5,000 Miles
  (September 1 to December 31, 2009)

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The title of this travelogue stemmed from my desire to put no more than 5,000 miles on the motorhome in 2009 after the very expensive traveling we did in 2008 in Alberta and British Columbia when fuel prices were extremely high. Our summer of 2009 was one of the most interesting in our 10 years on the road and we ended up putting 4,377 miles on the motorhome. We still filled our desire for travel, visited with lots of family and friends, met new friends, and did it without spending a lot of money on fuel and campgrounds.

The point is that many folks who want to get into RVing believe that you need a lot of money to do it. Those of us who have experience with the lifestyle always tell folks that you can spend as much money as you want while RVing. This past summer showed how travel can be done on much less than one may think is necessary. Updated costs are posted in the Expenses section which shows how little we spent on fuel and campgrounds during the summer of 2009.

September 1 to September 7: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (185 miles)

I-81; TN 66; US 321; local roads

Campground:  Waldens Creek Campground  This park was convenient for visiting Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  The sites are a bit tight, but the other parks we noticed seemed to also be a bit tight.  The folks in the office were very nice and helped us make sure we got a site where we could use our dish.

We had never been to this area so I guess we ended up doing the usual tourist stuff. One day we drove to Gatlinburg and took the tramway to the top of the mountain which offered some good views. Some of the houses we noticed as we rose to the top were awesome, and they were mostly just summer houses.

After coming down from the mountain we walked through the town. Up one side of the main street and down the other. Stores and more stores. Luckily, we were there when it wasn't very crowded. I can't imagine what it would be like to walk the street during peak season. For me, Gatlinburg was a "been there, done that" kind of experience. There's nothing there that would especially make me want to return for multiple visits.

We also took a day to drive in the mountains as we visited Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome. Settlers migrated to this area from Virginia in 1819. Later they came from North Carolina. By the 1850s the population of Cades Cove peaked at 685 in 137 households. The population growth caused the soil quality to deteriorate. With the opening of the West that brought more opportunity for fertile lands the population of Cades Cove dwindled to 268 people by 1860. Diane and I walked around the town and into the historical buildings before continuing on our scenic drive through the mountains.

One of the things we had always talked about doing was to zip line. We saw a brochure for one that was in the area, Wahoo Ziplines, so we jumped at the chance to experience zip lining. When we found out the cost was free if we were to listen to a pitch for a vacation club, we signed up. That saved us the $180 cost of two zip line trips. What a fantastic experience it was to zip through the tree tops at up to 40 mph.

Diane and I have experienced riding in a balloon, a glider, and a small airplane, all of which were great experiences. Diane still talks about jumping out of a functioning airplane (tandem of course), but I'm not sure I'll go that far.

September 8 to September 10: Chattanooga, Tennessee (139 miles)

Route:  US 321; US 411; US 64; I-75; local roads

Campground:  Holiday Trav-L-Park  We stayed at this park back in 2004. It's a nice park, but has a lot of trees. Cable TV is good. HD over the air is good. However, if you absolutely need to use your satellite dish, there is no guarantee that you can use it from the site you are assigned. They could do a good service to their customers by knowing which sites would allow use of a dish and which wouldn't. The RV park we stayed at in Williamsburg, VA had such sites noted on their park map. Nice service.

Our purpose in stopping here was to visit the Chicamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. That would wrap up our summer tour of Civil War sites that we started visiting back in Manassas, Virginia. We had visited this park way back in the early 80s after we moved to Marietta, Georgia and remember it as being a big and interesting Civil War site. The park contains the 5,500 acre Chicamauga battlefield that was the scene of the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War. The battle was fought from September 18 to 20, 1863. It had the second highest number of casualties of the Civil War. Gettysburg had the highest number of casualties.

This stop completed our summer tour of Civil War sites that started in early summer at Gettysburg followed by seven weeks touring sites in Virginia. They were all interesting and moving, but the top two for me were Gettysburg and Chicamauga.

September 11 to September 26: Douglasville, Georgia (108 miles)

Route:  I-75; GA 92; local roads

Campground:  Jill's driveway

We did the usual things when we are in Douglasville: visit kids and grandkids, friends, and take care of doctor and dentist visits.

During our stay this time we experienced torrential rains that flooded roads in the area, including a washed out section of the road Jill lives on. The road was closed for many weeks before a new culvert was put in. It was a real mess getting around the Atlanta area and was not unusual to come to a road that was closed and forced detours, sometimes lengthy, to get around the area.

Another thing that developed was severe pain in the back of both of my thighs that started right after Labor Day. I tried to ignore it and thought it would work its way out and go away.

September 27 to October 3: Fairfield Glade, Tennessee (217 miles)

Route:  I-75; I-40; Peavine Road (via car)

Campground:  Time share condo

We have usually traded our time share week for Fairfield Glade as we do love the mountains and the area. It gave Diane the chance to soak in a bathtub after only being able to shower in the motorhome. We also got to visit with our friend Greg Rasch and I got to play most of a round of golf with him on one of the five courses in town. I say almost because the pain was so bad in my thighs which caused me to stop playing after 15 holes.

October 4 to November 8: Douglasville, Georgia (217 miles)

Route:  reverse of above route

Campground:  Jill's driveway

I finally gave in and saw an orthopedic doctor where Jill worked to find out what was going on with my back. An MRI showed spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. The pain level was 8-10 level. When the doctor suggested an epidural, which may, or may not, fix the problem, I agreed. The shot dropped the pain level to around 4-5, but still a problem.

We hung around Douglasville for a few more weeks to maximize our visit with the grandkids and then headed to Florida.

November 9 to November 10: Lake City, Florida (307 miles)

Route: local roads; I-75; I-10

Campground:  Oaks n Pines Campground  We stay here every time we come through the area.  It's convenient to where Diane's brother lives.  It's a Passport America campground, so the price is right.  The owners, Jim and Cherrie are nice folks and we like staying here.  The sites are tight, but there is free Wi-Fi; cable TV, including HD channels; a concrete patio.

Fuel:  Flying J in Valdosta, GA for $2.749

Diane's brother and his wife, Jan, came over to visit and Diane and he got caught up on the family.

November 11: Ocala, Florida (83 miles)


Campground:  Onan CoachCare

It was time for annual routine maintenance so we stopped here to get it done. I also needed to check on my mom's house that had been on the market since July 2007. The housing market is incredibly bad in Florida.

November 12 to November 16: Clermont, Florida (75 miles)

I-75; SR 44; US 27; US 192

Campground:  Encore Lake Magic RV Resort  This is a Passport America park so we usually stop here when we are passing through so we can get a discounted rate.

Many of the folks we've met over the years when we used to winter at this park have moved to the Citrus Highlands RV Park. We drove over there to visit with our friends Dirk Harrington, and Chuck and Linda Dombrow.

A former colleague of mine, Julius Aita, from when I worked in Miami had recently moved to the area and close to the RV park. Julius and Robin invited us to their new home for lunch where we had a great visit.

We also got together with my cousin, Dawn, as we do whenever we are in the area.

It was a short stop, but we enjoyed the visits with everyone.

November 17 to December 14: Port St. Lucie, Florida (90 miles)

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

Campground:  Port St. Lucie RV Resort   The sites are tight, and the prices are high in winter, but this is really the only RV park in town other than the Outdoor Resorts. As gorgeous as the Outdoor Resorts park is, it is targeted at folks with very deep pockets. Monthly rates there top out around $1,500.

Flying J in Fort Pierce, FL for $2.789

We settled in and started meeting the folks who would be our neighbors for the next several months. Diane made several friends who got together often.

We also went to visit my mom who is living in an assisted living facility about 10 miles from the RV park. My brother, Charlie, moved to a place about 1 1/2 miles from the park, which made it very convenient to get together for meals and to golf with him and my high school friend Frank Pesile who also lived nearby.

The area gives us everything we want and need. There is a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club a mile away across the road (US 1) from each other. The Treasure Coast Mall is four miles away and has a Regal Theater where we go at least once a week to see one or two movies. There are plenty of restaurants to satisfy our dining tastes. I was a happy camper after being on the road for several months. Could be that after more than nine years that I was starting to feel a desire to slow down a bit and not travel 52 weeks a year.

December 15 to December 28: Chandler, Arizona

Route: Delta Airlines

Campground:  Diane's sister's house

For the second year in a row we decided to take Diane's sister up on her invitation to spend Christmas with them. We booked a flight with Delta, which wasn't easy given it was around the holiday time period. The flight was good and on time with Kevin waiting to pick us up at the airport. He drove us to where Carol was working so we could say hello and then to their house.

Once again we had a great couple of weeks. It's always very relaxing when we visit with Carol and Kevin. Only one child remains living at home and that would be Jenny. She is a riot and makes us laugh often. Justine was home from college, and Jeff, who lives in the area, stopped by often. Diane and Carol do the sisterly stuff and enjoy each other's company. Kevin and I have lots of interesting discussions where we don't always agree but can understand the other's viewpoints.

And, of course, Diane and I didn't skip a beat when it came to seeing current movies. The Harkins Theater chain in the area has huge screens and nice seats.

It turned out that my high school friends, Rich Gorin and Tom McInerney, were visiting the area while we were there. We made plans to visit over lunch in Scottsdale at the Carlsbad Tavern, along with Rich's partner Bruce, Tom's wife Barbara, and Diane. It's always great to hook with folks along our journey. Rich has been fighting the good fight against cancer for quite a while and looked good. We all certainly wished him the best to get to the remission stage.

For the second Christmas our friends Peter and Christiane Ermke were in Arizona for the winter which allowed us to get together with them at a Buca di Beppo restaurant along with Carol and Kevin. It was a great evening of food and camaraderie.

December 29 to December 31: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Route:  Delta Airlines

Campground:  Port St. Lucie RV Resort 

It was back to Port St. Lucie where we planned to stay until sometime in April.

That wraps up our 2009. We have no plans for 2010 as yet, but we will stay east of the Mississippi.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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