Concord/Charlotte, North Carolina

We arrived safely in Concord, North Carolina on Thursday (10/23), after traveling 330 miles from Fredericksburg, Virginia. For this part of the trip, we decided to stick with the interstates and we took I-95 South to I-85 South. The trip was relatively easy and, oddly enough, we found that we prefer interstate travel to back road travel.  Traveling the back roads is nice if we’re in a car, but I think for a motor coach, we definitely prefer interstate travel.

Concord is located about 30-miles away from Charlotte, on the north-east side of the city, and is home to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The campground that we’re staying at, Glenwood Acres RV Park, is kitty-corned from the speedway and is convenient to shopping and restaurants.  Although the speedway is on one side of us, country living is on the opposite side of us, making for an interesting camping experience.  We have not encountered any noise from the speedway, which is a plus for staying here.  There are four other campgrounds very close to the speedway, but a majority of the lots are gravel (meaning nosier) and more expensive (double of what we’re paying here).

Dave and I are becoming extremely proficient in regard to setting up/breaking down our site when it comes to prepping for travel. We pulled into our site around 4:30 p.m. in Concord on Thursday and we had everything hooked up (water, sewer, electric, satellite), the interior set-up, and dinner on the table in an hour.  Great team work!

Speaking of team work, Dave does 100% of the driving of the motor coach and I take care of the navigation of our trips regarding the actual routing, making sure that there are no bridges that may be an issue (our coach height is 12’ 7”, which is important to know if you’re not traveling interstates), finding gas stations that have diesel when we need it, calculating our time/mileage so that we get to our next destination at a decent hour and, most importantly, finding the next campground or resort that we’ll be staying at. All in all, Dave actually has the hard part as he has to trust my directions and he has to deal with driving a 60’ rig on tight/hilly country roads and 3-lane interstates.

On Friday, we decided to find a laundromat as the campground here does not have one and then went grocery shopping afterward to replenish our food supply.  We stayed at the campground to regroup after traveling as traveling can be quite stressful.

Saturday and Sunday were great days as we got to spend the days with my sister and brother-in-law. It has been over a year that I’ve seen either one of them, so it was great to spend time with them again, especially since last time I was here, I wound up in the hospital with pancreatitis.

On Saturday, the four of us went to the R&R Bar-B-Que restaurant, which offers “bend the rail” servings of true Eastern NC vinegar-based pork on the Engineer’s BBQ Plate or smaller portions on the Choo-Choo menu. I went for the Choo-Choo menu and I enjoyed a very delicious (and huge portion!) of barbequed chicken, complete with red-slaw, macaroni and cheese, and hushpuppies.  Dave enjoyed their beef stew.  The red-slaw is coleslaw which has a tangy-vinaigrette dressing with a tad bit of hot sauce thrown in, instead of the traditional creamy coleslaw made with mayonnaise. The atmosphere of the restaurant is really unique as well, as they have train tracks suspended above the dining areas with trains riding the tracks.  Really neat!

After a nice long lunch, we went to SEA LIFE, which is the aquarium for the Charlotte-Concord area. It’s not a huge aquarium as it’s located within the Concord Mills Mall, but it’s a good size if one is taking children.  They have over 20 display tanks and more than 5,000 sea creatures.  I would suggest buying tickets online (which one can do the day of visiting) as it will save the purchaser a considerable amount of money.  Tickets at the door cost $21 per adult and $17 per child.  If one purchases them online, then the price is $14 per adult and $14 per child, which is definitely a cost savings for a family of four if purchasing online.  Expect to spend at least two hours at the aquarium.

After our adventure at SEA LIFE, we then walked around the Concord Mill Mall, which is absolutely HUGE! The mall’s layout mimics the oval of the Charlotte Motor Speedway and is home to over 200 stores, including retailer outlets and anchor stores, such as The Disney Store, The Lego Store, Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet and, of course, Brass Pro Shops Outdoor World which is the size of four football fields.  The best part for me is that they have an AMC Theatre that boasts 24-screen theaters and an IMAX theater.  Movie theater, here I come!

On Sunday, the four of us drove to Columbia, South Carolina to visit my nephew. Ben made us an absolutely fantastic lunch consisting of Turkey Manhattan’s, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing topped off with pine nuts and various desserts too!  Wow!  Thank you, Ben, it was delicious and company was even better! Dave also took possession of the Les Paul guitar that he and Ben trade back and forth over the years.

Heading South

We left Lyndell, Pennsylvania on Monday and began making our way south for the winter. Monday was our shortest driving day, only 233 miles; however, it took us over 5-hours to get to our destination in Fredericksburg, as we decided not to take Interstate 95 and go through Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, MD.  Instead, we took 30 west from Lyndell to Gettysburg, then took 15 south to Warrenton, Virginia, and then picked up 17 south to Fredericksburg, where we then merged onto 95 south to get to the campground.  The drive to get here was very relaxing and pretty.  We went through a lot of cute towns and countryside that we may not have otherwise seen had we taken the interstate.  When we stopped to get diesel at a little town once we crossed into Virginia, we met a woman who was from Fort Wayne, Indiana!  Apparently she’s lived all over the U.S. and said that she will eventually make her way back to Indiana.  Interesting who you might meet on the road!

Our stay in Pennsylvania was nice, as we were able to spend time with our daughters (Lisa & Kathleen) and relax playing card games and Mah Jong with them. Unfortunately we didn’t get to make it to New Jersey as I had hoped so that I could visit with friends.  Next year, on our way back from the south, we plan on staying longer in the PA/NJ area so that I can visit more.  Fortunately, my brother (Ed) and sister-in-law (Coralea) drove up to visit with us, as did my niece (Jennifer), along with her husband (Leo) and little girl (Magnolia).  It’s the first time that I was able to visit with my grand-niece and, oh my, she’s adorable!  Jennifer is currently pregnant with her second child, so on our return, I’ll be able to meet Magnolia’s sibling.  Thank you to all of you for coming out to visit with us on our short spree back east.

The campground that we’re staying at in Fredericksburg is the KOA Fredericksburg/Washington, D.C., which is located just south of Fredericksburg proper. The campground itself is really nice and consists of 117 campsites, which also includes various cabins that one can rent if they don’t have an RV or want to tent camp. The site that we have is really nice.  It’s about 80-feet long (which we need as we’re towing our car), and we’re parked right next to the fishing pond.  So beautiful to wake up to in the morning!  If this place was in warmer weather, I’d stay right here for the winter. It’s close enough to D.C. that one can ride the Metro or VRE to within walking distance of D.C.’s major attractions.  The area has a bit of something for everyone to do.  Apparently four of the war’s most significant historic battles were fought here and there are marked paths and roadways, as well as tours, to fill one in on the details as one walks or drives along the battlefields.  George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm, is located in Fredericksburg, as well as Kings Dominion amusement and water park, championship golf courses, and tons of shopping!  As I said, there is something for everyone to do.

The weather turned rainy last night and is continuing on in today, making it rather dreary outside. Dave and I took a drive through the countryside to Orange, Virginia and drove past a lot of the battlefields in the area.  Wow, there is SO much history here!

On the bright side to a dreary day, a very dear high school friend of mine and her husband drove from their home in Falling Waters, WV to have dinner with us in Fredericksburg, VA, which is over a 2 hour drive from their home. We had a wonderful time going down memory lane of our high school years together and catching up since our last visit.  Thanks again, Dawn and Rick, for driving down to spend time with us.  It was one of the highlights of our trip!

My very dear friend, Dawn Dunbar, and I visiting.
My very dear friend, Dawn Dunbar, and I visiting.

 

 

In Pennsylvania

Waddie's all packed up and ready to hit the road!
Waddie’s all packed up and ready to hit the road!

Today is Friday, October 17, and our journey thus far has been extremely interesting. As I noted in an earlier posting, we left out on Monday, October 13 with our first destination being the Philadelphia, PA area to visit family, and we arrived yesterday in Lyndell, PA.

The first leg of our trip consisted of 332 miles from Bloomington, Indiana to Milton, West Virginia and the trip was simply beautiful. If ever you have wanted to do a fall foliage trip in the fall, I would recommend the route that we took.   You won’t regret it!

The second leg of our trip took us from Milton, West Virginia to Gettysburg, WV for a total of 358 miles and, wow, what a trip that one was! Again, we had beautiful scenery but we also had some unexpected “surprises” along the way in regard to our travels.  It was suggested as part of our route, that we take MD-77 from Hagerstown, MD in order to pick up Highway 15 to take us into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  So that’s what we did.  MD-77 goes through the Catoctin Mountain Park which, although simply beautiful and extremely drive able in a regular vehicle, should not be attempted in a 40’ motor coach towing a vehicle.  Dave, of course, handled it beautifully and we made it through with nothing more than my knuckles being cramped from hanging on for dear life.  That is one route that I can say without a doubt that we will never take again in a big rig.

We parked overnight at the Artillery Ridge Camping Resort in Gettysburg, PA and we were hoping to stay there for a couple of days, as we wanted to take the two-hour guided horseback ride that takes one from the Union Fishhook Defense line all the way across the Battlefield to the Confederate Battle lines on Seminary Ridge. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating as it was raining and we also discovered our second “surprise” that altered our traveling plans.  We discovered a small stress fracture crack in upper right corner of our windshield.  Not long after, another crack appeared, then another, until there were a total of six diagonal cracks in the upper one foot of the windshield.  Since resources around Gettysburg weren’t as plentiful as what would be in the Philadelphia area, we decided to leave out the following day, get to the next campground, and phone our insurance company for next steps.

Our first two choices for campgrounds in the area that we wanted to be in, which were closer to Lancaster, were completely booked. So we had to quickly find another campground that would meet our needs.  The one that we choose was Brandywine Creek Campground in Lyndell, PA, which is 93 miles from Gettysburg.  It’s only a few miles from one of our daughter’s, so the location couldn’t have been better.  Getting here from Gettysburg though was another challenge!  Leaving the campground in Gettysburg meant turning right onto a one lane road with two huge trees on either side of the road.  Dave made the turn perfectly, coming within a quarter-inch of our mirror missing one of the trees.  I think I held my breath from the beginning of the turn until we actually cleared it and made it all the way through.  We came across another road in our travels called Corner Ketch Road that we had to take to get to our campground.  This road reminded us a lot of the MD-77 route.  The only difference is that at the end of Corner Ketch Road, you go down a very STEEP hill where there is a stop sign at the bottom of the hill!  Really?!  Who in their right mind would put a stop sign at the bottom of a steep hill??

Our campsite at Brandywine Creek Campground overlooks the Brandywine Creek. It’s very peaceful here and a great stress reliever as the scenery is so beautiful and calming.  Alvin and Waddie love sitting up on the dashboard in the sun looking out at the creek and watching the squirrels scamper about.

View of the Brandywine Creek Campground
View of the Brandywine Creek Campground

 

Another view of the Brandywine Creek Campground.
Another view of the Brandywine Creek Campground.

 

This is the Brandywine Creek that we wake up to every morning.  It's sitting directly in front of us, and with a huge window to look out of, what a view!
This is the Brandywine Creek that we wake up to every morning. It’s sitting directly in front of us, and with a huge window to look out of, what a view!

 

Alvin with the reflection of the trees in the window.
Alvin with the reflection of the trees in the window.

 

The fur balls getting some sun.
The fur balls getting some sun.

Thankfully there is no rain in the immediate forecast, however, cooler temps are supposed to appear Saturday night and Sunday night. We’re departing on Monday for Fredericksburg, VA and are looking forward to the warmer temps predicted there.

Our Journey Begins

We began our journey of life on the open road yesterday, Monday, October 13. A friend of ours pointed out that it was Columbus Day and, therefore, very fitting that we were starting our own exploration on Columbus Day.  It didn’t even dawn on either one of us that it was a holiday.

We departed Bloomington, Indiana around 10:30 a.m. and made our way south on 37 to Bedford, then took 50 east across until we hit 65 south. We followed 65 through Louisville and into Kentucky.  Once we got past Lexington, we took 64 east straight through to Milton, West Virginia.  The drive between Lexington and Milton is simply breathtaking.  The fall foliage colors are a bit muted this year, but the orange leaves really stand out.  I wanted to get pictures of the trees to post on here as we came through the edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest, in Morehead, Kentucky, but our bug splatted windshield prevented me from doing so, and there were no bump outs along the road allowing us to safely pull off of the highway to stop and take pictures.

We stopped for lunch in the town of Waddy, Kentucky for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that we decided to fill up with diesel and propane.  The second is that we picked Waddy because of our cat Waddie (her proper name is Wadella McGhee) and thought it would be cute (okay, I thought it would be cute) to stop in a town that bore one of our cats name.  Again, the bug splattered windshield prevented me from taking a picture of the town sign “Welcome to Waddy” for our journey; however, I do have the receipts from our purchases, so I guess that will have to suffice.

Dave really enjoys driving our motor coach. He said that is handles slightly different from the city buses that he’s driven, which we believe is due to the weight of ours when fully loaded, compared to the city buses that only ferries passengers.  He handles this thing like he was made for it!  I can’t believe the corners that he can get around.  A couple of them left me holding my breath thinking, “we’re not going to make it”, but he maneuvered this thing like a charm!  He wants me to learn how to drive the motor coach and I’d really like to, but in all honesty, it intimidates me.  I just need to get over the intimidation and put my “I can do this” attitude into gear.

I’ve been concentrating on making our driving itineraries no longer than 5 hours (according to Google Maps calculations), as we know that driving time with an RV is going to increase. It worked out well on our first day, as we arrived at the campground around 6:00 p.m.  Considering that we stopped along the way a few times to double-check the tow-dolly to make sure it was safe, and then  stopped for lunch, we didn’t feel as though the total time to get here was too bad.  After setting everything up, we got our showers, turned on the TV, and relaxed for the night.  The cats were happy to relax as well after our day of travel.

One very valuable piece of information that I learned upon our arrival here in West Virigina, is that just like in an airplane, “be careful when opening the overhead bins after landing”. Everything shifted or fell over in the cupboards and I almost bonked Waddie on the head with a book that fell out when I opened one of the cupboards.  She may be an old cat but, boy, can she move!  LOL

Speaking of the cats, we decided to let them run loose in the RV while traveling instead of boarding them in their cages. For one, we thought that the cages might stress them out more and, secondly, we wanted them to find their own space where they would be comfortable.  Alvin does not like traveling as he roamed and cried a lot until he became hoarse.  He sat on my lap quite a bit as we went through Kentucky, cowering whenever we hit a bump and the dishes jarred.  Toward the end of our trip, I had to keep an eye on him as he wanted to get under Dave’s legs and I had to grab him to keep him from doing so.  He learns quickly when it comes to “no”, so I don’t think we’ll have any issues in the future.  Waddie did great!  She jumped up on the couch and laid down on her favorite pillow the entire time.  I had to laugh a couple of times, as when I looked back to check on her, her head was bouncing slightly due to the coaches’ vibration,  reminding me of one of those bobble head figurines.

The campground that we’re staying at is the KOA Huntington/Fox Fire in Milton, WV. It’s a very nice campground consisting of 117 sites, walking trails, and two catch and release fishing ponds, as well as a swimming lake and beach.  We’re hoping to go to the Blenko Glass company today and take a tour of it, however, it’s raining (is the blasted rain following us?), so we’re going to wait it out and see if the rain lets up.  Blenko Glass is one of the few remaining glass companies left in the United States that still hand crafts each piece.  They have a self-guided tour that one can take every day of the week, excluding Wednesday’s, and the tours are free.  If you’d like to learn more about Blenko Glass, go to www.blenko.com .

Have you ever watched the movie “We Are Marshall” about the devastating air plane crash on November 14, 1970 that took the lives of 75 people, including the members of the Thundering Herd football team, coaches, supporters, and crew? Well, Marshall University, which is home to the Thundering Herd, is located in Huntington, West Virginia about 22 miles west of where we are currently staying.  I never connected the two events until a friend of ours told me about this (Thanks, Margie!). There is quite a bit of really interesting history on the Marshall University website.  Simply go to http://www.marshall.edu/landing/about/ and then scroll down to “Official History.”

We plan on departing Milton, WV tomorrow and heading for Chambersburg, PA., staying overnight there before heading to eastern PA the day after that to visit family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions abound

Yesterday marked another milestone in the start of our adventures, as it was Dave’s last day at work as a bus driver for the city. I think he really enjoys driving the big busses and is going to miss it.  But now, he can drive our big motor coach.

We have pinpointed Monday, October 13 as our departure date. Our plan, should Mother Nature not intervene, is to head to Philadelphia and New Jersey to visit friends and family.  After that we’ll travel to North Carolina to visit more family and then onward to Florida for the winter.  Both of us are looking forward to a winter that does not include snow, ice, and heavy clothing.  Hopefully our aches and pains will be left behind once we hit warmer weather.  Fall is already in the air here in Bloomington, Indiana and there’s actually a frost warning out for this evening.  Brrrr…..and it’s only October!

We’ve had several people inquire about our new life, so we thought we would compile those questions, along with our answers, and list them here in case someone else was wondering as well. If you have questions you’d like to ask, feel free to send them to us and we’ll be more than happy to answer them.

What is it like living in an RV?

It’s very different from living in a house. It takes some thought and organizational skills in order to efficiently maximize space as much as possible.   The biggest compromise is that you are often moving one thing to get to something else.

 Our old life consisted of a 2,800 square foot house that had 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms, an office, 4 walk-in closets along with a walk in kitchen pantry, laundry room, 2-car garage, and a porch as well as a sunroom.

Our new life consists of a 40’ RV that has less than 300 square feet and has one bedroom and one bathroom. Dave’s office consists of a folding TV table, and my office is either my lap or the kitchen table when I’m paying bills.  Both of us share one closet that is approximately 6-feet in length.  Our kitchen pantry is now approximately 3’ x 3’, but we also have other cupboards that we utilize for groceries.   We chose not to have a washer/dryer installed (although the plumbing is there for it, should we ever change our minds) as we would lose a lot of storage space in our bedroom.  We use the campground Laundromats instead.  Our awning area serves as our porch and the vast outdoors is our sunroom.  The “basement” of the RV (various storage compartments) serves the needs of our garage, minus the car, of course.

Cooking is also different. I’m used to an electric range/convention oven; however, the stove top unit in the RV is propane and the oven is a microwave/convention oven.  Both of these take some getting used to, but I’m working on it.  So far I’ve only set the smoke alarm off twice LOL

What kinds of maintenance issues are there to deal with?

Dave and I divide the maintenance issues between us. I take care of the inside of the unit, minus any repair issues that are beyond my scope.  Cleaning still needs to be done, whether it’s a 2,800 square foot house, or a 40’ RV.  The big difference is that there is a tremendous variation in the amount of time that it takes to clean.  If I just dust and vacuum, I’m done in 15-minutes; add in scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom floor, along with cleaning the bathroom, and I’ve increased the time by another 15-minutes.  That leaves the rest of the day to enjoy lounging in the sunroom.

Dave takes care of the outside of the unit which includes empting and flushing out the holding tanks on a weekly basis. Tire pressure and airbag (levelling system) pressure needs to be checked occasionally and, if needed, pumped back up, as well as re-checking the leveling of the coach and checking all the fluid levels in the engine, battery and generator compartments.   Dave recently washed the top of the RV.  I had every intention of helping him; however, the climb up the ladder to the top of the roof was too much for me and I had to get down (I’m afraid of heights, although I did attempt to climb up to the roof twice).  I’ll help with future washings of the outside of the RV; however, I’ll do the sides while he does the top.

What will do you do about doctors, medications?

We intend to return to Indiana as needed for our doctors’ appointments. The reasons for this are that:  1) we really like the doctors that we have and; 2) we don’t want to lose the level of care that we’ve been receiving. If we should need care during our journey, then we’ll have to go to a prompt care facility or the ER, whichever the need would dictate.

Medications, as long as they’re not a scheduled substance, can be refilled at any national pharmacy chain (CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc.) throughout the country.

Do you miss living in a house or any of your stuff?

We actually do NOT miss living in a house as the simplicity of living in a RV is so much nicer and the cost of living is substantially less.

As I noted earlier in one of my posting, neither Dave nor I miss any of the stuff that we used to own. It’s actually been a very freeing experience.

What will you miss most once you leave Indiana?

Without a doubt, we will miss our friends. Dave and I have had been fortunate to create friendships with some really wonderful people here in Indiana.

There are so many friends (whom I affectionally refer to as “my peeps”) that I am going to miss, that I’m afraid to list them all for fear of accidently missing someone.  Each one of you though know how I feel about you.  I’m truly blessed to  have each one of you in my life.

Dave is going to miss playing music with Candy, Dale and Russ, in their band ‘Crazy Mixed up World’ (search at Reverbnation.com) and going out to the range with Seth.   Dave will undoubtedly miss his hobby of repairing and modifying guitars and basses as we no longer have the space for the tools/inventory he used to keep.

 Technology has advanced so that we can keep in contact with them and, having created this blog site, it will give them a chance to travel with us and share in our experiences.  We would be more than happy to have our friends join us, where ever we are, should their vacation plans allow them to do so.

What has been the most difficult thing that both of you have had to deal with so far?

Adapting to change and the anticipation of the unknown. Previous to this, we had everything planned and scheduled to the minute detail.  Not to say that we will be living minute to minute henceforward.  We have been researching our near term trips, i.e., checking roads, rest stops, fuel and propane stops and ultimately, our destinations.

Are there any creature comforts (internet, TV, etc.) that either one of you have had to give up?

We don’t think that we’ve had to give up any “creature comforts” per-say. We’ve had to re-adjust some of them in order for them to work for us, but we really haven’t had to give anything up.  As an example, we had to give up cable television which is a much more reliable media and switch to satellite television.  Satellite TV, if you have not experienced it before, can be very fickle in windy and stormy conditions, which means that generally when it’s a really windy or stormy day, watching television is not going to be an option as you’ll be unable to acquire a satellite connection.  When that happens, we can pop in a DVD, read a book, play a board game, or connect to the internet.

As far as the internet goes, we’ll rely on free Wi-Fi service that a lot of campgrounds offer. For added security, or for campgrounds that do not offer internet service, we’ve purchased a Mi-Fi so that we can connect to the internet.  Our printer is also Wi-Fi enabled, which means that we do not to have printer cords running all over the floor.  We can print documents from inside or outside of the motor coach.

Do you see yourselves continuing this for a long time or is this something that you’ll do for a couple of years and then return to household living?

Well, we’d like to think that we can do this forever, but neither one of us know what the future has in store for us. If we are both mentally and physically able to continue with this lifestyle, then we will.  If not, then we’ll re-evaluate at that time and decide what to do from that point forward.

How are your cats adjusting to the new life?

After we sold our house, and prior to moving into the motor coach, we had to rent an apartment for a short amount of time. Alvin and Waddles both hated the apartment, but once we moved into the motor coach, they adjusted extremely well.

Alvin gets to go outside on his leash a couple of times a day. He likes to eat the grass and roll around on the concrete pad.  He’s tried to chase a couple of birds, but that didn’t work out too well, and once he came nose-to-nose with a fellow camper’s dog.  That was interesting as Alvin had never experienced meeting a dog before.  Thankfully both the dog and Alvin behaved themselves and both continued on their merry ways.

Waddles, who does not like the outdoors, enjoys sunning herself on the dashboard or curling up in our bed for a VERY LONG snooze! We just recently put her favorite kitty bed on the dashboard so she’d have somewhere soft to lie while sunning.  She seems to like this quite well.