2018 – Counting down to D-Day (Departure Day)

 Our 4 1/2 month stay at San Jacinto Battleground where we have been volunteering on Battleship Texas is drawing to an end.  This has been our 4th season here.  It is nice feeling we are helping out and the staff always makes us feel appreciated.  We also like being close to family and friends during these winter stays.  We had more winter this year than we wanted with several cold, icy days.  All in all though, we have few complaints; enjoying meeting people and getting to know our fellow camp hosts.

This year, in addition to our hours volunteering, we have filled in as interim pastor at Baytown Nazarene.  The church isn’t far from us and we’ve helped out there the entire time we’ve been at our “winter quarters.”  The church family has treated us very well and it has been good getting to know them better.  If you add our time filling in at Denison prior to arriving at San Jacinto, I’ve ministered nearly every Sunday over the past 5-6 months.  No complaints, but it hasn’t felt very much like retirement to me!  Lord willing, I’ll enjoy some down time now that we’re beginning our 2018 Adventure.

The closer we get to D-Day the more time I spend looking at potential travel routes and campgrounds.  Several reservations have already been made; especially at popular campgrounds during the busiest times of the year.   Our ultimate destination this year is the coast of Maine, but we won’t make it that far till mid- to late summer.  As a planner, I enjoy putting the trip together and then refining it. That process will continue all through the Adventure.

So, it won’t be long before we blast off.  We’ll keep posting sightseeing and campground reviews here to the blog.  Stay tuned!

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Reflecting on our 2017 Adventure

Our 2017 Adventure had both ups and downs.  It was a year with several unexpected expenses that included a broken windshield and various camper repair projects.  Later on we decided it was time to put new tires on the camper.  At four and a half years they still looked good but camper tires are notorious for failing at about that age.  We also ended up putting new tires on the truck, but, sorry to say, that came after a major tire failure that did damage to the truck.  Not long after that the truck ended up in the shop for a bigger repair.  After working through the issue with the warranty company, the repair ended up costing us hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.  Still, it was an expense that hit the bank account pretty hard.  The lesson learned wasn’t a new one, but still hit us in the wallet: when it rains it pours.

2017 also brought some medical issues our way, some are still ongoing.  That reminds us of another old lesson made new: life happens, even when you are living the RV dream.

During the year we tried a bit different approach to travel.  Rather than moving every 1-2 weeks during the months when we aren’t volunteering we decided to slow down in the early spring while we waited for warmer temperatures up north.  We spent a month on the Alabama coast, then another month near Knoxville, TN.    The result was mixed.  The month in Alabama wasn’t bad at all.  We were in a park that had lots of winter people and lots of interesting activities.  The month in Tennessee, so close to the month in Alabama, seemed longer.  The campground was crowded and the weather was wet.  All this added up to a less than enjoyable stay for us.  Lesson learned: be careful when scheduling longer stays to be sure the campground/area is worth the lengthy stop and don’t schedule longer stops too close together.

While we were in Indianapolis we were joined by our son and family for a few nights.  The camper was really crowded.  Still, it was fun seeing our loved ones and accommodating our “guests.”  None of us would have enjoyed this set up for a longer stay, but for a few nights it was great and we would happily do it again.   The lesson learned is that changing things up for a special occasion can be fun even if it is inconvenient.

We enjoyed family a couple of other times during the Adventure, spending a week near Jackie’s brother and his wife, Jim and Phyllis. This was followed by a couple of stays near Jackie’s family in Iowa.  Then in the fall, my sister Susan joined us and traveled with us for a couple of weeks.  These family times are a real bonus and make traveling even more fun.  Same lesson: it’s a real bonus being with family and friends.

We always enjoy worshiping with the various congregations we visit in our travels.  This year we especially enjoyed the Church of the Nazarene in Summerdale, AL.  Being that this was one of our longer stays we got to know the folks a bit rather than just being one or two Sunday visitors.  Then, we finished the year by filling in for a month for a pastor friend of ours in Denison, TX and then accepting an interim assignment (still ongoing) at Baytown, TX.  A good lesson is that while being a perpetual church visitor is always interesting, nothing takes the place of being part of a worshiping community.

During 2017 we towed the camper nearly 5000 miles, visited 17 states, and stayed in 34 different places.  This year, when we arrived in South Dakota we completed visiting all 50 states (although not all in the RV).  We started and finished the year volunteering on Battleship Texas.  This marks our fourth season of wintering in this unique location on the Houston Ship Channel.   We are still working on our 2018 Adventure and expect to continue our journeys in this New Year.

2017 – Chattanooga, TN: Incline Railway, Point Park

We walked a few blocks from the railroad to Point Park, a memorial park that overlooks the Lookout Mountain Battlefield with the city of Chattanooga far below. We enjoyed this beautiful park and it’s pleasant, easy walk with impressive views all around. We were lucky to see dogwood trees and redbuds in bloom. As we walked to and from the park we talked about the beautiful mansions there on top of the mountain. We thought the visit was well worth the time. Of course, there are other terrific attractions in the area and we intend to pick up where we left off on future visits to this great area.

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2017 – Volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas

We’re just concluding our third winter of volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas.  Honestly, my previous reviews pretty much say it all.  Once again we’ve enjoyed spending most of our volunteer time talking to people about the Texas – the only remaining battleship that served in both WWI and WWII.  We’ve also enjoyed working with other volunteers who, like us, fulltime in RVs.  Some are have come here year after year, so when we return it is a bit of a homecoming.  Others are new friends and it has been fun getting to know them.  The park staff are a pleasure to work with too.  If you haven’t gotten the message: we like doing this and plan on returning next fall for another winter of volunteering.

As has already been described, 2016 was a non-traveling year for us.  Because of that, we’re looking forward to a return to our touring fulltime RV life.  Our stationary circumstances left me with even more time to plan our 2017 Adventure than I would have had otherwise.  We have a potential route planned and several reservations have already been made.  No doubt, we will end up making adjustments, but if you don’t have a plan it’s impossible to change your plans!  Also, we’re headed for some popular areas in the coming months and without reservations we’d end up struggling to find a suitable spot or end up paying premium prices somewhere.

One change we’re making this year is adding a couple of extended, one month stays.  The idea is to spend extra time in interesting areas, save a bit of money by paying monthly rather than weekly or daily rates, and stay in southern states till warmer temperatures arrive in northern states later in the spring.  Time will tell if we like this strategy and will include it in future planning.

We’ve had a good stay at our winter quarters of San Jacinto Battleground and Battleship Texas and we’re looking forward to great days on our 2017 Adventure.

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Smile…You’re on Candid Camera

We were watching the weather on TV yesterday evening and suddenly, without warning, we found ourselves on the screen!  Well, almost, anyway.  Come to find out, there’s an EarthCam on top of San Jacinto Monument pointed our way.  The weather channel was using EarthCam to show what a pretty day it was here.  The camera looks out over the reflecting pool, to Battleship Texas, and to the Houston Ship Channel.  Our RV is parked to the left of all that, nearly lost in the trees, not far from the big electrical transmission tower.   Even though we are pretty much lost in the low resolution and the trees, it feels kind of funny knowing that while we are volunteering at Battleship Texas and San Jacinto Battlefield that we are on camera for the world to see!

Check it out at here.

2016 – Volunteering at Battleship Texas

I haven’t done any new posts in a while because we are pretty much doing a repeat of last year’s winter volunteering stint at San Jacinto Monument-Battleship Texas State Historical Park in La Porte, Texas. Most everything I’ve written before still applies. The ship looks the same (as should a museum ship!), the staff is pretty much the same, and the other volunteers are the same good people (with the exception of one fine couple who have had to leave the RVing lifestyle). This is a great place to volunteer, at least during the mild Houston winters, and people renew their commitment to return year after year.

While we much prefer the traveling lifestyle, I have to admit that there’s something comforting about returning to the same campsite with all the same neighbors after being strangers pretty much everywhere we’ve been through the majority of the year. Also, we enjoy our two-day-a-week volunteering as we talk to people about Battleship Texas and it’s 102 year history, serving in both World Wars I and II.

We also enjoy being close to family and friends. Sundays are especially a joy as we attend church with my sister and our son and his family. What a blessing it was to see our grandson called up to the front to help the pastor light an Advent candle and to see our granddaughter singing on the church Praise Team!

Meanwhile, these months are our medical months. There have been several doctor’s visits with more yet to come. Jackie and I have both had to change our primary physicians this year. Her change worked out better than mine and I’ll be doing some more doctor shopping in the near future.

While it’s beyond the scope of this blog, I’ll mention that this volunteering time has included my having a major round with my lower back. Frankly, it’s just as well that we aren’t traveling because for a while I couldn’t even bear to ride in a car much less tow the 5th wheel. Apparently, a lower back tweak manifested itself in such a way that I couldn’t bear to sit down. I spent my days either standing up and laying down. The funny thing was that I could spend my workdays on the battleship standing up, doing tours, etc. without a lot of pain. Then, to my dismay I couldn’t sit down without whimpering in pain!

After seeing a couple of doctors who did x-rays, etc. to rule out any fractures or the like I decided to switch over to a highly recommended chiropractor who assured me that the problem wasn’t in my hip where the pain was the worst, but was in my lower back which was manifesting itself in my hip and down my leg. I’m still visiting him three times a week and progress is being made. At least I can drive again and sit down for awhile before the pain reappears.

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Also, I’ll mention that we returned to the Battleship to finish the year and into 2017.  Most of the photos below were taken in the first part of the year, but a few of them were taken in November and December.

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Update: Wrap-up on Volunteering at San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas

We’re just finishing up our first volunteering experience: three months at San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship Texas in La Porte, TX.

Now, if you are ready to sign up, I have both good news and bad news for you. Here’s the bad news, there are a limited number of positions at this facility and people tend to return year after year. They generally have first choice of dates and they come for the winters. Here’s the good news: if you are willing to come in the late spring through early fall, there are generally volunteer opportunities. The weather will be hot and humid, but if you love history and have a reason to want to be in the Houston area, you might want to look into this. It starts with your signing up on this Texas Parks and Wildlife site.  Volunteers park their RV’s in full hookup, 50 amp sites located either on a parking lot by the maintenance building or nearby.

In spite of the negatives, we’ve enjoyed our time at San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship Texas and, yes, we’ve already signed up for next winter.

For now, though, the road is calling and we’re about to begin our 2015 Adventure!

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Update: Volunteering at San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas

We’re about half way through our three month stay at the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. This is our first “workamping” experience and we are enjoying our time here. I’ll write more about our experience when we do a wrap up of our stay at the end of April.

As we did last winter, we’re doing camper projects. The biggest two were putting laminate flooring down in place of carpet and re-caulking the exterior of the 5th wheel. We’ve also purchased new fulltime level water hoses to replace the less robust ones we’ve been using and splurged on a name sign for the campsite.

We’re starting to nail down our itinerary for our 2015 Adventure. We’re heading for the upper Midwest — Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP of Michigan. We’re hoping to enjoy exploring those areas and maybe even having opportunity to meet up with old friends while making new ones.