First Year Anniversary

On June 5th, 2015, Dave and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary of living in our motor coach onboard the Fur Ball Express.  (Sorry, Linda, but the name of the Queen Mary had to be retired as the Fur Ball Express is much more aptly named for our rig with the two fur balls in it).  At the time we were still working our jobs and we didn’t hit the road until mid-October last year, as we wanted to have a bit of time to get acquainted with the rig and figure out how things worked before we hit the road.  A lot has changed for us within the past year.  We both retired from our jobs, sold our home and everything that we owned, and took a huge gamble on living this type of lifestyle.  As I had mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, living this type of life style was something that we both wanted to do and we both thought that we would enjoy it.  We were wrong.  WE LOVE IT!  The freedom that we have to go from place to place, whenever we want, has been most awesome.

Our travels so far have taken us to West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Philadelphia, Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, New York, Georgia, and Ontario, Canada. We’ve toured the Charlotte Motor Speedway and taken a couple of laps around the track; rode the rides at Walt Disney World (numerous times!); toured numerous revolutionary and civil war battlefields and learned of the history that helped shape our nation; visited NASA; and watched the Blue Angles in action, to name just a few of the highlights. Most importantly, we met some wonderful people along the way. J

There have been some challenges along the way, such as two broken windshields (more on that later), two chassis batteries that died (thankfully they died while we were at a campground and not out on the road), a couple of leaks from hard-driving rain around the slide seals (every coach and fiver inevitably has the same issues in regard to rain and slides), route logistic nightmares (refer to earlier nail biting journeys in previous blogs), our inverter appears to be not working (that’s on the task list to be looked at), the splitter on the front TV going out rendering our bedroom TV inoperable for a while, and properly learning the operating details of all the mini-systems in the coach so we don’t do things like draining the batteries to death in the future.  We persevered though and conquered each challenge that we were met with.  I remarked to Dave the other night that a year ago my priorities used to be work, taking care of the house, clothes shopping, and going to the movie theater to see a good movie for relaxation.  My priorities have changed drastically.  They now consist of level camp sites, 50-AMP electrical service, sewer connection service, and finding great campgrounds to stay at on our travels.

Dave made a very good comment the other day regarding retirement.  After I tallied up our living expenses for the past year, and the two of us spending a couple of hours trying to figure out the most efficient route(s) for our upcoming excursions, Dave said that “retirement is not for the faint of heart.”  In reality, it wasn’t that bad, as the figure for our expenses encompasses everything that we spend money on, from a bottle of water to vehicle registrations.  Our average monthly living expenses are slightly more than expected, but our entertainment expenditures have increased significantly, as that is our life now. Since neither of us had done this before, we had absolutely no benchmarks to compare to, so everything considered, we are quite happy with our first year on the road. Our travel dates thankfully are casual, but we are learning very quickly about what routes to avoid at what time of the week or day, i.e., avoid the east coast traffic AT ALL COSTS. We can’t imagine how we lived on the east coast for so long and dealt with THE TRAFFIC. Maybe we’ve just become soft from living in the Midwest for so long.

Since our departure from Indiana last October, we covered 1,960 miles in the last 2-1/2 months of 2014; we have traveled 4,062 miles so far in 2015.

Alvin and Waddie are adjusting to life on the road better with each excursion that we leave out on. When we first started traveling, we decided not to cage Alvin and Waddie during our travels as their cages stress them out. Instead, at least in the beginning, I played goalie in that I kept them away from Dave has he drove. Eventually, Waddie would hide underneath of the sofa and only come out once we had stopped at the next campground. Alvin would hide either beneath the other sofa or try to hide behind me in my seat. Sharing a seat with a 16 pound cat is not an easy feat!

Waddie now sleeps in her bucket (it’s what we call her kitty bed) and Alvin lies on the floor behind my chair. Occasionally, one of them will come up on the floor in between our seats and want to see what’s going on, but for the majority of the time, they just sleep now. Personally, I think that they’re just closing their eyes and praying for the rig to stop bumping and shaking on the road.

Alvin loves to explore each new campground that we’re in. He can’t wait for Dave to finish setting up outside so that he can get on his leash and go to explore. Alvin has become quite the ladies’ man too! Friday night, we had new neighbors pull in next door to us and they were a fairly young couple with three kids. Well the kids, around 14 years old, had to love on Alvin. He reciprocated by loving all over them as well. The kids decided to go on a walk, and as they were leaving, Alvin began running after them on his leash. Dave had to walk very fast in order to hang on to Alvin’s leash. It was quite comical to watch, as Alvin has never done anything like that before. I wish I would have had my phone with me, as I would have caught that on video.

Waddie, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with going outside. She’s very content to have me put her bucket up in the front window so she can sit there and watch people walk by, or just curl up with the sun on her and take a nap.

We realize how truly fortunate we are to be living this kind of lifestyle and we’re so glad that all of you are on this journey with us.

 

 

 

Antietam Battlefield

On September 15, 1862, a year and half into the Civil War, Union victory was far from assured.  Confederate forces were fighting successfully in the Eastern Theater (compromising operations mainly in Virginia).  After his victory at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to move his army out of war-torn Virginia.  On September 4, 1862, he led his over 40,000 Confederates across the Potomac River and through the lush Maryland countryside to Frederick.

Lee’s Maryland Campaign, his first foray onto Union soil, was the most significant in a series of loosely coordinated Confederate incursions along a 1,000-mile front.  Lee intended to keep moving north into Pennsylvania, but his line of supply and communication into Virginia was threatened by the 12,500-man Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Lee therefore divided his army to neutralize this threat.  Part of Gen. James Longstreet’s command went to Hagerstown, MD., close to Pennsylvania.  Three columns led by Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson surrounded Harpers Ferry and held Crampton Gap on South Mountain.  A third force, Gen D.H. Hill’s command, guarded the South Mountain gaps near Boonsboro, MD.

On September 12, Union Gen. George B. McClellan led the Army of the Potomac into Frederick, MD, just as the last Confederate soldiers were departing.  Over the next few days a chain of events would draw all of these men together for the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.

On September 13, a Union soldier found a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, his plan of operations for the campaign.  This “Lost Order,” as it has become known, was taken to McClellan who realized that this was the time to strike Lee’s divided forces.  On September 14, Union soldier engaged Confederates guarding the gaps on South Mountain.  The day-long battle ended with the Confederates being forced from the gaps.  Lee considered returning to Virginia, but on September 15, after learning that Harpers Ferry had fallen, he reevaluated his plans.  He would make a stand at Sharpsburg, MD, a quiet, 100-year old farming community of some 1,200 residents.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee positioned his army along a ridge west of Antietam Creek.  Confederate Gen.  James Longstreet commanded the line’s center and right, and Gen.  Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson held its left.  Behind them a Potomac River ford allowed retreat to Virginia.  On September 15 and 16 Union Gen. George B. McClellan deployed his forces east of the creek.  His plan:  attack Lee’s left and when “matters looked favorably” attack the Confederate right.  Succeeding in either, he hoped to strike Lee’s center.  His plan was good but his instructions to commanders ambiguous.

The 12-hour battle began at dawn, September 17.  Three morning Union attacks struck the Confederate left, north to south.  Gen. Joseph Hooker’s First Corps made the initial assault, followed by Gen. Joseph Mansfield’s Twelfth Corps.  Part of Gen. Edwin Sumner’s Second Corps made the final attack.  McClellan’s battle plan broke down in uncoordinated advances.

From 6 am until 10 am savage combat raged.  By late morning, fighting shifted toward the Confederate center in a three-hour stalemate that left the road (Sunken Road) forever known as “Bloody Lane.”  Of nearly 100,000 soldiers engaged in battle, about 23,000 were killed, wounded, or missing.  Late on September 18, Lee forded the Potomac to Virginia.  The Union Army held the field.  With their overwhelming number of troops they could have pursued Lee’s army and trapped him at the river crossing, likely forcing a final battle or surrender, but the conservative McClellan held back his massive reserves and Lee escaped.

For the people of Sharpsburg, the battle and presence of thousands of soldiers caused sickness and death from disease, and great property damage.  For some, service to their country ended with the Civil War.  For Clara Barton, this was the beginning.  Barton, a forty year old teacher, patent clerk and patriot, was frustrated by reports of inadequate relief supplies at battlefields.  She gathered needed items and transported them to the front.  Seeing the bandages, lanterns, and food Clara Barton brought to his Antietam hospital, Surgeon Charles Dunn christened her “The Angel of the Battlefield.”

At Antietam, Miss Barton followed the sound of artillery and arrived on the battlefield.  She delivered bandages and lanterns to field hospitals.  Clara Barton and her staff of thirty men prepared gruel (meal mixed with warm water) which they carried out to feed the wounded and dying where they fell.  She worked there for three days, providing whatever assistance she could.  This is just one of the many battlefields on which Miss Barton worked.

After the war, Barton established the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army, an organization which located the graves of missing U.S. soldiers, as immediately after the battle over 3,500 dead were buried in farm fields surrounding Sharpsburg.  Eventually Confederate soldiers were moved to three local cemeteries.  Union men were re-interred in Antietam National Cemetery, their names (if known) recorded in the cemeteries’ book.  She established the American Association of the International Red Cross in 1881, adding civilian disaster relief to its mandate of providing neutral assistance during war, and in 1904, Clara Barton established the American First Aid Association.

The Emancipation Proclamation, released January 1, 1863 reshaped the war, freeing slaves in states in rebellion and giving the Union war effort two goals:  preserve the Union and end slavery.  Slaves could flee to Union camps and freedom or even join U.S. fighting forces.  Lee’s repulse at Antietam enabled the proclamation, and the two events kept Great Britain from intervening for the Confederacy.

A monument that pays tribute to the lives lost at Antietam Battlefield.
A monument that pays tribute to the lives lost at Antietam Battlefield.
Plaque inscription:  "On permanent loan from American Legion Post 236 of Sharpsburg, MD  And dedicated in honor of those who served on her USS Antietam CVA-36 U.S. Navy
Plaque inscription: “On permanent loan from American Legion Post 236 of Sharpsburg, MD
And dedicated in honor of those who served on her
USS Antietam
CVA-36 U.S. Navy

 

Plaque inscription: "THE 27TH INDIANA INFANTRY, 3D BRIGADE, 1ST DIVISION, 12TH ARMY CORPS COLONEL SILAS COLGROVE COMMANDING, WAS ENGAGED WITH THE ENEMY 400 YARDS NORTH OF THIS MARKER, SEPTEMBER 17TH 1862. NUMBER ENGAGED 440 KILLED AND WOUNDED 209.
Plaque inscription:
“THE 27TH INDIANA INFANTRY,
3D BRIGADE, 1ST DIVISION, 12TH ARMY CORPS
COLONEL SILAS COLGROVE COMMANDING,
WAS ENGAGED WITH THE ENEMY 400 YARDS
NORTH OF THIS MARKER, SEPTEMBER 17TH 1862.
NUMBER ENGAGED 440
KILLED AND WOUNDED 209.

 

More than 23,000 were killed or wounded at Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.  All of the people depicted here, whether military or civilian, experienced the personal tragedy of the conflict.
More than 23,000 were killed or wounded at Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. All of the people depicted here, whether military or civilian, experienced the personal tragedy of the conflict.
View of the battlegrounds looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of the battlegrounds looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) looking out from the Observation Tower.
A pair of rascally rabbits.
A pair of rascally rabbits.
Dawn and Rick
Dawn and Rick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harpers Ferry

In 1734, the Quaker colonist Robert Harper was given a patent on 125-acres, currently the present location of where the town resides.  In 1761, Harper established a ferry across the Potomac, making it easy for settler to move into the Shenandoah Valley.

On October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry.  He viewed “the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge” from a rock which is now named for him and Jefferson the site “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

In 1796, the federal government purchased a 125-acre parcel of land from the heirs of Robert Harper.  In 1799, construction began on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry.  This was one of two such facilities in the U.S., the other in Springfield, MA.  Between these two arsenals, they produced most of the small arms for the U.S. Army.  Between 1801 and 1861, when it was destroyed to prevent capture during the Civil War, the armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols.  Inventor Captain John H. Hall pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufactured at his rifle works at the armory between 1820 and 1840 and his M1819 Hall rifle was the first breech-loading weapon adopted by the U.S. Army.

Harpers Ferry, however, is best known by many today for John Brown’s raid on the Armory on October 16, 1859.  John Brown, a radical abolitionist, led a group of 21 men in a raid on the arsenal.  Five of the men were African American, three free African Americans, one a freed slave, and one a fugitive slave.  During this time, assisting fugitive slaves was illegal under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.  Brown attacked and captured several buildings as he hoped to use the captured weapons to start a slave uprising through the south.  The first shot mortally wounded Hayward Shepherd, a free black man who had been a night baggage porter for the B&O Railroad running through Harpers Ferry near the armory.  The noise from that shot roused Dr. John Starry from his sleep, where he walked from his nearby home to investigate the shooting, and came face to face with Brown’s men.  Starry told the men that he was a doctor; but, it was too late to save Shepherd.  Brown’s men allowed Starry to leave.  However, instead of going home, Starry went to the livery and rode to neighboring towns and villages alerting residents to the raid.

When Starry reached nearby Charles Town, the church bells were rung to rouse the citizens from their sleep.  John Brown’s men were quickly pinned down by local citizens and militia, and forced to take refuge in the engine house adjacent to the armory.

The secretary of war asked for the assistance of the Navy Department for a unit of United States Marines, the nearest troops.  Lieutenant Israel Greene was ordered to take a force of 86 Marines to the town.  In need of an officer to lead the expedition, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee was found on leave nearby and was assigned as commander, along with Lt J.E.B. Stuart.  Lee led the unit and the whole contingent arrived by train on October 18.  After negotiations failed with Brown, they stormed the fire house and captured most of the raiders.  Brown was tried for treason against the State of Virginia, convicted and hanged in nearby Charles Town.  The raid was a catalyst for the Civil War.

Looking across the Shenandoah River at Virginia from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
Looking across the Shenandoah River at Virginia from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
Looking across the Potomac River at Virginia on the right and Maryland on the left.
Looking across the Potomac River at Virginia on the right and Maryland on the left.
Looking back at Harpers Ferry from the Shenandoah River.
Looking back at Harpers Ferry from the Shenandoah River.
Looking down on the town of Harpers Ferry.
Looking down on the town of Harpers Ferry.
A view from Harpers Ferry Church.
A view from Harpers Ferry Church.
Harpers Ferry train tunnel that is still in use today.
Harpers Ferry train tunnel that is still in use today.

 

Rick standing near Jefferson's Rock.
Rick standing next to Jefferson’s Rock.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomington, Indiana eastward

We returned to Bloomington, IN on April 23 as we had several doctor appointments and business dealings to contend with, plus we wanted to spend time with our friends enjoying their company and catching up.

I haven’t had Mexican food since I left Bloomington in October, so my first dinner out was to LaCharreda a few nights after we returned.  Oh my!!  The glorious taste of the beef chimichanga and Mexican rice were AMAZING to my taste buds.  Sitting here typing this, I still crave it!  In addition to LaCharreada, I visited Mother Bears Pizza (never been there before), Olive Garden, McAllister’s, Village Deli, and Malibu Grill (never been there before either!).  Each outing was enhanced with the company of friends, which made the dining experience that much better.  Dave and I have great peeps!!

Linda and Jeff, very good friends of ours since we moved to Indiana in 2001, were taking down a tree in their backyard so we went over to help them.  It felt good to be doing some physical activity like that and we had great fun singing the “Lumberjack” song from Monty Python while doing so.  If you’ve never heard it before, I’m sure that you can find it on YouTube.

Linda and Jeff
Linda and Jeff

As some of you may not know, I worked for the South Central Community Action Program, Inc., (SCCAP) for 10-years, and not too long after I left the agency I became a board member, as I still believe in the mission of the agency, which is to help low-income people become self-sufficient.  On May 07, SCCAP celebrated its 50th Anniversary and I was honored to have been a part of this celebration.  The staff did a tremendous job in the planning of the event and those that came out to participate, over 300 people, seemed to have a great time.  We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, musicians donated their time to play music for the event, and connections between people were either re-established or new bonds were formed.  Dave volunteered his time as well to help shuttle people to/from their vehicles and, for that, I would like to thank him.  It was an excellent event!

SCCAP's 50th Celebration
SCCAP’s 50th Celebration

We departed Bloomington on June 02 and overnighted at a friend’s place in Martinsville, IN, about 30-miles north of Bloomington, so that Dave could change the oil in the RV.  Both of us were apprehensive about it as Dave has never changed the oil in a diesel rig before.  All went well though and we breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, as the “scariest” part was pouring the new oil into the thingy-ma-bob through the hatch in our BEDROOM FLOOR!  Although we put plastic down and put Alvin in the bathroom so he wouldn’t interfere, or escape down the hatch, we both had visions of something going awry and oil flowing all over the bedroom floor.  Thankfully not a drop was spilled.  Yay!

We left Indiana the following day and headed for an overnight stop in Zanesville, Ohio at Wolfie’s Campground, about 255-miles east,  on our way to Williamsport, Maryland.  Wolfie’s Campground is a small family orientated campground that consists of approximately 53 RV-sites, three cabins, and a few tent sites.  The amenities that they offer are a playground for kids, a game room, basketball court, swimming pool, showers, convenience store (reasonably priced items) and laundry facilities.  The grounds are immaculate and the facilities are very well maintained and clean.   For those of you that know me, you know how important that is to me.  🙂  Getting to the campground is a bit tricky, as the road leading in/out of the campground is a rather narrow two-lane unlined road that goes up hill.  I would seriously hate to meet another big rig coming at me from the opposite direction.   The views from the campground are beautiful and it’s very quiet there too, no noise at all, except from the critters scampering about.

We left the following morning and began our 293-mile trek to Hagerstown, MD, arriving late in the day on June 4.  This time we thought we would try something different and stay at a Yogi Bear Campground, even though we don’t have young children.  The resort is conveniently located just a few miles near I-81 and I-70 so it’s great for anyone who is traveling the east-west and north-south corridors of the area.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort is a HUGE resort offering approximately 160-RV sites, 63-cabins, and a smattering of primitive tent camping sites.  Each site, including cabins and tent sites, were equipped with a fire ring and picnic table, although in all honesty, I doubt that I would have used the fire ring as I felt it was too close to the rig.  As far as amenities goes, there were a lot!  Two horseshoes pits, volleyball, basketball, mini-golf, laser tag, a playing field, mini speedway, game room, jumping pillow, mini-zip, two playgrounds, a swimming pool with water slides for the kids, an adults pool, a kiddie pool, interactive splash pad, two pavilions, movie theater, and a canteen where one could buy nachos, ice cream cones, sandwiches and burgers.  However, the food at the canteen we felt was highly priced, as one scoop of ice cream was $2.  A general store was on site as well where one could buy milk or other sundries.  Laundry facilities and showers were also provided for resort guests.  Weekends were quite packed with people, although during the week it was pretty empty.

On June 05, Dave and I traveled to Shepherdstown, WV, about 20 miles south from Hagerstown, MD, to visit a very dear high school friend of mine, Dawn, and her husband, Rick, who cooked us burgers on the grill at their house and some other delectable delights.  The backyard of their home sits on the Potomac River, which is simply stunning, and there is no shortage of wildlife in the area.  We saw deer all over the place, in route to their home as well as on their property, including a cute turtle that was crossing their driveway!  🙂

Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.

The following day the four of us ventured to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, which is about 45 miles from Hagerstown, MD, and lies at the junction of where the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River meet.  When looking at the junction of these two rivers, one can see the state of Maryland on one side, and Virginia on the other side.  A separate posting has been created for information regarding Harpers Ferry.

On Monday, June 08, the four of ventured to the Antietam National Battlefield which is located in Sharpsburg, Maryland, about 15 miles from Hagerstown.  The Battle of Antietam was one of the most historic battles during the Civil War, as it was noted as the bloodiest one-day battle of the American Civil War. If the union General McClellan would have made better decisions during this battle; he potentially could have ended the war then and there and saved a lot of lives and bitterness in the process. I have also created a separate posting for information regarding Antietam, as the history is rather lengthy.

We departed Hagerstown, MD on June 11 and headed for Kinzers, PA where we stayed for a week while visiting friends and family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I met up with a few friends while back in the area, most of whom I had not seen since high school and it was wonderful to see them all again.  Thank you Kristy, Mark, Colleen, and Debbie for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with me; I so enjoyed seeing you all again!!    🙂

Left to right....Dave, Me, Colleen, Mark and Kristy
Left to right….Dave, Me, Colleen, Mark and Kristy

Before leaving New Jersey, Dave and I stopped at Fort Mott State Park located in Pennsville, NJ.  Fort Mott was a part of a three-fort defense system designed for the Delaware River during the post-Civil War modernization period.  The other two forts in the system were Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and Fort DuPont in Delaware City, Delaware.

Fort Mott, along with Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont, became obsolete as the principal defensive installation on the Delaware River with the construction of Fort Saulsbury, near Milford, Delaware, shortly after World War I.

We rounded out our day in NJ by visiting with my brother, Ed, and sister-in-law, Coralea, just kicking back and catching up.   We had a great visit!  🙂

Ed and Coralea
Ed and Coralea

We left Pennsylvania on Thursday, June 18 with our eldest daughter, Lisa, and began our trek to Ontario, Canada, overnighting on the way in Pulaski, NY, and arriving the following day in Brockville, Ontario, Canada.  We spent 7 wonderful days up there visiting Dave’s parents and playing cards every night “Pankoski style.”  It has taken me almost 30 years, but I actually won my FIRST GAME EVER against this bunch!!  We were playing Hand and Foot, too, so talk about being on cloud 9!!  Woo-hoo!!!!!

The weather was perfect for the most part, warm day and cool nights, so great sleeping weather!  We stayed at the St. Lawrence Park right on the Thousand Islands River and the scenery was beautiful.  For those that have never been to Brockville, Ontario, Canada before, it is known as the “City of the Thousand Islands,” as it is located on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River opposite Morristown, NY, about half-way between Ontario’s Cornwall to the east and Kingston to the west.  It’s roughly a 50-minute drive south of the national capital of Ottawa, one of Ontario’s oldest communities, and is named after the British general Sir Isaac Brock.

Chuck, an old college friend of Dave’s, joined us for dinner one night at mom and dad’s and we had a great evening.  There was lots of laughter and great memories for Chuck and Dave to reminisce on.  Thankfully we were able to visit with Chuck a couple of more times before we left.  It was great seeing these two together again.  🙂

Chuck and Dave
Chuck and Dave

Unfortunately, Lisa had to return to work, so we returned to Kinzers, PA on June 27.  We were originally only going to stay a day or two and then hit the road again; however, we decided to stay until July 01 so we could spend some additional time with Kathleen, our youngest daughter.  We’re glad we did, too, because we had a great day on Monday exploring Valley Forge with her!  🙂

The last time I was at Valley Forge, I was in middle school on a class trip, and I remember just snippets from that excursion.  Exploring it again, especially with my husband who had never been there before, was really neat.