Our First Year in Review

This is the story of our travels for June 20, 2017 thru June 20, 2018.

journey of 2017

Link to map route:
Map of 2017 Route

It’s been one year since we sold the “stick home” and started to travel full time in our RV. You may remember we spent 5 months on the road in 2016, then the first 4 months of 2017 and said, “what the heck are we doing?”! So, in June 2017 we sold the house and hit the road.

coach leaving

The past 12 months was a mix of finishing up Tonya’s career so we/she could retire, visiting family, going some places we’d always wanted to see and some places that were just convenient along the way. We’ve learned a lot… Including…. We have to plan ahead for major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day) because weekend campers quickly fill up the campgrounds and we don’t have a home to park at when spaces are full! We also learned that we love the lifestyle and a little planning lowers the stress level of where to be and when.

Our route started with a stop in Gypsum at Pat and Gary’s as part of our “farewell Colorado” process. Then, up to Evergreen to Libby and Jed’s for a 4th of July celebration (we camped at the Evergreen Walmart and it was fine!), then to Karen and Rick’s on the Wyoming boarder to catch up after many many years. Parking at their ranch with cattle right in front of the coach was definitely a new experience and a highlight for us! Next, up to SD to obtain driver’s licenses!

After securing our licenses, Florida was our next stop. To get there, we had many one night stops. Yes, we passed through some areas that we really want to spend more time exploring and seeing friends, but we were pushed to get South. This was a grueling several day long journey to get to Florida to help Tonya’s Mom, Linda, get moved and settled into a new house. We love to visit Florida, but not necessarily in July and August ☹. But we love Mom, so yes, we were there for two months in the sweltering heat! Our Air Conditioners got a good workout and showed they could meet the challenge of the Florida heat! On the way, we were able to see our friends Charles and Evie and have some BBQ in Kansas City. They are awesome all of the time, but in this instance, they brought everything to us and we ate at the coach. We were only parked for 10 hours so them bringing dinner was huge!

After our long journey south, we stayed in Tallahassee for July and August and helped Tonya’s Mom get settled and tried to just stay cool. Next we headed north to see Laura and Tonya’s family in the Wilmington, NC area. We stayed just north of Myrtle Beach in the small community of Sunset Beach where the beach was a 5 minute drive – Tonya loved it! We were able to connect with Tonya’s family and some friends from Air Products for dinner one night. While there, Tonya got to go to church on the beach!


Laura was living in Raleigh, so we stopped there for a few weeks and stayed at the Raleigh Oaks RV Resort. Nice place with great amenities and good dog park! We really enjoyed our time in Raleigh and it was nice to be so close that we could meet for dinner sometimes.

laura and chad trash bags

Next up, north to PA to stay at Scott and Nancy’s place. We stayed with Scott and Nancy in their side yard off of the patio and it was awesome! Seeing the dogs play together again in the wide open space was definitely a highlight. And, of course, being with Scott and Nancy for dinners and being able to visit “right next door” was the best. We did get stuck in their yard when we tried to leave, but Roger and Scott were very creative and we managed to get out. Scott and Nancy were very gracious considering what we did to their yard! After a couple of weeks, we moved to a campground in the Kutztown area. Here, we were able to reconnect with our friends Bob and Cheryl (they were full time RVer’s at the time) and of course we got to see all of our PA peeps. We had several get togethers and had to extend our stay because we weren’t done visiting! We had a party at the campground with our dear friends and it was a blast! Other highlights from PA included a night out with a limo with our friends Sally/Keith and Tammy/Mike, the Hershey RV show and driving around the area to see all of the changes.

Next up, back south to make our way to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood! On the way, we stayed at Endless Caverns in Virginia. The location was great with trees and a tour of the local Endless Cavern. However, we picked up stink bugs that would ultimately “bug” us for months! While there we connected with Tonya’s work colleague Julie Meehan and her family. This was awesome because we’ve heard about Charlie, Jack and Don for 10+ years and finally got to meet them!

Then, on to Pigeon Forge. Dollywood has been on Tonya’s bucket list for many many years and it did not disappoint. We tried to stay at a bargain campground and learned this was mistake so we moved to the much nicer Anchor Down RV Resort and were much more comfortable. Our initial stay was at a place that didn’t respond well to the rain and we walked out every day to a flooded site where the water would make our outdoor mat nearly float away! You can imagine how fun this was with the dogs ☹. The nicer campground changed our perspective a great deal! We went to Dollywood numerous times and also went to Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountain National Park. I highly recommend this stop if you’re in the area. We were fortunate enough to be there during the fall colors and they were amazing.

Dollywood was amazing and something everyone should experience. The shows, the grounds, the people, and the warmth of the place was incredible. We really enjoyed the area and even discovered the surprise of the Bush’s Beans Company! They have their plant and a visitors center that is packed with all Bush’s products. Trust me when I tell you there are way more Bush’s products than what you see in the grocery store. We even had their famous Pecan Pie made with beans!

In case you’re wondering the timing by now…. we arrived in Pigeon Forge on October 22 and left on November 18. Tonya was still working and we had to stay longer in some locations to allow for her travel to Houston and other locations. When we left Pigeon Forge, we went to Maggie Valley, NC. The plan was to see the Biltmore decorated for Christmas. Unfortunately, this required more advanced planning as tickets were sold out! We did get to see Asheville though and it was amazing. We’ll definitely be back to this area!

We stopped back in Raleigh to see Laura and Chad for Thanksgiving and then headed to Savannah. Savannah has been on our list for a very long time and it was great to see this wonderful city. We were true tourist in Savannah! We took the trolley tour, walked the walking tour and just enjoyed the culture. We enjoyed the train museum, the waterfront and all of the huge Oak Trees!

On December 2nd we pulled out of Red Gate RV in Savannah and headed south to the Tallahassee area.

And, I know this blog is about travel experiences, but I have to mention Laura and Chad’s engagement in November! They took a cruise and he proposed at the top of Dunn’s River Falls. We love Chad and are really looking forward to gaining a son!

Our plan was to spend Christmas with Tonya’s Mom Linda. To make sure we enjoyed Florida and all of the amenities, we stayed at the coast at Coastline RV Resort. It was about 1.5 hours from our family there.

Most of you know, Tonya broke her tibia, fibula and ankle while we were there. Needless to say, we couldn’t enjoy the Florida coast and this really put a damper on our plans! The accident occurred on December 14th. This meant surgery, then three months of healing. We made the best of it but didn’t do near as much in Florida as we had planned! We did enjoy Christmas with family, but Tonya’s injury certainly slowed us down.

We did make it to the Tampa RV show (knee scooter, crutches) and got to “camp” with 100’s of Newmar rigs. This was our very first rally with Newmar owners and we really enjoyed it! Another bonus while we were in Tampa was getting to see Tonya’s childhood friend/sister Deana and her family! We always have a blast and love them to pieces! On the return trip from Tampa, we stopped at the Florida Power Plant where the manatees hang out and what a special experience! There were so many gathered and we could see them up close in their natural habitat!

After Tonya moved to the walking boot (great milestone that things are progressing well), we began the trek west to Lake Havasu City, AZ. This was another leg of many one-nighters to just get there and get settled. Tonya couldn’t walk on the foot and this really limited the activities we were willing to try. Many days of one-night stays across Texas, we arrived in Lake Havasu on Feb 3 for our winter respite.

We love Lake Havasu and all it has to offer! We have made many great friends there and really enjoy the lake and the area. They cater to the snow birds with Winterfest, activities at the local parks, boat races, happy hour at most restaurants and let’s not forget the very entertaining spring break in the month of March. During spring break the kids from colleges in the area (Southern California, Arizona, Nevada) come to Lake Havasu and lose their minds. We’re there to watch the entertainment and enjoy the lake right along side of them!

Tonya retired at the end of March, which meant one last trip to Houston. She’d been grounded since the accident in December, so this was an exciting time! A chance to spend time with friends and colleagues in Houston AND retirement parties! Laura and Tonya’s Mom Linda joined her in Houston for the retirement celebrations and then Linda was able to come to Lake Havasu for a month. While in Lake Havasu, Linda was able to join us going to Oatman, for boat rides on the lake, a trip to the Desert Bar and a JLo concert in Vegas! Our friends Jed and Libby joined for the weekend and were able to enjoy the area with us!

The retirement celebrations were a great ending to an amazing career. Hugs, Hugs and more Hugs, movies, cards, toasts, karaoke, more hugs, and love for days! After retirement, we were really looking forward to being able to be far more flexible in our travels!

We left Lake Havasu in May (way too late) and headed to Yuma to experience Los Algodones for the first time. Yes, we went to Mexico for teeth cleaning, eye exams and glasses. The experience was ok, but very different from what our friends had experienced. We’re wondering if it was because we were there in the “off season”. Either way, we’ll try it next year and then decide our long-term plan for teeth and eyes ☹. We now know you can get glasses at Costco for nearly the same price, so I’m thinking we’ll be at Costco next year!

While in Yuma, we were able to tour the museum for the Yuma Proving Grounds. I would highly recommend this if you’re in the area! The Yuma Proving Grounds consists of 1,307 square miles and is used to test every piece of military equipment and used for training military personnel for combat. It is quite impressive and really helps you understand the conditions our troops face overseas. Here is the link if you want to learn more about the YPG: Yuma Proving Ground

After Yuma, we went to Tucson to have some work done on the coach. Most of it was yearly maintenance, but we did have to have a recall handled on the slide. This meant we had to be out of the coach for the week. So, we packed a suitcase and rented a VRBO in downtown Tucson. It was hot while we were there so we didn’t get to do too much sightseeing ☹. We did make a day trip to Tombstone and we enjoyed it very much! We’ve stayed in Tucson before and love it, but the heat really zaps our energy.

Our next stop was Elephant Butte, NM. It is just outside Truth or Consequences. Again, it was hot hot hot. The area was ok, but not much to see or do. There is a lake, but we’ve stayed at Lake Havasu so very few measure up! Then, we were in Sante Fe for a bit. We like Santa Fe, but we really liked being able to go to Meow Wolf. If you get the chance to visit one of these – GO! My description is that it feels like you’re in Alice in Wonderland! An amazing day there and then some local Mexican cuisine made for a perfect day!

Along the way, Tonya took up rock painting and continues to leave them at random places on our journey. Here is a small sample of some of the rocks:

rocks

After NM, we headed north to Colorado! Yea! We went up the eastern part of the state to see Roger’s family in the front range/Colorado Spings area. We were able to see Aunt Audrey and her children, their children and their children. Yes, we got our baby fix and loved seeing everyone! Sue and Ron hosted a Mexican Fiesta and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the family! We stayed at the Garden of the Gods RV resort just outside of Old Colorado City and would recommend this park and area to anyone! We attended the Frontier Days in Old Colorado City and even stumbled onto a BBQ place that had been on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives! They served boiled peanuts as an appetizer, so needless to say, we were in heaven!

After our visit in the Colorado Springs area, we headed north and west to Gypsum.

In Gypsum, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time with Pat and Gary and even managed to get in some jeeping! And, some time with Grandpa in Grand Junction of course! While in GJ, we camped at the new place in Palisade. We were able to see friends and even coordinated a visit with the dogs with our old dog sitter, Tarah. They were so excited to see her!

Next, we go back to Grand Junction for a few days, then up thru Salt Lake and into Idaho and Montana! We have reservations in the Cleveland area Sept 1. In between…. We don’t know… we’ll figure it out!

What broke or went wrong along the way? We’re not complaining – our issues are minor compared to the stories we hear!

1. Tonya’s breaking of ankle/bones/tendons/ligaments ☹

2. We were dogged by what we thought was a bad transfer switch that resulted in a few hours without AC in Florida. After replacing the transfer switch AND the surge protector we stumbled onto the fact that our real problem was the reel for our electric cable. The good news is that we were in SC and the manufacturer was 30 mins away! Roger disconnected it and took it to them for repair. Since then, no more issues!

3. Broken drivers side window (that still isn’t repaired so we travel with plexiglass on it). Apparently Newmar rigs are so in demand that even a replacement window takes 8 weeks!

4. Lost/drove over our bin that had our Blue Ox tow bar cover ☹. Roger forgot it after connecting our toad and we drove away….. no worries, we have a new bin, but need to order the cover again.

Our broken/not working list would be much longer without a “Roger”. I don’t know how people do it without one! He’s able to fix everything!

Our stats:

Miles Driven: 9,753
Average miles per gallon: 7.6 (we’ve been as high as 10 and as low as 6)
$’s spent on diesel: $3,364
Campgrounds/RV Parks/Parking areas slept in: 35 locations
Added a family member: A Cricket golf cart that folds into the back of our Jeep Grand Cherokee. We named her “Lucy” ☺.

What would we do differently?

We are planning to slow down this time ☺. With Tonya retired and all of our family settled in, we have a chance to really enjoy the country! This year was a whirlwind and we had to drive right past some areas that we desperately wanted to see. This year, we’ll see Idaho and Montana and the Great Lakes. We’re planning a stop at the Newmar factory in Nappanee, IN and time with Laura and Chad in Cleveland. Our current plan is to be back in Lake Havasu for the winter months and do day trips from there. We haven’t planned 2019 yet ☺.

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