2018 Travel Homepage

Welcome to my travel website! Travel this year will be a bit different. I am selling my condo and so will be, again, going full time in my RV – at least until I decide whether I want to settle down again and where. At the present, my plans are very short term. I should be ready to put the condo on the market before the end of this month (March). I already have everything I need moved out. My furniture will be available for sale to a buyer should they wish. I have a cleaning crew and a window washing crew coming Weds (3/28) and a company to clean the carpet, clean and seal the tile floors coming on Thursday. I will start interview my list of prospective Realtors on Friday.

Last night was my first night out of the condo and into my motor home. It was an inauspicious start! I had camping reservations at Collier Seminole State Park where I could stay while finishing up on the condo. The park is just 6 miles west of me on US41. US 41 is the single route available to get in or out of the Port of the Island (my condo). 

So a week ago tonight, we had our first real rain storm in the past few months. Things are dry. SW FL is the lightning capital of the country and we had hundreds of lightning strikes. In this area, it is nothing but Everglades grass (dry) and islands (strands) of wooded areas for miles. Where I live, Port of the Islands, is the only development in this “sea” of government owned protected lands for 75 miles east to west and 50 miles from the Gulf northward. Besides the Port, the only other man made structures in that area are the state park campground, a gas station, a couple of small Indian villages. 2 airboat rides and two east/west highway – Interstate 75 (17 miles to the north) and US41 (1 block north).

The lightning strikes smoldered a few days and then, fanned by winds, went wild. There are 3 that have been burning here, mostly out of control, since then. The closest was about 12 miles west towards Naples. A few days ago, the storage area for my motor home looked threatened and so I moved it to the condo. Two of the nearest fires joined up yesterday into one (currently at 15,000+ acres and 50% contained) and in the afternoon it jumped US 41 and started burning on both the north and south side of the road. The southern part was in the state park. So instead of US 41 being intermittently closed for an hour or two at times over the past weeks due to smoke, it closed most of yesterday and last night due to flames. I could not drive the 6 miles to the park. The alternate route would be for me to drive east to Rt 29 and then north to I75 and then west to Naples and back south to US 41 and east again on 41 to the park. That only alternate route is about 80 miles to the park vs. 6 miles. I called the park and US 41 was also closed about 1000 feet west of the park entrance as 18 fire trucks were there wetting down the gas station, park entrance and Indian village. 

So my first camping night of this new adventure was in my driveway! Good news is that as of this morning they’ve extinguished the 85 acre blaze on the south side of the highway, the wind has shifted to ESE blowing the fire away from 41 and clearing out the smoke plumes. So this morning I’ve dropped off the motor home to my park camping spot and ‘camping’ has officially begun.

I have only a few solid plans so far. I have a graduation to attend in Georgia and then I head to New Mexico for a quick over the border trip to pick up my annual supply of Rx’s. I then fly from Albuquerque to N. VA for another graduation and in the fall, should I be invited, there will be another Georgia trip for a wedding. Other than that, you’ll know when I know, my itinerary.

Starting out. Mar 27, 2018

In the next few days I will finish up getting the condo ready for sale and interviewing Realtors. Last time I went full time RVing, Sharon and I were “homeless” for just under 15 years and loved every minute of it. Time will tell if the interim passage of some years will result in the same good experience. I’ll start by posting a pic of the wildfire that prompted me to get my rig out of storage a couple of days early.

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. Apr 11, 2018

Though I moved out of my condo in late March, I didn’t move far. I stayed at Collier Seminole State Park, 6 miles down the road from my condo, until April 9, 2018. I used the time to finish getting the condo ready to list and then interviewing agents. I interviewed 10 agents in all finally settling on one who also lives in Port of the Islands and works out of Coldwell Banker Marco Island. Nine of the ten agents made very professional presentations though, of course, a lot of it was “puff” and the rest quite repetitive (there’s only so many comparables for them to show me and I actually had more sales data than any single one of them. 

What I found most interesting occurred after I listed. I sent a thank you email to all the agents I interviewed. I got a return email from the guy (firm owner) who was my second choice. His response was two sentences. First he advised me that he had never heard of my selected agent. His second sentence was a stunner. He asked when he could get back his presentation material – it was a ReMax folder which contained his bio, comps and reprints about how good ReMax is. He wanted his $0.69 folder and photocopy stuff back. Guess who is not now even on the list should I end up deciding to relist with someone else! I have never in my life made a marketing presentation and then shaded the competition and asked that my material be returned. Wondering how he ever became a franchise owner?

So anyway, my unit is listed and CB is having some difficulty with getting the listing properly picked up by Zillow, the 800# gorilla in the internet real estate marketing room. Frustrating!! Hope it is fixed by tomorrow. 

I left Collier Seminole State Park, Naples and Port of the Islands on Monday morning, April 9th. I drove to Clermont, FL, roughly 200 miles north up the spine of Florida and stayed two nights at Lake Louisa State Park – another very nice FL state park. 

I left there this morning and stopped for the night at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Spring, FL – just south of I 10 and east of I 75. A short day. This is a very nice state park with level large water & electric sites – both back ins and pull throughs. It is located, drum roll…, on the Suwannee River and honors Stephen Foster. Our Senior Class in Junior High presented a class play on Stephen Foster who I played and whose songs I sang. Had to stop in to say “hi” to my inspiration but he wasn’t in. .

Besides the typical state park offerings of camping, hiking, horseback riding etc., there is a huge 97 bell carillon tower, and an even bigger S Foster Museum, gift shop, and craft shops where demonstrating artists share their talents and offer classes and workshops. There are numerous music festivals during the year – unfortunately none going right now. Weekend retreats offer instruction in building and playing banjos and dulcimers.

The museum houses quite a number of old old pianos including a portable one that S Foster used. There is also a piano I’ve never seen or heard of before – a Steinway Concert Grand with a Janko’ keyboard. It almost looks like a pipe organ keyboard with 6 rows of keys arranged in 3 pairs. Besides hearing S Foster classics piped into the museum, there are a ten dioramas depicting or illustrating scenes from his songs – like Swanee Ribber, Camptown Races, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, My Old Kentucky Home, Oh! Susanna snf more. He had about 200 songs and instrumentals published. Pretty prolific.

All that in a State Park! Impressive. Add to that my overnight stay in a spacious water and electric level pull through site for the super Florida resident, old fart price of $10.00 and and you just can’t beat that deal with a stick.

Seeing all the dioramas and hearing many of his popular songs brought me back some 60 yrs or so. Sometime, I presume in my last year of junior high, we had a class play for the school and parents given over several nights. I don’t remember much of the play other than I had the singing part of Stephen Foster and got to sing a number of his songs. It was fun and it was before my voice changed to the grumpy raspy old one I’ve now got.


So it is the next day…(Thursday – it took some time to upload the pictures since Verizon has throttled/slowed my access. They make a big sales feature about selling you unlimited data. What they don’t say is it’s unlimited if you access the net using just your phone but if you use your phone as a hotspot so you computer can access the net via your phone, you have a limit before they slow down your access)…and I need to report on my brief stop in Warner Robins, GA.

You see I have a good friend who divides his time between his up north home and his condo at the Port of the Islands. There is also a non-friend by the name of IRMA involved in this story. Irma developed into a hurricane last September and ravaged SW FL. My friend, who was up north, as IRMA departed SWFL and continued northward, decided to help his friends and neighbors in the Port. He went shopping up north and bought a few generators, bought a bunch of staples and cases of water and loaded them in the back of his pickup truck and headed south to meet the storm. Did I mention my friend is also a pastor?

670 miles later and in the evening he reached the southern town of Warner Robins, GA. My friend likes to eat and it was supper time so he pulled off I75. If you have been through there and remember it, the exit is one of those that is heavily populated with 24 hr fuel stations and 24 hr food outlets. My recollection of his saga is that it was about 8 in the evening and there were lines at the fuel stations and restaurants. While in line, the local Barney Fifes arrived and announced that there was a curfew and all the facilities would be closed to “foreigners” in 5 minutes – 8pm. And so the Barney Fifes started checking IDs and those with local IDs were allowed into the restaurants and those with IDs from out of town or out of state were told to hit the road and get out of town. (Political comment – I presume if one were an illegal alien with forged ID, they would been invited in for steak and a free hotel room)

My friend also recounted that down the road a piece, he stopped at another town for fuel and the wait was over an hour. But that local Sheriff, an Andy type, met the waiting cars down the line and separated them into one of two lines depending on which side their vehicle’s fuel fill was located. My friend often writes what I call “Frank HomiLees” and he wrote a spiritual one entitled, I believe, “Good Towns, Bad Towns”.

So, to wrap this up, I just had to stop at one of the restaurants at the WR exit, get myself a seat, ask for a glass of water, asked to speak with the Manager and when he arrived told him my good samaritan friend’s story about his town of Warner Robbins and it leaders who chose this way to deal with crisis. I explained as I left the table without ordering, that I would not spend one penny in his town. 

Now I don’t know if this was a “biblical” thing for me to do or not but I held my head high and felt pretty good. I think the young family, in line in front of my pastor friend, who was also turned away, would probably have been happy. As a side note, the manager appeared to be quite familiar with this little local version of Kristallnacht.

Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier, GA. Apr 20, 2018

Thursday 4/12/18. A relatively short travel day from White Springs, FL to Macon, GA. Pulled in mid afternoon at the Cracker Barrel and relaxed, had some dinner and then stayed the night. The nearby road was a bit busy so I left the TV on in the living room for a little white noise and heard nothing else till morning – including the arrival of two more rigs sometime during the night.

Friday 4/13/18. An even shorter travel day but longer in terms of tiredness. Traveled from Macon to Lake Allatoona on the NW side of Atlanta. The drive around Atlanta was horrible – averaging probably 20 mph or less the whole way. Allatoona Lake or reservoir is man made and covers about 1,100 square miles – the second largest lake in GA behind only Lake Lanier. Besides several private campgrounds and a GA state park, Allatoona Lake boasts 8 Corp of Engineers parks/campgrounds. 

COE campgrounds are a new favorite. They are always associated with with water, mostly dammed reservoirs, and the Corps, having formed the lakes, usually has the most frontage and is generous with waterfront camping sites. Since land, to the Corps, is not at a premium their sites are very good sized and since the Corps is basically an Army construction division, their sites are always well constructed. They are level with either an asphalt or crushed rock drive. The sites are usually defined with 4×4 timber and include a picnic table, fire ring, grill and an elevated cross with hooks so tenters and campers can hang their food and trash away from the wildlife. COE sites generally have water and electric at each site with electric systems (amperage) well maintained. And since they are part of the federal government system, one’s national park pass works and one’s Senior pass or disability pass provided a 50% discount. $14. per night. 

During our full timing years, Sharon and I only stayed at one COE, AFAIR. The main reason was at that ancient time, campgrounds were mostly found using a paper directory like Woodalls or Good Sam Directory. Large telephone sized books arranged by state, they were were not all inclusive and tended to favor private parks with write ups of amenities, site sizes and emphasized parks that also paid for an ad. State and Nat’l Parks got a lesser, maybe one line, write up and COE and National Forests were “also mentioned”s. We were pulling a 40′ fifth wheel with a small semi so we needed ‘some room’. If we were just overnighting, we wanted a pull through spot so we didn’t have to unhook and to us, that meant a private park. If we were staying a week or so, with two people, our waste tanks would fill faster than with one person and so we would want a site with full hookups – water, electric AND sewer. Sewer hookup most often would eliminate governmental campgrounds.

Times have changed. I no longer have a need for bulky campground directories. My phone and tablet give me access to a number of campground guide apps. My favorite is AllStays. Open up the app and your current location is immediately found on their map. Shown on the map are different icons representing private campgrounds nearby, public campgrounds like city parks, county parks, nat’l parks, COEs, state parks, truck stops, Walmarts and other places where campers are welcome to overnight. Click on one of the icons and details of the park, website, reviews, ratings, amenities, photos, gps, and links to Google and Apple maps appear. Want to stay further down the highway? – swipe the main map to wherever you want and more local stop icons appear always showing how many driving miles between your current location and desired location. All available in an instant on your phone or iPad. You can also pull up items like propane fill locations, low bridge clearances etc. etc. etc.

So after a couple of restful days at Victoria COE campground on Allatoona Lake, we (Deb was also there with her rig) left and headed to Lake Lanier – northeast of Atlanta. We pulled in for a 14 day stay at Bolding Mills COE campground. What a beautiful and beautifully maintained campground. Large, large level sites. The lake is another reservoir built by the COE. It’s shoreline is just shy of 700 miles. There are 7 Corps of Engineer park campgrounds, a couple of county park campgrounds and additional private campgrounds lining its shores. It goes without saying that there are numerous marinas some with houseboats to rent in the 50 and 60’ range. We each have waterfront camping sites on peninsulas with large patios, picnic tables and fire rings. We can almost see each other’s rig across the intervening water basin. 

Deb needs to get new seals installed on her slide-outs so we spent the better part of one day going to a highly recommended RV service center where they determined what parts were going to be needed etc. When the supplies arrive, it will entail nearly a week’s worth of labor. We also took a day drive to Helen, GA – about 30 miles north of Lake Lanier. It is a mountain town and is known for its vineyards and Bavarian-style buildings. It made me think it was a much smaller version of Frankenmuth, MI (without the world’s best Zehnders’ chicken) or Gatlinburg, TN. Very cute and worth a couple of hours walking around. 

A few miles out of town, we came across what appeared to be a large southern mansion set 1/4 mile back off the road. There was a sign in front – “BabyLand” with a notation of “Baby Hospital”. It was the home of the Cabbage Patch Dolls and the building was a museum, showplace, collector’s meeting place etc. Probably a half hour time detour to explore – it was quite a place even though I’m not into dolls. They had a hospital room for new born Cabbage Patch Dolls complete with human nurses. There was a nursery, again with human nurses; a birthday party room/area; Cabbage Patch woods; etc. etc. And of course, Cabbage Patch sales of what must have been a 1000 or more varieties. There were a lot of people lounging around with large name tag badges – a Cabbage Patch Collector’s convention – and the ball room was being readied for their banquet. Who knew – out there in the hills and farmland – Cabbage Patch could be so big?

We also spent an afternoon this week walking through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (Gainesville). It was pretty, smelled flowery, but not really my thing though it did provide some entertainment. Not anything close to or as elaborate as the Meijer’s Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI which was a “Wow”. Also worked into the week’s activities were laundry and grocery shopping so the time has really gone fast.

Georgia through Texas. May 13, 2018

My last update was April 20, 2018 and was from Lake Lanier. Deb and I finished our stay at Bolden Mills COE campground. We actually stayed 16 days rather than the scheduled 14 days. On May 2nd we moved the 40 miles or so to Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, GA to be closer to the graduation at UGA in Athens. Reservations at Fort Yargo guarantee you a spot but site selection is first come, first serve. There are 10 sites that have lake frontage so upon check in we headed to those. There was one lakeside site open so Deb got that one. I drove the next row back, found a site and started unhooking my car when I saw a camper leaving another lakeside spot. I quickly drove my car to that site and claimed it, walked back to the rig and brought it to my new campsite. So we both had delightful waterfront sites with only one camper between us. 

Jon & Vic drove down from N. VA for the festivities so we got to visit with them at the park a couple of days. I got to meet my future granddaughter in law (as of Sept) and her family. Had a very nice time. Charlie & Juliana were unable to make it, finals weeks at Univ of Oklahoma for Charlie and exam prep etc for Juliana’s final weeks of high school. Juliana has been accepted at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering (go Hokies) so Vic and Jon will soon experience empty nesting.

After all the festivities, I left and headed westbound. I went as far as Tuscaloosa AL and stopped for a few nights at another Corp of Engineers campground – Deer Lick Campground on the northeast side of town. It just keeps getting better! The campground was virtually empty and I got the premier site (#35) in the place. The campground is kind of a difficult drive from the interstate – lots of twists and turns on not so great roads – but it is worth it. It is along the Warrior River and the sites are high on the bluffs. The Army Corps really got to show its stuff. All the sites are level paved W/E mostly back ins. Each site has a large level gravel patio area and grill at the same elevation as the site. Each site also has a cantilevered wooden deck over the bluff overlooking the water with a picnic table on the deck. Just couldn’t ask for a nicer and more peaceful spot. There are locks and one of the locks far below was within easy view of my site and I got to watch some large barge traffic through. 

After a few days, I left and my next stop was Vicksburg, MS. It was just an overnighter and nothing special. This was followed with another unspectacular stop/site in Bossier City/Shreveport, Louisiana. 

And then came the big state of Texas. I was having some trouble with my automatic hydraulic leveling jacks and found that the manufacturer, HWH, has an authorized service center at the plant where they build very high end motorhomes – Foretravel. So I detoured about a hundred miles southerly to their location in Nacogdoches, TX. Since I’m pretty mechanically ignorant, I wanted some competent place to diagnose the issue for me rather than just stopping at some Camping World type of place where they might tend to guess by throwing parts and my billfold at the problem. They were very accommodating saying that they could look at it at 8am the next morning (10 am would have been more accommodating to my sleep schedule however ) They have their own W/E campground on premise so I stayed the night – my little baby rig amongst the ‘big boys’. 

The next morning brought the news that I have a leak in one of the cylinder jacks and of course the parts they have are for big jacks. They called the factory and the factory thought they had one of mine in stock but would need to check. If not in stock, that jack was scheduled on the manufacturing list in 2 weeks. So I had them refill the reservoir and show me how to check and refill it myself. I think a full reservoir will hold for something like a month or maybe more. I called HWH (in Moscow, IA) and talked to them. They have a their own repair facility and said if I give them a call a week or two before coming in, they will schedule me and make sure they have the part. Foretravel provided me with the part number so I’ll stop at the factory the latter part of August. 

I left Nacogdoches mid morning and headed north and then west past Dallas/Ft Worth and Abilene. I also stopped and got an oil change on the motor home. Beginning of oil country, for sure. It was an extremely windy day which made for hard driving. Winds were consistently 25-30mph out of the south so I was cross wind most of the day. This bread box wanted to continually change lanes, especially when an 18 wheeler would pass me. And with speed limits of 75mph or more, there were plenty of them wanting to pass this 65 mph rig. I stopped for the night at the Sweetwater TX County Park located on Lake Sweetwater. A strange park. No marked RV or tent spaces. Just drive around and look for electric boxes with a water spigot and then figure out how to park. The ground is rock hard so you can drive anywhere. But it was a quiet place and I parked with the rear end into the wind. Even so the gusts during the night were substantial. 

The following day was also windy but starting to die down a bit. Wide open spaces…if oil rigs every 1000 feet can be considered ‘wide open’. Lots of oil on the interstate as well – tire carcasses. Interesting thing, the further west I got and the more I got into oil country, the more expensive fuel became. What was $2.49/gal when I left mid GA is now just a bit under $3.00/gal in west TX. Checking GasBuddy.com the GA prices have increase about $0.15/gal over the past 10 days so the location adjusted difference is about $0.35/gal. The winds I encountered west of Dallas negatively impacted my fuel mileage by a bit more than 20% Temperatures are running about 100 degrees but humidity is less than 10% so it is not unpleasant – far more pleasant than the humidity laden 85-90 degrees back in SW FL.

My next stop was west of Midland TX and about 20 miles west of Odessa. I stopped at Monahans Sand Hills State Park. It was unreal. It is the eastern edge of what is locally known as the Southwestern Sahara Desert – stretching some 200 miles northwesterly into New Mexico (Roswell). It’s actually not a desert but a semi-arid area. The park consists of sand dunes up to 70’ high. Nice campsites located about 2 miles into the dunes with lots of warnings not to drive or park in the sand. There is a nice interpretive center which serves as the campground office and as the rental center for what we northerners would call snow saucers. For a couple of bucks, you can rent a ‘sand disk’ and climb the dunes and slide back down. Looks like fun except the climb and having to get back up onto two feet at the end of the ride. That and the sure sunburn. I passed. 

Other oddities from being ‘up north’. Michiganders know that where the sand dunes end, water begins. No water here. At the edge of the sand dunes are oil wells instead. I like the Lk Michigan view better. I looked all over but saw no Mac Woods Dune Scooters (for non west Michiganders, the ubiquitous tourist dune rides at Pentwater/Silver Lake).. Not allowed. And there is vegetation! The sand comes from ages of Rocky Mountain disintegration of rock into sand and then blown southerly and met by prevailing northerly winds and dropped over time. The sand is held in place by vegetation. As a matter of fact, this major area is the site of the WORLD’S largest oak forest – some 40,000 acres, of which 4,000 is in the park. Not everything in TX is large. From these TX acorns grow, not mighty oaks, but midget oaks. They are the the Shinoak, an unusual type of oak tree which because of local conditions achieves a mature height of 3-4 feet. Texas mighty oaks are more like shrubs! Most of the Shinoak is actually below the sand with long, long, long roots to groundwater. It’s the root system that has kept the sand dunes from more movement. 

The Monahans Sand Hills are part of the Permian Basin, the world’s 2nd largest oil basin. Sand is heavily used in oil fracking and across the Interstate from the park, a huge sand mining plant is being built. I was told that it will employ 700 workers. There will have to be many more “rv parks” built to accommodate that kind of growth. They are ugly developments. An interesting note about the town of Monahans – it is also a train graveyard. Damaged rail cars and engines brought here and scrapped. Quite a sight to see a pile of box cars on top of each other waiting their turn while a little further is a huge pile of ‘trucks’ – wheel and axle assemblies which, I presume, they recycle.

What was not ugly about the drive from Monahans to El Paso was the large display of Yucca plants in full bloom along the highway. Beautiful. Also, the change of terrain from flat arid area to the Davis and Guadalupe Mountains beginning about 100 miles east of El Paso was refreshing.

Columbus, NM and Silver City, NM. May 24, 2018

I’ve left Texas in my rear view mirrors and headed from El Paso on a local highway to Columbus, NM. The road paralleled the border and from time to time the border fence was visible. Columbus is a small town about 2 miles north of the border and the Mexican border town of Palomas. I came here to pick up my annual supply of maintenance prescriptions. I was introduced to getting ones prescriptions from MX or Canada by my daughter. I found that I can get a year’s worth of my meds for less money than the copay on a 90 days supply of my meds using Medicare’s Part D prescription insurance or GoodRx (also generally less expensive than Medicare Part D. 

Though many may think that they’d rather have medications ‘from the United States’ it is a fact that most of the so called US meds are actually manufactured south of the `US borders and/or south of Central America borders. Most of what I got were so called name brands like Pfizer, Lilly etc. I used a pharmacy named Farmacia Express which is about 1.5 blocks south of the border and next to the “Pink Store” – a Trip Advisor “must visit”. Farmacia Express has a number of decals on its door from various RV groups like Escapees (largest club for full time RVers) and Loners On Wheels and have quite a number of RVing gringos as their clientele.

I got a full hook up spot in NM’s Pancho Villa State Park, the site of the early 1900’s Camp Furlong. It now has 60 RV and tent sites scattered around the property. The sites are large and are very nicely desert-scaped. Also in the campground is a 6,000 sf visitor’s center which has a very nice presentation of the early history. Camp Furlong is the site of the last foreign invasion of the US. In 1916, searching for food, weapons and ammunition, Pancho Villa raided Columbus burning some of the town to the ground. Eventually Villa was beaten back by troops from heavily damaged Camp Furlong. 

Another theory of this invasion was that the Germans (WWI) who were fighting in Mexico, with the US army assisting the Mexican government in its defense, encouraged Villa to cross the border as a distraction to the Americans. President W. Wilson ordered General John “Black Jack” Pershing on a “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico to capture Villa and a week later around 10,000 troops arrived in Columbus and ultimately went some 500 miles into Mexico (unsuccessful in its mission to capture Villa; but excellent preparation for Pershing and his men for WWI as they experimented with autos, trucks and airplanes). On display at the park is a Jeffrey Quad Armored Truck (29hp/gas), an M1905 3” rifled field gun and replica airplane of the day. Of interest in the campground are an original ramp which was used to elevate equipment for easier repair and a series of 10 or 12, 9” thick concrete strips, about 25’ long, 16” wide and spaced about 2’ apart. Army vehicles could be parked on the strips and mechanics could crawl between the strips under the vehicles to service them – early grease racks.

So anyway, my purpose in being there was to cross the border and get my meds. Since you are only supposed to import a 90 day supply at a time and since I was getting 12 month supply (15 months of the more expensive ones), it would take several back and forth trips across the border – a morning and an afternoon crossing over a couple of days. I had never crossed the US/Mex border before and was a bit nervous so I did a first trial run just to get the lay of the land. I drove to the border and parked my car in the customs parking lot and walked across the border and had dinner at the Pink Store restaurant before returning. No hassle except for the nearly 100 degree heat and 20 mph+ dry winds.

The next day I started my run to the pharmacy in earnest. I took my soft sided shoulder strapped NASCAR insulated bag (I have lots of refrigerated drugs) across the border and picked up my first load. US border agents asked me what I got and I told them and they were cool with that without even looking. On my subsequent trips, they were also cool but they did rummage through the bag. On one of my trips into MX, the Mexican agents called me over so they could look into the bag to make sure I wasn’t bringing in weapons or ammunition. Otherwise I was able just walk across with no MX agent even in sight.

No doctor’s prescription is needed. I had texted pictures of each of my med containers a couple of weeks in advance along with quantities. She (the pharmacist) texted the prices back in USDs. She then ordered the meds so that all are of a ‘fresh date’. My total order was over $3,000 US for 15 mo of most and 12 mo of the rest. With each pickup, that portion was converted to pesos and charged on my VISA. My US bank must implement a better rate of exchange than the charging MX bank because when converted back to US dollars on my account, it was about 10% less. So that was good too. 

In addition to the savings over insurance copays and GoodRx pricing (there’s a lot of ‘bad’ built into the vaunted US pharma system), there are some other advantages (assuming one lives long enough to use one’s large inventory)- 

• First, you don’t have to put up with inefficient US pharmacies – pharmacies that tell you your RX is ready and then when you drive 40 miles round trip (I lived in the Everglades) to pick them up, only one is ready and a second trip was needed (come on Amazon, show CVS, Walgreens, Walmart etc. how it’s supposed to work), pharmacies that email or text that it’s time to get a refill only to tell you “it’s too early” when you actually order it and pharmacies that don’t have enough of your med which also requires another trip (I’ve never gotten free merchandise from my US pharmacist much less a hug! When I made my last pickup, the pharmacist came out from behind the counter, filled a bag with a bunch of products that a gringo needs in the sun and extreme arid conditions, and gave them to me along with a big hug)

• Second, you don’t need to deal with RX ins companies who tell you that they are looking out for your safe health by not allowing you to get your prescription early when coming into town. Who asked them to look after my health anyway. They are an insurance company. I look out for my health as does my doctor – not some insurance actuary, and

• Third, you don’t have to be told by your doctor’s office that they won’t authorize a refill until you schedule a doctor’s appointment. These are long term maintenance drugs and those “required appointments” are nothing but billing opportunities as the doctors (I’ve had several and they’re all the same) run no tests prior to just reauthorizing the same medications and strengths.

I really enjoyed my stay in Columbus despite the winds and heat (I got to use one of my ‘gifts’, a skin conditioner, something I’ve never used before but which really helped). Trip Advisor (an app I use a lot) had several of the few restaurants well rated and deservedly so. Lots of good TexMex and Mex food and some really great breakfasts and soup at lunch.

I finally left Columbus and headed north through Deming up to Silver City, NM – a total trip of about 110-120 miles on state routes (something I favor greatly over interstates). Silver City is a pretty reasonably sized city nestled in the mountain valley. Every business parking lot seems to be at a different level from its neighbors as businesses are built up and down the hillsides. In Silver City I stayed at the local ELKs club. I paid for an ELKs membership last year for camping. They are located in so many areas and most ELK clubs have RV parking (usually 2-10 spaces) available only to members. Some are just ‘dry’ camping – no water or electric, while the majority have water and electric for each site. The location at Silver City is full hookup, water, modern electric and sewer at each of the 6 sites. They are never, as far as I can tell, full and some are free or $5, $10 or $15 per nite. Checking in, I found that they were having a steak fry that evening so supper was all set. There is a nice Visitor’s Center in town and an eclectic old town area with some pretty chic restaurants

The next day I took a day trip north from Silver City on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits – National Scenic Byway. The northbound section is 44 miles long to its terminus. They say to allow two hours for the trip north and then the same for the return trip. They aren’t kidding. Add more if you want to stop at one of the few stopping points along the way. Though some rustic campgrounds along the way, I wouldn’t like to drive it in my rig towing my car – doable for sure but not a relaxing ride. The first 10 miles are easy peasy. And then the road goes up and over and up an over again, the mountains. No guard rails, just immediate drop offs. It twists and turns and there has to be a hundred or more tight, tight hairpin turns. Start the turn and you have zero ability to see off to the side as rock and trees block your view.

The route takes you through the Gila National Forest with elevations up to 8600’ and along the route are hot springs and a memorial to the birthplace of Geronimo. The route terminates at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument where, after a trail walk you can climb a series of ladders and steps and walk through the 46 rooms in the 5 caves of cliff dwellings built/occupied by the Mongollan people in the late 1200s. Since the climb is 175’ at high elevation, I did not attempt the climb. Living under those conditions is almost unimaginable. The drive, even at nearly 5 hours round trip, was well worth it. 

My next destination was to be the Albuquerque area. I had a choice of driving back to Deming and taking I -10 back east to I-25 and north to ABQ or going straight east on the Geronimo Scenic Highway. It shows on my mapping apps as a 50 mile route connecting Silver City to I-25 saving 50 miles over the other route. However the scenic drive also is over a number of mountains and the app showed just as many hairpin turns plus two low clearances of 12’6”. I got out my motorhome manual/specs and found that the motorhome was a low enough height but ‘did that include the roof air conditioner’, I wondered? Taking out the tape measure, I was able to measure the height to my roof and using Amazon, pulled up my A/C unit and it’s height. I would be OK. 

I googled the road and found a UTube posted by someone who drove the route with a dash cam and so I watched the entire sped up 20 minutes and got to see all the twists and turns (and the 2 low clearances) and decided it was doable and far better than a longer route just to take more interstate. Due to the steep ascents and descents climbing again over 8600’ and slow posted speeds there would be no elapsed time difference. The weather report for the next day was calling for heavy thunderstorms and high winds beginning mid afternoon so I wanted to get an earlier start so as to be all set up before the storms. Best laid plans of mice and men…

Crossing the mountains, at the peaks, I was in the clouds and rain – light rain to be sure but it made the driving a bit more difficult. At 500’ less elevation, the rain cleared up. I came across a road construction site and with no traffic on the road, I put the window down and asked a worker if their taller orange gravel trucks had come over the low clearance bridges. They had and I relaxed as, despite my measurements as I noted that the bridges came at the last 10 miles of my drive and to that time, I had not seen one place that would allow me to turn around should my measurements been wrong. So I got to I 25 northbound and after about 75 miles it was proved that the weatherman was wrong again. Not yet noon and western sky was black and moving east towards me. I was able to stay riding just ahead of the storm until I could cut off west bound on another local ‘highway’ to cut the ABQ corner to I-40 – a 40 mile drive. The cutoff road was north of the storms I had been paralleling and directly south of other ominous clouds/storms just north and I rode, dry, for all but one mile of the route. 

I ended up in an RV park operated by the Laguna tribe – where I am going to stay for a few days. It’s another very modern park with all the amenities, except greenery, and for only $11.38/nite including tax. A major price difference in camping out in the west vs Midwest and East Coast. You can’t find a decent private park out east for less than $35-45/nite. I’m about 40 miles directly west of ABQ. The news that night was about the rain. ABQ has had only ¾” of rain since October. Though the thunderstorms officially brought only 1/10th inch of rain (and lots of hail) there were many areas of the city that got up to an inch. The big TV news was all about the rescues. The arroyos and concrete culverts were subjected to flash flooding and the first responders pulled 5 people out of rushing water said to be traveling 35 mph. There was one fatality. Though I will be going to another Army Corp of Engineers lake/dam side park north of ABQ, I need to wait because they have a 14 day stay limit and since I’m flying to the DC area for my granddaughter’s HS graduation, I need to have the 14 days surround my travel time.

Northern New Mexico. Jun 15, 2018

When I last updated this Trip Journal, 3 weeks ago, I was about 70 miles away, as the crow flies, from my current location. However, in that short period of time, I’ve actually traveled about 4,100 miles with most of those actually as the crow flies. Not the leisurely travel I had in mind.

I was camped at an Indian reservation about 40 miles west of Albuquerque. It was more or less a place for me to wait until my reservations started at my next destination. I drove into Albuquerque on one of the days to visit “Old Town”. Sharon and I had visited the historic Old Town area some 15+/- yrs ago. Amazingly, for an area known as Old Town, it hadn’t changed much. The Old Town Village within Albuqureque was established in the early 1700’s and consists of quiet hidden patios, winding brick paths and more than 150 shops, galleries and studios. Not so much my type of place but a memory spot I wanted to revisit. I didn’t remember the historic San Felipe de Neri Church so that provided one new old place for me to visit. 

I had a 14 day reservation about 90 driving miles away at Cochiti Lake Corp of Engineers Campground, south and west of Santa Fe. I make note of driving miles vs distance because of the mountains and the out of the way routing because a direct route over the mountains either doesn’t exist or is a road I can’t travel with the motor home (and my rig will handle most of them even towing my car). To accommodate a 14 day stay, I had to make 3 reservations for 3 different sites. Upon arrival, the campground hosts were able to reduce my site moves from 3 to 2.

Cochiti Lake is located on the Rio Grande about 50 miles upstream from Albuquerque. The Cochiti people have occupied the present area continuously for over 700 years. Cochiti Dam operates in concert with 3 other Corps flood control projects – Galesteo, Jemez (Hay-mus) Canyon and Abiquiu Dams. Cochiti is one of the 10 largest earthfill dams in the US stretching 5.5 miles and rising to 250 feet.

There are two Corps campgrounds at Cochiti Lake – Tetilla Peak (45 sites) on the east side of the Lake and Cochiti Lake (80 sites) on the west side of the impoundment. I stayed at the latter. The sites are tiered up the hill (mountain) side and each has a wonderful view of the lake far below. Interior roads are all paved and most communities would be envious of them. The sites themselves are spacious, level and paved. Each site has concrete and pea gravel patios, a grill, concrete picnic table under a metal roofed shelter and an electric lamp post/patio light. Very nice. The Army knows how to build a campground! With my old fart pass, only $10.per night.

Being able to see the lake was really nice in that NM is generally a semi arid area and is currently, along with AZ and CO, experiencing historic droughts. So though not helpful in staying hydrated or cool, the sight of massive blue gave a sense of relief from the arid brown. Did I say it was hot (mid to high 90’s each day) and windy too? At an elevation of 5,500’ with peaks ranging to 10,000’ plus canyons all around, the winds were pretty much constant plus numerous gusts. One evening, while sitting on my couch, one such momentary gust pushed my big living room slide and my bedroom slide in quite a bit. The slides are anchored by the electric tracks at the bottom while the top of the slide is “free” so a gust like that pushes the top of the slide in while the bottom stays anchored and thus the slide actually tips in and if you don’t catch yourself, you end up sliding off the couch onto the floor.

While discussing weather, the drought is causing many wildfires. When I left Silver City (last post) there was a forest fire started in the Gila National Forest. It is still burning tens of thousands of acres. Just east of Santa Fe is another fire that has been burning for weeks and has consumed nearly 40,000 acres and some buildings so far. There are fires burning west of me near Farmington and what I was planning for my next destination has changed. I was planning to head to Durango, CO. Have never been there and thought it would be fun to take the Durango-Silverton railroad. But there is a major fire at Durango and north (much of Durango has been evac’d) and roads (and railroad) have been closed. East of Santa Fe and west of Las Vegas NM is the Ute fire, also burning nearly 3 weeks and at just under 40,000 acres. That one is 95% contained now. But many of the state and national forests are closed or are on high fire alert and many of their campground facilities are off limits.

Another interesting sight was about 4 miles north on Rt 22. A “country” club! The road takes a big bend and voila! laid out in front of you are lush green fairways along the Rio Grande…along with a grille open to the public for lunch (otherwise a 20 mile plus drive to an I-25 truck stop). Groceries are available in a small market about 5 miles southerly. Rt 22 ends about a half mile north of the golf course when it butts into private sacred tribal land and the southern border of Bandelier National Monument (more on that later). 

About 5 miles south of Cochiti Lake is Kasha-Katuwe (White Rocks) Tent Rocks National Monument established in 2001. The best description I can give of them is gnome hats with a cap made of layers of volcanic rock and ash beneath harder caprocks. Unfortunately with elevation and a climb, I could not do this hike either. ☹

While camped at Cochiti Lake, I drove my car back to the Albuquerque Airport. I had an early flight to Washington DC, via Denver, on Thursday. Friday was my granddaughter Juliana Ruiter’s high school graduation and Saturday there was an open house for her. I had a great time. Grandson Tim and his fianc’ee, Allie were up from U of GA. Grandson Charlie was home from U of Oklahoma, SIL Jon was home from overseas and daughter Vic was making it all happen. In addition, daughter Deb (and dog Tibbi) were camped nearby for the occasion (Deb is also a full time traveler in her motor home so it’s nice to get to meet up with her as well). The graduation took place at the basketball arena of George Mason University. A big production with a graduating class, by my count, of 600 give or take 5. She had a bunch of medallions and various colored cords with her robe each standing for some honor. I don’t remember all of them, some scholastic and some athletic, but they included National Honor Society, AP Scholar Candidate, Centreville Scholars (4.2 gpa or higher). Congratulations, Juliana. Love you! And I wish you all the best as you go on to Virginia Tech Engineering School. I flew back to ABQ via Houston on Sunday and stayed one more day at Cochita Lake COE Park so I could rest up.

My next stop was to be in the Los Alamos NM area. One of the places of interest was Bandelier National Monument. The southern edge, inaccessible, of Bandelier was at the northern edge of Cochita but access was not that easy. It entailed a 70 mile drive to Santa Fe and then west to White Rock. White Rock is a small community just south of Los Alamos. Between the two are major mountain grades and the massive Los Alamos National Laboratory (a restricted area of numerous lab and testing sites stretching 10 miles or more). White Rock is also the location of the Visitor Center for Bandelier Nat’l Monument. The Visitor Center is also the site of a County Park “Campground”. 16 sites for motor homes and trailers with power for each site. It’s basically a paved marked parking lot but with 90+ temps, it’s nice to have adequate power for the air conditioners. Access to Bandelier is by shuttle and the shuttle runs every half hour from the campground so it couldn’t be handier.

As indicated, running from Cochiti to White Rock, Bandelier is a massive park with only a small area actually accessible by typical tourist (as opposed to avid, avid, avid hikers and climbers). The area designated for us tourist types is in a canyon (though still at 6500’). The initial part of the trail is an easy hike even for me – like a mile. From the easy part are offshoot uphill trails to more, you guessed it, cave dwellings and multiple ladder climbs. These I did not do. Bandelier was a great treat. In the canyon it was 10-15 degrees cooler and it was very green. I saw no water but the canyon was eerily quiet such that the constant breeze through the trees made it sound like you were surrounded by rushing streams. Very nice and no fire!

Coralville, Iowa. Jul 4, 2018


After leaving White Rock/Los Alamos I drove to Abiquiu – west northwest of Santa Fe. Total driving distance from White Rock was about 90 miles. I arrived at the Corps of Engineers Riana Campground without a reservation (my preferred way to travel). Riana only has 15 sites with water/electric hookups and all were filled so I took one of the 25 no hookup sites. Really nice level large site in an area where each site was in its own corral. The park has a commanding high view of Abiquiu Lake formed on the dammed Chama River. It is located in a beautiful grassy valley that has long been known by the name Piedra Lumbre’ (Fire Rock). The valley is at the base of the Pedernal Mountains which is largely composed of flint (fire rock). The next day, a water/electric site opened up and I moved to it. Instead of a fenced corral, I was now in a site bounded by rock walls on one side and the rear. There is also a close by swimming beach though it’s a rather steep walk.

The area had a number of things to see. The area’s most famous resident was Georgia O’Keeffe – at home both in Abiquiu and in the New York society of her day. She is known for her paintings of the area. I went to the Georgia O’Keeffe studio but it’s not my thing to stand in rooms adorned by a single painting so I didn’t stay long. 

Of more interest to me was the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center (also one of O’Keeffe’s haunts). It was, at one time, property of the Presbyterian denomination and though no longer financially supported by it, its influence is everywhere. It is composed of 21,000 acres of dramatic cliffs, red hill and rock formations that inspired O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams and others. There are numerous tours, both via vehicles and horseback, an archeology and a paleontology museum. One of the ranch tours was a movie tour visiting the many sites on the ranch used as sets on some 20+ movies and TV shows. 

A few miles further out of town was the Echo Ampitheater, a natural walled arena of sandstone. Though impressive, I thought it was spoiled by all the public parking areas etc. I tried to drive to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert some 13 miles distant on unpaved roads alongside the Rio Chama. Its remoteness and difficulties of the drive limit the number of visitors. It is a Benedictine monastery powered by the ‘new’ solar power. They have a guest house and bookstore and visitors are welcome to enjoy the silence and solitude and to join them at lunch. Unfortunately when I got to the turnoff to their “road”, it was barricaded by the forest service due to the extremely high fire danger. Throughout my New Mexico travels, it seemed as though small, medium and humongous fires were raging somewhere nearby. 

I also went to, nearby to Abiquiu, the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm and Tea House. I planned to have lunch there and smell “the roses – er, the lavender”. Apparently it was not sustainable as it was closed down and there was zero evidence of lavender except on the sign. I also drove a back road to the Plaza Blanca. It is private property that is welcoming of visitors. Beautiful white sandstone cliffs afford breathtaking views. As said, it is private property – property of Dar Al Islam, a isolated mosque located in the rocks and desert of northern New Mexico. The mosque is about a half mile from Plaza Blanca and intrigued, I drove on. It was built in 1981 will some millions of Saudi petro dollars and designed by a world renowned Egyptian architect. Apparently the architect was not familiar with snow and ice and those New Mexico elements took down the dome soon after completion. It’s been rebuilt and it was a little strange to see this adobe structure. I got out of my car for a few pictures but did not wander around.

So I’d about had it with a month or more of the extreme heat, arid landscapes and where forested, fires of New Mexico. I had wanted to go north to Durango, CO and ride the Durango-Silverton train. But Durango was pretty much off limits because of the large forest fire burning there. So the choice was to go west and north into AZ and UT or go east and north along the front range towards WY and MT. With the exception of the Durango area, Sharon and I had pretty much explored much of Colorado already. The potential cooler weather of WY won out and I got on I25 (even though I try to avoid interstates) and headed north. 

Getting from Abiquiu to I25 entailed a cross country drive north of Santa Fe through the beautiful Cimarron Canyon State Park and Forest. This area between Angel Fire and Cimarron had been the site of a 50,000 acre out of control for weeks fire which had only been brought under control the week before. The ride was spectacular.

Before I left Florida, there was some strange noise coming from my roof air conditioner. It cooled fine but the fan made noise at start up and when winding down. In between fan sound was normal and, of course, the unit cooled just fine. I thought maybe a fan bearing needed replacement and had a mobile tech come out. He agreed but told me that the units were integrated. That is, you couldn’t buy a part, it was all or none, and he recommended that I just use it till it dies. South of Denver it did just that to the sound of great noise. I actually thought a helicopter was directly overhead and might land on my roof – it was that loud!

Between Denver and the Wyoming border, I stopped at a couple of Camping Worlds and at a Lazy Days RV Superstore. No one would help. My AC is made by Coleman. From FL on I had emailed Coleman twice (once with a .wav recording of the sound it was making) and had called and left a message once with their customer (no) service. I had never gotten the courtesy of a reply. It is easiest to replace one unit with the same model as the roof mount etc will all line up. But my model was no longer being made. Frustrated by the lack of service, I asked Lazy Daze where Coleman was located. “Elkhart, IN” they said. Well Elkhart is the Mecca of RV and RV parts manufacturing. I figured I could visit Coleman where I’d be a little more difficult to ignore and with so many repair facilities in Elkhart I could find someone to pick up a compatible unit at the factory and replace mine. I also needed to visit Sioux Falls, SD to get my SD drivers license and vehicle plates and I needed to visit HWH in Moscow, IA to get a leaking hydraulic jack fixed (I had tried to get this done in Nacogdoches, TX but they didn’t have the part and it would have taken a week to get it.) 

So I thought I would change my plans and head east to Sioux Falls and then Moscow IA. Since Winnebago (the mfr of my MH) is located in northern IA, I figured I’d call them and find out what new AC model they use and confirm that it would fit. Perhaps, even, I could talk them into getting me into their service shop and have them do the work. Elkhart would be the last resort. And so I turned east and started cross country along northern Nebraska. Somewhere along the way I googled the location of Coleman. It’s not in Elkhart. It’s not even in Indiana. It is located in Wichita, KS! One can’t even get straight information from one of the largest RV dealers in the country! Well Elkhart would still be a good fall back place for service – they just wouldn’t be able to drive to the factory and pick up a new unit in a half hour.

I decided to keep to my SD, IA, and IN plan. Midway across SD, I stopped in Mitchell, SD to see the Corn Palace. Had been there last in 2003 with Sharon. The Corn Palace is an interesting tourist attraction. The exterior is entirely decorated with corn and corn products. The murals are created with naturally colored ears of corn, dried tassels etc. Each year, an entirely new mural is created. 

SD is a very ‘easy’ state to move to. They accept a mail box as a legitimate address for a drivers license, for vehicle registration and for voting. They require that you provide a rent receipt in the county of residence and two pieces of mail addressed to you at your address. So I stayed overnight at a commercial RV park (and got my rent receipt) and visited my mail forwarding service there and picked up the mail they had for me. It took about 20 minutes to get my new drivers lic – not a temporary one but the final plasticized version at the DMV and then another half hour to exchange FL titles for SD titles/registration and plates and voila’, I’m a SD resident again. Easy peasy.

While sitting at the campground overnight, I spoke with tech service at Winnebago and they confirmed to me the correct Colemen model number for a replacement. I checked with the campground and they had a business card for a mobile repairman who comes up to the park from Nebraska (about a 60 mile trip each way) and who they said did good work. I called him and he said he’d be happy to replace my AC. I told him I had purchased the AC and it was going to be drop shipped to his place in Nebraska. Unfortunately, Amazon Prime doesn’t apply to ACs. It would take a week with arrival scheduled between June 29 and July 3. I had my appointment with HWH on the far side of IA for 7am, July 6th so with AC install possibly July 3rd or after, things might be tight!

I then went on Amazon and bought the correct AC unit for shipment to him. Then I found that the Corps of Engineers had several parks on the Missouri River and within 10 miles of his shop. So I moved my rig to the Nebraska Tailwaters campground across the river from Yankton, SD. This also was a very nice Corp campground and I had a great view of the river. I followed the trucking company tracking as closely as I could and found that the AC unit arrived at a trucking company shipping terminal 110 miles from me on June 28th. So I called the trucking company and ‘yes’ I could come and pick it up if the shipper in SCarolina approved. By noon, I had the approval and the terminal address in my GPS and by 5 pm I arrived back at the campground with the AC in my SUV and in my control. The mobile service tech came to my campground site at 7am on the 29th and by 7:45am the AC was installed, quietly working and I was leaving the campground.

My next stop was on the way towards Moscow, at a COE campground on Lake Saylorville on the north side of Des Moines, IA. The Corps has 4 large campgrounds on Saylorville Lake (formed by a dam on the Des Moines River) and I got a waterfront site, for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights just below the dam on the outflow channel. Great views, great site – but – I was given a warning sheet on Friday that lake water levels were high and that if the lake rose another 3”, we would be evacuated. The print out said that a decision would be made by noon on Monday. Predictions for rain on Saturday evening got worse and worse as Saturday progressed. At 9pm the heavens opened and there was non stop torrential rain for 4 hours. Reports from all around Saylorville ranged from 7.5” to 12 inches of rain. All TV programming was preempted by weathermen stating that “in my 30 yrs here have never seen this kind of rain” and what streets were flooded and which sections of I80 and I35 were impassible etc. A flash flood “emergency” was issued and they had to look up the definition since they had never heard that designation before. They dutifully reported that it is generally used for a dam emergency but they hadn’t heard of any dam emergency – yet. It’s 1 in the morning and I don’t know where I would go to with all the road flooding and access out is via the road on the top of the dam.

Sunday morning the Park Rangers said that the two campgrounds below the dam were being evacuated by noon and that they had sites for us at their campground about 5 miles up stream. So off we all went. It was not as nice of a campground ☹. (I heard Tues news that the Lake is 44’ above normal level and that the Corps is installing portable, inflatable barriers of some sort on the spillway to keep the lake from an uncontrolled overflow.) So I left their campground on Monday and drove another 100+ miles east to the Mississippi River and the Corp park below the dam at Coralville-Macbride Lakes north of Iowa City and just 30 miles or so from Moscow. Once again, I lucked out. Someone canceled their reservation and I got the only remaining waterfront site for 4 nights. Nine nights of waterfront camping on the Missouri, DesMoines and Mississippi Rivers. And in the two weeks, got my domicile in SD taken care of, my roof air replaced and will have my funky leaking hydraulic jack fixed. Doesn’t get any better than that (well except for actually having to have the repairs done in the first place.)

Hope you had a happy Fourth of July!!

Grand Haven, MI. Jul 21, 2018

Well, it’s a grey drizzly day at Grand Haven State Park so I’ll use the next few hours to catch up on my travel blog.

To pick up from my last entry,..I had gotten my domicile in SD taken care of and I ordered a new roof air conditioner from Amazon, picked it up and had it installed. One last errand to do. My right front hydraulic jack was leaking at the cylinder and needed to be replaced. A couple of months ago, I detoured in TX to get it repaired but the HWH authorized service center didn’t have the correct jack and gave me a price of nearly $750 plus freight for a new jack (plus install). Knowing I’d eventually get to the Midwest where the manufacturer was located, I declined. So while in SD, I made an appointment with HWH (eastern Iowa) and verified that they had the correct part in stock.

I headed east from Des Moines, stopped for a couple of nights at another really nice COE campground beneath the Coralville Lake Dam north of Iowa City. Again, a fine campsite right on the outflow from the dam. Closest town a few miles away was West Liberty, IA – a good place to spend the 4th of July. From there I made the short trip (<50 miles) to HWH in Moscow, IA and hooked up in their “campground” for a 7 am appointment the next morning. When service mgr found that I was there already, she got me into a repair bay within 20 minutes and 2.5 hours later, the new jack had been installed and I was ready to roll. Total bill – less than $320 including part and labor! I was shocked and said so. She told me that since I drove so far (from TX), she discounted the part 30%! What a deal.

Since I had nearly a half day left (and since the HWH “campground” left something to be desired) I hit the road north with a goal of Ashland, WI/Apostle Islands. Late afternoon, I pulled into another COE campground just over the river into WI and just northwest of Dubuque IA. Though the river sites looked nice, I was late getting in and got a less than desirable site right next to a busy railroad track (maybe 500’ away). Who knew that when in hilly country that they might run the railroad track within the narrow river valley? 𿘊. There was a train every hour – all night long. Noise doesn’t bother me much but the trains all had to blow their horn for the ungated park entrance road and the vibrations were extreme. So I did not extend but instead left in the morning. Nice to have wheels on your house.

I had tried to visit Ashland last summer but was unable to get there due to extreme flooding. The Ashland area of WI, my goal, is on the southern shore of Lk Superior. Sharon and I had a really nice stay there in 2003 to “host” a fulltime farewell to an Ashland couple we “tutored” through the transition from permanent home to full time status (we ran into them again somewhere a year or two later and they were still enjoying the lifestyle). The city park has a very nice campground and is uniquely situated next to a massive ore dock extending into Lk Superior. The railcars full of taconite were run out on the dock, above the freighters, and then, opening their hoppers, would dump into the freighter holds. Nearby is the Bayfield Peninsula and the 22 Apostle Islands. We never did get to Bayfield/Apostles and I wanted to correct that. 

First the city campground had undergone a major change. Oh, it was still a great campground within an easy walk of downtown, but the ore docks had been completely removed. A piece of working history was gone. I did do the drive up to Bayfield/Apostle Island but did not take the ferry over to the main island. Didn’t see the point. The town was a bit disappointing reminding me of a poor Northport, MI. Downtown Ashland, however, did not disappoint.

There are 18 murals painted on downtown buildings with an 8 block main street area (I only found 17 however). They are really well done and I have pictures and descriptions above of the 17 I found. Evidence of town pride and the desire to stay relevant.

The furtherest north I had ever been in MI was Houghton/Hancock on the Keweenaw Peninsula. As best as I can remember, I was probably younger than 10 yrs old. So I wanted to go further north to Copper Harbor on Keweenaw Peninsula. What a nice drive! What I didn’t know was that Hancock/Houghton had experience severe flooding (3 deaths) only a month before and driving through I saw immense crevices carved through some of the local roads. I reached Copper Harbor and got a nice site at a lakeside campground. Not a lot to do there but I did visit the beach with its lighthouse view and took a pretty spectacular drive up Brockway Mountain Dr. There are many mountain bike trails off this little road and I couldn’t believe these daredevil bikers roaring down the rocky, extremely steep, trails. I’d be nervous just to walk a few feet down one.

One of the sights that was of interest to me was the northern terminus of US 41 which terminates on the south end in Miami. I previously lived at Port of the Islands, Naples and US 41 (Tamiami Trail) was a block north of my condo and I/we took it often into Miami – 65 miles away. When we lived in Clarkston, MI our condo was one block off from US24 (Dixie Highway) which originally stretched from Sault Ste Marie to Florida City, just south of Miami. Interesting to me, not so much to you?

From Copper Harbor I headed south to the Escanaba area and then back north and east to Sault Ste Marie. I got a site for a few night at the Elks campground. They have 4 sites and I was on the end site right on the St Mary’s River where I could watch the freighters heading to and from the locks. I also took a 2 hour ride on the Soo Locks boat tour. Riding a tour boat going the speed of a turtle wasn’t that much fun but transiting the locks was interesting (though not exciting). The largest America Lock, the Poe Lock, was handling a 1000 footer freighter so we up locked westerly through the Canadian Locks and after noodling around a mammoth but ugly steel plant on the Canadian side, we headed back east through the 2nd largest American lock, the MacArthur Lock. Though I’ve watch the process a few times from the land based observation area, this was a different experience. It was surprising to me how quickly these locks can fill or empty. The MacArthur lock, which moves 10 million gallons of water with each fill or emptying, takes about 10 minutes from lock closing to opening. The process of tying up and getting back underway adds about another 10 minutes. For $30.00, it was worth it – once.

Leaving the Soo, I crossed the Big Bridge, without actually seeing it, to the mitten peninsula. Big Mac was in a total fog. You could see the road bed itself but not the suspension girders or cables. Brought to mind crossing under the Big Mac on a bright sunny day some years earlier while sailing the Chicago Mac race (and I believe that race began yesterday for this year) . I headed to Pentwater Michigan and the Charles Mears State Park where I had a few days of sunny Lake Michigan beach camping. The lake was quite warm one day and I actually went swimming. First time in at least 10-15 years that I’ve swum in a lake, ocean or Gulf. It was really nice. The last night I was there, Deb brought her motorhome up for a night so I got to visit a bit with her – first time since March. We went to a small fish monger (Bortells) just north of Pentwater, bought some smelt, had it fried and brought it to a county park about 1000’ away and had our supper enjoying the cool lake breeze and views.

My next stop was Grand Haven where, as a family, we spent many a summer day (and night). I got a spot via a cancellation, at Grand Haven State Park for a week. I will try to extend that if I can find more cancellations. For those not familiar with the State Park, it is not the most luxurious of campgrounds. It’s more like being sandwiched in, awning to awning, on a parking lot with electric and with NOTHING BUT BEACH and WATER and CHANNEL WALKS! When we lived on the east side of the State, Sharon and I would like to take our motorhome to GHSP in the winter. They would unlock the gate for us and turn on the power to a pedestal and we would camp and watch the winter storms come across the lake and walk the ice floes. It was a magical place. Grand Haven’s North Shore Marina was also home for our boat for some 10 or so years and every free day was spent there either cruising the area or taking a week or two trip up to Leland or Charlevoix etc. The area and the campground have changed quite a bit since I was last here. The North Shore marina has expanded. The SP campground has been reconfigured for the better and there are a lot of new businesses. The vibrant waterfront downtown is still the same.

Though today, Saturday, was a grey and showery day, there were off shore races between Grand Haven/Holland/Saugatuck. The throb of their engines and vibrations to the motorhome woke this late riser up. It’s amazing how loud and powerful these 4 engine racers are. Again it was a reminder of past years in Grand Haven when we would join the flotilla of boats offshore in the center of the racecourse to watch. The best of those times for the family was as invited guests of US Senator Ehlers aboard the Coast Guard Icebreaker USCG Cutter Mackinaw – what a view then and today.

Beaches!! Aug 20, 2018

My last entry was a bit more than a month ago from the Lake Michigan shores at Grand Haven. In that past month I have alternated back and forth between multiple stays at Grand Haven State Park and Holland State Park with one overnight stay in front of my brother Ron and wife Gert’s home in Grand Rapids. 

Over that month plus, (prior to arriving in Grand Haven, I also spent some time at Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater, also on Lake Michigan) I did little but be a beach bum. Since, unlike the Michiganders, I did not make reservations a year in advance at any of these wildly popular beach parks, I had to take advantage of the misfortunes of other and pick up short term reservation cancellations. So I made numerous site changes during that time – I think I stayed 4 days on one site as my longest single stay with several being just overnighters. A couple of nights that couldn’t be filled via cancellations were spent at the Elks beach campground in Muskegon where they hailed the arrival of this honored guest, me, with a pig roast. Mmmm. Delish!!!

Nonetheless, I had a great time. The beach weather couldn’t have been nicer as most days were total sun with a light breeze. In addition to visiting my brother overnight in Grand Rapids, they came out to Grand Haven for a burger lunch with me and daughter Deb (who also had her motor home at Grand Haven and Holland pretty much at the same time). 

Also while in Grand Haven, I got to attend a concert by The Six Pak at the new Grand Haven Waterfront Marina/band shell. A former co-worker and friend, Mary Arbanas, is a guitarist in the group that plays 50-60’s rock. The 6 Pak is an all girls band composed of 6 high school classmates who re-formed their high school group some 4 decades later and now seem to have summer dates every weekend around West Michigan. At Grand Haven, they entertained a thousand, now, grand parents reliving their teenage years plus a bunch of great grand kiddies who seem to enjoy the same music. 

Having spent many many summer days and nights in Grand Haven 30-40 yrs ago on our boat, it was fun to enjoy some other memories – a drive to North Shore Marina where we docked our boat for 8+/- years, hot dogs at Miss Lisa a few miles from North Shore, pizza at Fricanos, walks along the Grand Haven pier and channel and new, to me, Pronto Pups (they’re the best hot dog on a stick that I’ve had and I wish I owned their business). Also while there, it was a treat to again experience the week long Coast Guard Festival in Coast Guard City/Grand Haven. The town becomes a zoo as the Coast Guard facility along the channel hosts, in addition to the normal cutters, a couple of large Coast Guard ships and a visiting Canadian Coastie ship. For so many years, we enjoyed the festivities, fireworks and musical fountains while at anchor on our boat.

Finally it was time to head out and Deb and I started heading south for the eventual September wedding of grandson Tim Ruiter in Athens, GA. More on all that with the next journal entry.

Heading South to a wedding. Sep 10, 2018

September 9, 2018

Michigan beaches seem to have been in my rear view mirror for a long time now. Deb and I have been traveling together with our motorhomes on our way to Athens, GA for grandson Tim’s wedding.

Leaving Michigan we headed south through Indianapolis and to Nashville, TN. We spent a few days there at Lock A Campground (Corp of Engineers) 15 miles or so northwest of Nashville. As for all COE campgrounds, it is located on the water – this time the Cumberland River (a little more on that later) and at one of their locks with the inspiring name Lock A. And as for all the COE’s I’ve been to, it is a great and pretty campground and we got to watch the pleasure boat and commercial barge traffic from our windows or patios.

We went into Nashville one day and explored slowly around downtown. A very vibrant city. We toured the very large Country Music and Hall of Fame and Museum. I enjoy country music, especially traditional country music, and there was a 3 large floors tour full of displays including music typifying the subject of each display. While each display was well documented in writing, earphones guiding you on the tours are also available. Very enjoyable.

We also signed up for a bus ride and moderated tour to the historic RCA Studio B. The moderator was fabulous. Studio B is now maintained by a preservation group and includes all the original old recording equipment, baffles, and instruments. The recording studio includes pianos, organ, drums and many other instruments that an artist might want to use for recording and, of course, much floor space for vocal and/or other instrument accompaniment. The names of the artists that recorded there and the number of recordings produced over the decades was astounding for this unpretentious building. For example, Elvis did most of his recording here rather than Memphis with the rest done in his home studio in Memphis. He recorded 155 chart hit songs there. He would only record at night arriving at 6pm and leaving at 4-5am One night in 11 hours he recorded 11 songs 10 of which became #1 hits. According to the narrator, rarely had there been any previous practice for the song. Pretty much every country music singer/vocal or instrument group from early days to the early 2000’s has recorded there and even to this day, there are occasional sessions. Whether one likes country music or not, there is a tremendous amount of history in that small building.

On Friday night, we went into Nashville to attend the 2 hour Grand Ole Opry. It was a live show for WSM650 AM (which I listened to as a kid) simultaneously broadcast online, on their mobile app and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The show is divided into 4 ½ hour segments with intermissions and applause cues (which they really didn’t need). It was extremely entertaining and a chance for an old man to get out past his bedtime 𯘊.

Leaving Nashville, we headed to Chattanooga, TN to see a boat. 

Sidenote: I’ve driven 450,000 miles crisscrossing the country with our RVs to see what there is to see. Haven’t still seen it all but I’d like a different perspective. And so, I’d like to do what is called America’s Great Loop (google it). It is a boat trip of roughly 6,000 miles (more with side trips). It takes about a year to do, either more or less continually or broken up into week or month’s long segments, In the interest of fuel efficiency, currents, traffic etc., the typical “looper” travels about 8-9 knots per hour (10 mph) so a decently long day is 50 miles. Then there are layovers, anchored out or at a marina enjoying a town, weather delays, locking (153 locks if I remember right) delays – commercial traffic come ahead of pleasure traffic- all contributing to the time it takes.

One can begin the trek at any port and travel the loop. For example, you could leave Miami and travel northward along the intracoastal (and/or offshore) all the way up the eastern seaboard. A side trip might be up the Chesapeake for a week or two, for example. At New York, there are two possible routes – further north or the Hudson River through NYC and on to the Erie Canal heading from Buffalo, NY to Chicago either along the east or west coast of Lake Michigan. Traverse downtown Chicago and the Illinois River to the upper Mississippi River and south. At Paduca, KY either continue down the Mississippi through New Orleans or take the Ohio, Cumberland (past Lock A) and Tennessee Rivers (past Nashville) to the Tombigbee Waterway down to Mobile AL. Then eastward across the Gulf to the west coast of FL and south either to the Keys and Miami or across FL at Ft Myers/Lake Okeechobee via the waterway to Stuart FL and south back to Miami where one “crosses one wake” finishing the loop. The loop can be done in the other direction but you have to fight the significant currents and probably Spring flood stages of the Mississippi. 

Though I have a fair amount of boating and cruising experience from my early Lake Michigan days, some years have intervened to now and I only dare attempt this because I found a person to crew with me. Hopefully two heads and one disabled body and one old body will equal one good one. I need a boat with up and down access via gentle steps rather than a steep ladder. I could store my motor home and car at whatever starting port would be and could always quit the trip, sell the boat and fly back if it doesn’t work. So it is find a boat, get it surveyed (detailed inspections), takes some refresher boating course(s), hire a captain to spend some days aboard for hands on systems, handling and anchoring training in time for a spring start. The trip is something I’m sure Sharon would want me to try as I know she’d be enthusiastic, as she always was, about a new travel adventure.

And so we headed to Chattanooga to see a boat. It was not to be the boat for me because it needed work that there’s not time for. It did provide real time experience however with a broker learning how to inspect etc. a boat. That negative decision made, we headed to Pigeon Forge, TN for the holiday weekend (lots of campsites). Deb had never been there before so that amazing tourist town/trap was interesting. We took the time to drive to Gatlinburg, another tourist town/trap in the Frankenmuth, MI or Helen, GA Bavarian mode. We also drove across the Smokies to Cherokee, N.C. That is about a 30 mile or so trip of steep climbs and twisting hairpin curves with moderate to heavy traffic (not necessarily that much but zero opportunity to pass) so the trip one way is at least 2 hours. We went to Dollywood and enjoyed a couple of music shows. We also had a dinner at Paula Deen’s Kitchen – a nice place but disappointing food. Have been to other Paula Deen’s and this one fell short.

Leaving Pigeon Forge we headed to Charleston, SC where I had appointments to see 3 more boats. I have an offer pending on one but am not sure the seller is that motivated plus he would be deep in preparation for Hurricane Florence. In any event, I’d need to see if there was any damage. Another few days will tell. 

This past Friday Deb and I drove from Charleston to Athens (actually Fort Yargo State Park in nearby Winder, GA) for my grandson Tim’s wedding on Sunday. Friday night was a family dinner of the two families and gave us a chance to mingle informally. On Saturday was a rehearsal dinner and Sunday I actually put on a dress shirt and tie for their wedding and reception. It was a great event in a very pretty setting – State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. I wish a long and wonderful marriage to Tim and Allie! 

There are a few errands, that didn’t get done Saturday, that still need to be done in this area plus I’m thinking that maybe a day or so will provide better, more definitive information on Hurricane Florence’s track. My boat broker lives aboard his boat in Charleston harbor so he is, I’m sure, quite busy right now securing his boat/home as well as sandbagging his land based harbor office for the upcoming storm. I have 4 boats in FL that I want to see but he is probably not in position right now to schedule that and though FL looks safe right now, it might be prudent to wait a few days for that trip leg as well.

Wandering South. Oct 8, 2018

October 8, 2018

Not very much RVing to report in the past month. Deb and I left Athens (State Park in Winder, GA) and headed 30-40 miles northerly to Bolding Mills Corp of Engineers campground on Lake Lanier. We had stayed there a few days before the wedding. Deb had a doctor’s appointment in Grand Rapids, MI and so we stayed at Bolding Mills a good week +. I drove her (and picked up) to Atlanta’s Jackson Hartfield Airport for her 3.5 day trip north. Her dog Tibbi stayed with me in my motorhome during her absence.

The next boats on my list to see were in FL (multiple boats) plus one in AL and one in TX and so when we left Bolding Mills we headed south with Ft Pierce, FL as our next destination. There we stayed at the Savannahs Rec Center along the intracoastal – about 10 miles south of Ft Pierce. I’ve stayed there a few times when visiting SIL Mary at Nettles Island. 

While there we went aboard a Novatec (fast trawler). A nice spacious boat but a little intimidating to me based on size/height. Though docked in a very nice marina, the owner (according to the broker) was only paying for “one leg” of electricity and so the air conditioners couldn’t be run. It was almost too hot inside to spend any time. I went back to my broker with a request that we wanted to see it again if and when the seller got serious and had power to the boat for AC. Despite several contacts from my broker to the listing broker, none were ever returned over a whole week’s time.

We also drove down to Miami one day for an appointment to see a Meridian that was for sale. It too was a very nice boat and stylish but ingress and egress was more difficult for an old man and for replaced knees. Also it was quite short on storage – geared more for weekends, I think. But as we now have seriously been aboard 6 and imagining how one would live and do an extended 1 yr cruise, I am starting to get a much better idea of the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. 

I found out about another boat available in N. Carolina and my Charleston broker made inquiries. The boat was owned by the owner of a boat dealership who got it as part of the real estate transaction when he bought the home of an elderly couple. He indicated a great willingness to deal and to totally replace the electronics with ones of my choice – a minimum of @ $13K at online pricing plus install. Decided to make an offer on the boat without seeing it – offers are made subject to satisfactory marine survey on the boat – a thorough inspection report detailing to the nth degree what NEEDS to be done, what SHOULD be done, what can be done at the next haul out, and what should be watched over time and it includes a valuation. An offer would also be subject to engine(s) survey done by certified mechanics of the particular engine manufacturer. This also includes laboratory analysis of all fluids of both engines plus the generator(s). These and the boat haul out are done at the buyer’s expense. Finally an offer would be subject to a sea trial involving the surveyor, the buyer and broker. The offers actually are more like an option because the buyer can walk at anytime without providing a reason. Of course, the associated costs for the surveys and haul outs run approx. $3K so its better to walk sooner rather than later.

Deb and I walked the City Marina (big) at Ft Pierce and found a sister boat of the same year. Spoke with the lady/owner and she invited us aboard for a detailed tour. She spent about an hour with us and by the time we left we had seen all of this spacious boat. Plenty of storage, plenty of space with a davit to place a dinghy on the flybridge. Besides the fly bridge helm, there is a great pilothouse helm. From either side of the boat there are 3 means of ingress/egress to a dock each from a different height. It meets most of the needs. But it wasn’t to be that easy. The seller in NC wasn’t returning calls etc. Then we found he also had it on an eBay auction (without reserving the right to withdraw it) and the auction was running for a couple more days. No wonder he wasn’t returning calls – it legally couldn’t be offered for sale independent of the auction. I did put in the winning bid in the last 15 minutes (not meeting the reserve) but nothing has come of either the eBay nor my broker’s attempts.

Meanwhile, we found another sister boat available in Virginia. I called a marine surveyor local to the area to see if I could hire him to do a pre purchase walk through for me before making an offer. We had a good talk, though a difficult one as he was in London England doing a survey, but he advised me that he had inspected the boat in July. He’s agreed to look at it again and furnish me with a report next Monday (15th).

There are some doctors appointments coming up in a week in Naples so we headed out of Ft Pierce heading west. We have been at the Ortuna Corp of Engineers Dam and Lock on the Okeechobee Waterway just west of Lk. Okeechobee. The waterway bisects the state between Ft. Myers and Stuart FL through the big inland lake. Along the route there are several locks lowering west bound boats and raising east bound ones. When I do the Great Loop, I will encounter something in excess of 150 locks along the way so thought camping next to one would be educational – both in terms of talking with the lock master and finding out about communication etc and in terms of observing boats close up to see why some boats handle the locking calmly while on others it is a fire drill. Observation is very close, very interesting and worthwhile and the lock master is happy to talk about the process. The campground is outstanding and our sites are directly on the waterway. I can sit at my windows and look both west and east up the waterway. When a boat appears, it’s a short walk on the sidewalk over the dam and to the lock. The locking process from entry to exit takes about 20 minutes.

Will be driving back to Ft Pierce this week to look at a boat style we missed and to Naples to see one for sale there. There may be another in Ft Myers to look at as well. Pays to have a Plan B in place should Plan A not work out. All in all getting more comfortable with changing over from an RV to a boat.

Road’s End? Nov 20, 2018

November 21, 2018

Life has been pretty focused for the last month plus as I pursued ‘boat shopping’ even more in earnest. As of today, the shopping phase has ended. I now have ‘The Boat’ under contract. After a quick and futile run up to Little River SC (just north of Myrtle Beach) to see a prospective boat, I headed back to the Fort Pierce area – a round trip of 1,200 miles in less than a week. Fort Pierce has been a good central area in FL to see boats north, south and west in the State. 

Monday, Deb and I inspected a boat in Vero Beach – a mere 25 miles north. It had just been put up for sale the 1st of November. My buyer’s broker is able to furnish me with a list of actual sales from around the country of a particular make/style/year of a boat. I generally ask for a list for the past 18 months of sales and after having looked at so many, it becomes pretty easy to adjust the sales for fresh water vs salt water use and west coast vs east coast boats. What doesn’t happen, it seems, is that listing brokers don’t show the selling owners the same market data at the time of listing and sellers, looking at other inflated listings rather than sales, follow suit. It is not unusual to see boats listed now at prices 20%, 25% and more higher than the highest sale in the prior 18 months of the same boat. Don’t think boats generally appreciate over time. 

And then there are, as with house sellers, folks who don’t know how to prepare an asset for sale. Some boats were dirty, cluttered and generally indicative of an owner who might skimp on maintenance. And many owners don’t keep maintenance records – very important item for the expensive engines/trannies, generators etc. When your boat is out on the water far from shore, you want to know that all maintenance and care has been routinely handled giving one the best chance to get back to shore via boat vs swimming. 

The boat in Vero Beach was pristine. For those of you who have seen my older (2010) motorhome, you know I like it to look like it just came off the showroom floor. (BTW, the motor home is now for sale and priced well below NADA average – just in case you know someone whose looking for a great rig and deal. The boat was priced within the low-high range of the 4 similar sales in the past 20 months. The canvas was like new as was the isenglass (the plastic windows sewn into the canvas). One boat Ilooked at needed new canvas and isenglass and exterior cushion replacements and two canvas shops estimated the job at between $28,000 to $30,000 and yet the asking price did not even come close to reflecting that expense. 

So I’m relieved a deal has been made and the mad dashes from state to state are over. The purchase is subject to a satisfactory survey on the hull/equipment and survey on the engines with full lab analysis on all fluids and subject to a sea trial by the engine surveyor (the first time I’ll hear the engines running and the boat operating. Even the showing brokers won’t start engines etc of a boat owned by someone. When the engine survey takes place, in this case by a Cummins certified mechanic, the owner will have to be present and run the engines. Too much financial risk to any non-owner. So a buyer buys based on their eyes and on faith relying on the post contract surveys to point out in writing what needs attention. Hauling the boat out of the water for the hull survey portion and the surveys and sea trial are at the buyer’s sole expense and so a buyer just doesn’t order those until you know the price has been agreed to and signed. 

The boat is a 2002 43’ Silverton (47’ overall) with twin Cummins 450hp diesel main engines. It has lots of storage which I will need. My condo sold a week or so ago, to close by year end, and the motorhome is for sale so I won’t have any place for my ‘stuff’ other than on the boat. The boat has good easy access for an old man. The galley has more storage than most boats its size and the salon/living area is very comfortable. It has two ensuite staterooms – one aft and one at the bow – so the distance will provide good privacy from the crew.

Not sure if the boat’s name will be changed or not. The current name is Assisted Living.

Planning on doing the “The Great Loop” beginning this Spring so there’ll be some time to get the boat and me ready to go. Things are coming together! I still need to get a dinghy. And I want to find a new way of doing a travel journal for the boat route.

Second Time the Charm? Jan 18, 2019

January 18, 2019


Hope so anyway ‘cause I don’t want to try for a third time!!

When last I wrote I had a boat under contract in Vero Beach. Without going into all the gory and painful details, the boat failed its engine survey and sea trial. The oil samples that were taken from the 2 engines, the 2 transmissions and the generator were sent to a lab for analysis. The oil is tested for 9 different particles ( like Alum., iron, copper etc) plus the presence of 2 fluids (glycol & water) and 6 conditions (like viscosity, soot, oxidation etc). The reports came back and the port engine passed with flying colors. The stbd engine however tested for ‘severe’ levels of iron and alum particles indicative of something internal that will fail. Plus 2 expensive engine add on parts (after coolers and exhaust manifold/risers) need to be replaced. Replacing those and a possible stbd engine rebuild would run about $30,000+. There were some other engine room issues as well.  Turns out the boat was a ‘dock queen’ never having left the slip in the three years of ownership by the sellers. All the time they spent keeping the above decks shipshape didn’t translate below decks.

So instead of a pre-Christmas closing it was back to square one. I had a buyer for my motor home but with the news on the boat and with no deposit yet made on the motor home, I called that deal off as well. Finally the financing for the buyer of my condo fell through, So what I thought I had bought, I didn’t and what I had thought had sold, hadn’t. 

The second time charm?

We’ve been earnestly looking at other boats. Still very discouraging what is out there. This week we traveled from our campground in Stuart FL to Orange Beach, AL, then to Long Boat Key, FL, then to Bradenton, FL and back to Stuart looking at 3 boats (@1,400 miles). The Orange Beach boat was similar to one we saw in FL but appeared to be in better condition. That, it turned out, was due to photo shop. (It must be a prerequisite for boat brokers to have a doctorate in photo shop). The Bradenton boat, a 53’ Hatteras, was similarly a highly photoshopped pig boat. HOWEVER, the boat in Long Boat Key was an absolute winner. 

It is so new on the market that the photographer was on the boat when we saw it and some of the outside photos include our rental car in the back ground. It is a 48’ McKinna PilotHouse. A pilot house boat has a flybridge and a lower helm as well but the lower helm is in a dedicated raised area of the boat. In not so perfect weather, the boat can be run in complete comfort. The McKinna’s are built in Taiwan and is considered a high-end pleasure boat. The 48’ boat is the smallest in their line. The wood used in the interior is anigre and burl and is exquisite. 

After negotiations, we’ve settled on a deal and so, if surveys and sea trial are good, it should be closed by Feb 22. The present owners of the past 7 yrs are live aboards and are going to buy a motor home – kind of the reverse of me.

The other news is that my condo has again sold and this buyer has now been approved for the financing. It should close in another 3 weeks. And finally, I have a list of a little more that a dozen people who have kept in touch electronically regarding the motor home – wanting to be advised when I again would be able to sell. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, I can let them know and get a quick sale on the motor home as well.

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