can call ahead, we would go back to Manny's.  It's on US 27 in Haines City.

My cousin, Dawn, lived in the area, so we made plans to hook up with her for a meal and visit while catching up on what family members were doing.

April 22 to April 23: Ocala, Florida (78 miles)

Route: US 27; SR 44; I-75

Campground:  Ross Prairie State Forest

My mom's house has been on the market for almost two years and is nearly impossible to sell these days due to the bubble bursting on the housing market and the deep recession. Too many houses, not enough buyers. We decided to stop in Ocala for a couple of days to check out the house and have Terminix come in and do a pest control and termite inspection and treatment.

It was also a good time to have our generator serviced at the Ocala Onan Coach Care facility.

Then it was back on the road.

April 24 to April 26: Lake City, Florida (98 miles)

Route: I-75; I-10; US 441

Campground:  Oaks n Pines RV Park

It is common for us to stop in Lake City on the way in, and the way out, of Florida to visit with Diane's brother, Jerry. They get to catch up on things and we always get out for at least one meal, this time to Sonny's Barbecue.

We pulled into the campground and started noticing a lot of Newmar RVs. It turned out to be a Newmar Sandpipers Chapter Rally. We met a few of the folks during our stay. They invited us to their pot luck, but we were always busy visiting with Jerry and Janet.

April 27 to May 8: Summerdale, Alabama (333 miles)

Route: I-75; I-10; US 441

Campground:  Norm and Linda Payne's buddy pad

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, but the time finally came for the penultimate couple of our little RV group to come off the road as fulltimers. There were several couples who knew each other and started fulltiming within months of each other in the 1999/2000 time frame. One by one they switched from fulltimers to fulltime house owners or part time RVers. The Paynes and we continued fulltiming. Now Diane and I find ourselves as the last ones left out of that group who are still fulltiming now that the Paynes have built a house and switched to being reverse snowbirds. Their house is located at Rainbow Plantation, which is one of the Escapees RV Club Rainbow Parks located in Summerdale, Alabama.

Diane and I decided to go to Atlanta via Summerdale. Not exactly the straightest and shortest route, but we wanted to visit with Norm and Linda and see their new house. As it turned out, Peter and Christiane E. were going to be there for a few of the days we would be there. They arrived a few hours before we did and were already parked in Norm's RV spot. He put in two full hookup sites, one for his Dutch Star, and a buddy pad. Since Norm and Linda were living in the house, he decided to move his rig to the front of the house and just run a 120V cord out to it to keep the batteries charged. That allowed the E. and us to have full hookups. It looked like a Newmar Dutch Star rally with three of them parked in the yard.

With no water restrictions it was great to be able to wash the motorhome and car. It's a good thing I got it done before we headed up to Douglasville where there were still severe water restrictions.

We had never been to Gulf Shores, so we all went down there one day for lunch at Lulu's, which happens to be owned by Jimmy Buffet's sister. It was located along a river with a good view of the yachts and barges passing by. Lunch was okay, but nothing special. On the way home we all agreed we would stop at Cold Stone Creamery for dessert and then Starbuck's for a coffee/tea. It was one of those great days visiting with friends whom we hadn't seen for a while over lunch and snacks and good weather, at least the day we went out for lunch. One other day had torrential rain which flooded roads and the Payne's yard. Of course, it was the day Diane and I were going off to see the movie "Wolverine". We had to run through almost shin high water to get to the car. By the time we came out of the movie the rain had stopped and the water had receded. I hadn't seen so much rain in years.

Peter and Christiane left after five days, so we all saw them off that day. A week later we headed out for the drive to Douglasville. We said our good-byes not knowing when we would see each other again and a bit sad that we lost our fulltiming buddies.

May 9 to June 6: Douglasville, Georgia (332 miles)

Route:  SR 59; I-65; I-85; local roads

Campground:  Jill's driveway

Fuel:  Flying J in Hope Hull, Alabama for $2.109

As is usual for our visits to Douglasville, we took care of medical visits with doctors and dentists, went to see several movies, did our morning walks at the Arbor Place Mall followed by tea/cappucino in Borders, and relaxed. This visit was important because it was time for graduation of our grandson, Richard, from high school.

It rained just about every day on the few days prior to the graduation but graduation night was clear and pleasant. It was a very nice ceremony. The graduating class had ELEVEN 4.0 students. Wow. They also noted students who had never missed a day of school. They started with those who had perfect attendance records for seven years and went all the way up to one student who had perfect attendance for TWELVE years. That's an incredible achievement. Like don't they ever get sick?

That wraps up the first part of 2009. It feels good to be on the road again. Last year we put a lot of miles on the motorhome at a time of high fuel costs. The goal this year is to be very frugal and put 5,000 miles or less on the rig. So we will travel to the Hudson Valley in New York to see family and friends and then tour the states in our path as we head back to the south. We haven't really toured Virginia, so that is high on our list.

There were times when I didn't have my camera and had to use old photos for the Family and Friends section.  Sorry about that.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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

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