Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #17

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Travel does not exist without home. If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.
Josh Gates

Monday, May 14, 2018: Underway from cousin Mary Kate’s home at 0919 hours under drizzly skies and a temperature of 58 degrees. There are two main routes to our next destination…The Garden State Parkway, not my favorite, and PA-32 that parallels the Delaware River which is far more peaceful and scenic…so that’s the one we choose.

The road was narrow, winding, and in some places a bit steep…the kind of road we like. However, the camper, was not too fond of our chosen route. Added a few additional battle stripes and scars to the rig, but oh well…if you don’t travel where you want, why own an RV?

It was a beautiful drive paralleling the west side of the Delaware River, however at some point we needed to get to the far shore and start heading for the northeast. Not that there weren’t a few bridges along the way that would get us there, but they all were truss construction style with clearances lower than the top of our camper. Then when we noticed a bridge that was clear of obstructions…the weight limit was 6 tons and we top out at close to 10 tons!?!? A local constable seeing our plight helped us turn around and directed us back south a few miles to a suitable crossing, so all was good.

Around 1645 hours we pulled into our destination for the next few day, Round Pond RV Park, on the grounds of the US Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Just before a major thunderstorm was due to engulf us.So, I left truck and camper connected and plugged into shore power as the Weather Armageddon hit with strong winds, torrential rains, thunder and lightning…going to be an interesting night!

 

Tuesday, May 15 through Saturday, May 19, 2018-West Point, NY: An evening of rocking, but fortunately no rolling, was endured…actually felt similar to being aboard ship in moderate seas.

Following breakfast, we took a walk about the campground to survey the damage which was remarkably light.

The radio reported many trees down in the area which brought the power grid to its knees in many localities, however our power remained on and the rig came through the storm unscathed.

In years past, being this close to home, Kit and I would be making tracks for Maine…however this year our granddaughter Katie is graduating from Manhattan College a few miles to the south, so we are delaying our return to attend this momentous occasion.

Manhattan College is a beautiful and vibrant campus located in The Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City.

Established in 1863 as a Roman Catholic liberal arts institution, the college was moved from Manhattan to it’s present location in the Riverdale section of The Bronx in 1922. A compact campus nestled within a residential neighborhood, the college has a real homey feel…

…and is very walkable due to its many beautifully landscaped paths.

Katie, shown below with proud parent’s son Joe and daughter in law Ann…

…was honored with an athletic scholarship to this Division One school due to her talent and prowess in High School Lacrosse. A high achieving scholar, Katie graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Baccalaureate Degree in Accounting and another in Finance.

Which led to her being offered a job at one of the worlds largest banks in the financial capital of the world…New York City.

Katie was joined by fellow Manhattan College graduates, boyfriend Brendan…

…and college roommate Molly…

…shown in the middle, along with new apartment roommate Liz to the left.

Also attending this auspicious occasion was Katie’s OPA from Vermont…Monk.

Sadly, Katie’s Vermont OMA passed since this high school graduation was taken.

However, we felt her loving presence as Betty watched with pride from her vantage point in heaven.

Following the commencement ceremony, we walked down the block to a nice Italian Restaurant to continue the celebration.

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and are immensely proud of this fine young lady with all she has accomplished and are thrilled to follow what will assuredly be a very bright future…Love you Katie!!!

Returning to the campground on the campus of the US Military Academy, we took a drive around the grounds of this venerable institution and paid a visit to the museum.

Established by Thomas Jefferson in 1801, West Point is the oldest of the five US Service Academies where Cadets earn an academic degree and receive military leadership training while participating in mandatory athletic events.

The museum is full of US Army artifacts such as this “Special Tractor” used during the first World War.

And the little tracked vehicle in front is an early drone prototype…a self-propelled vehicle controlled by an unspooling 2000-foot wire sent the explosive laden demolition vehicle into battle. Not very successful as the control wire was susceptible to damage which would cause the slowly moving bomb to wander amuck about the battlefield.

A great stay at West Point, but tomorrow will be an even better day as Kit and I finally head home to reconnect with family and friends…we are getting excited!

 

Sunday, May 20, 2018: Up and on the road at 0745 hours. This older area of New York state has many low clearance bridges, so we had to follow a convoluted path…south, then west, then north in order to get to an Interstate.

The trip toward Maine was pleasant with light traffic on this late spring Sunday.

Which is unusual for the historically congested Northeast Corridor. Kit and I really like living in Maine, however the travel environment south of the border is a necessary evil when returning to our home state from these trips. Which in the past is one of the reasons we generally choose to return via a more northerly route.

To pass the time, Kit and I started reminiscing about the past ten years of our Excellent Adventure Trips, starting out in 2009 with a 22-foot travel trailer.

Wow, who would of thought that on January 16, 2009 when we departed on Excellent Adventure #1 that we would still be at it ten years later! A lot has changed since that first frosty morning including us!

And our rig.

Which, being smaller and lighter, we took to areas of our great country that would make the manufactures warranty department squirm!

Yes, a lot has changed, but we still visit our ancesteral hometown of San Diego and of course photograph many of our restaurant meals.

And stop to see family and friends along the way, especially these two Vegas Munchkins, Tucker…

…now age 11, and Jack…

…now age 13!

Also, the hundreds of western sunrises and sunsets are still as spectacular as the very first one we posted!

So, here’s to another 10 years of adventure with the best traveling partner in the world…

… love you Kit!

Also, just for fun, here are some facts and figures compiled from all ten of our Excellent Adventure trips:

1. Total time on the road: 1,439 days
2. Longest trip: 207 Days
3. Shortest trip: 99 Days
4. Total distance traveled: 118,503 Miles
5. Total fuel consumed: 11,202 Gallons
6. Average price per gallon: $3.25
7. Average cost per night for campsite: $25.83
8. Average spent on campsite fees and fuel per year: $6,714.42
A side note: If one takes that $67,144 in one-dollar bills and lines them up, they would reach all the way to a Corvette dealership…just saying!
9. Number of nights camping for free: 303
10. Lowest elevation visited: -279 feet at Bad Water Basin, California
11. Highest elevation visited: 11,158 feet at Vail, Colorado
12. Lowest temperature experienced: 26 degrees at Coconino National Forest, Arizona
13. Highest temperature experienced: 102 degrees in Globe, Arizona
14. Number of states visited: 46, only Rhode Island, Washington, and Alaska remain.
15. Number of National Park’s enjoyed: 27
16. Number of Canadian provinces visited: 4-Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
17. Number of Excellent Adventure Journals issued: 249
18. Number of hits on our webpage: 130,661
19. Number of address’s in group notification email list: 203
20. Number of folks signed up for notification of release of latest journal: 68
21. Number of comments from readers: 1,936
22. Top commenters: Chet G, Pat C, and Nancy G…Thanks Folks!

It was fun reviewing our early years, but now back to the present. Trundling up Interstate 95 we viewed this welcome sight shortly before 1400 hours…

…as we crossed the Piscataqua River and into the state of Maine.

Traditionally, we make a stop in the Town of Kittery to take a break and grab some Maine seafood for lunch…and this trip was no exception as we pulled into a large parking area across from the Weathervane Restaurant.

Where Kit enjoyed some Fried Haddock and I consumed their signature Fried Clam Dinner!

What a treat! With all the great regional cuisine we enjoy during these Excellent Adventures, nothing beats the succulent Maine seafood!

An hour later, we were back on the road heading north and within another hour pulling into our coastal hometown.

And down our treelined street.

Where family and neighbors welcomed us home!

Great to be back in Maine at one of the most beautiful times of the year…and just in time to enjoy some of grandson CJ’s playoff lacrosse games and proudly watch him graduate with honors from high school.

CJ will be attending college in the fall at a university in Rhode Island.

And, last but not least, spend some time with oldest grandson, Joe and his delightful girlfriend Whitney.

Before they head north to guide for the summer on the Penobscot River.

Well, that brings to a close this, our tenth year of adventure travel…it has been a fun ride, and so glad to have you all along!

Here are the statistics for our 2018 Excellent Adventure:
Length of Trip: 172 Days
Total Distance: 11,588 Miles
Total Fuel Used: 1,058 Gallons
Average Fuel Economy: 10.57 MPG
Highest Diesel Fuel Cost: $4.99 in California
Lowest Diesel Fuel Cost: $2.56 in Louisiana
Highest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s: $78.00 in Surprise, Arizona
Lowest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s: $10.00 in Gila Bend, Arizona
Average Camping Cost: $25.83 per Night
Freebie Camping: 27 Nights, “THANK’S FOLKS!”

Kit’s Bit’s: Wow! It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for 10 years! I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to travel through most of the US. From the very beginning of our life together, we have always talked about traveling the country with an RV. We were fortunate enough in the early days of our marriage to be able to travel across the country to new duty stations, courtesy of Uncle Sam. However, in those days, we were always on a mission to get to our destination quickly. On those trips, we always saw things we wanted to stop and see but never had the time. Since we always seem to seek out the unusual sights, RV travel fits the bill perfectly! We’ve enjoyed every minute of these trips and look forward to many more adventures! Many thanks for all your comments on the journals!

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Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, May 7, 2018: Departing Virginia Beach at 0915 hours, Kit and I slowly made our way north across the Chesapeake Bay under gloomy skies and the threat of rain.

This huge 4,479 square mile tidal bay has a shoreline of over 11,500 miles! To put those numbers in perspective, if we were to circumnavigate the bay with our rig, the travel distance would be about the same as our annual Excellent Adventure miles!

To conveniently cross this vast body of water one must use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) system.

Wiki Image

Constructed in the mid 1960’s, this 17-mile transportation link connects mainland Virginia with the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) Peninsula to the north. A civil engineering marvel, it provides travelers with a much shorter route up the Eastern Seaboard, saving 95 travel miles, and is a preferred alternative to driving through the Baltimore/DC congestion.

Being a fixed link bridge, two separate 1-mile long tunnels were laid on the ocean floor to allow ship and boat traffic unimpeded transit to the economically significant harbors of the bay, as well as quick access of US Navy warships from the bases in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Back in the 1970’s, while stationed on a Navy frigate out of Norfolk, I transited over these tunnels many times and often wondered if the hundreds of auto travelers zipping along inside the 39-foot diameter tube lying 134-feet underwater had a clue we were cruising on the surface above their heads.

Exiting the CBBT finds us traveling through the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge.

And a pleasant drive up US-13, through Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland…

…brought us to our next overnight destination, Assateague Island National Seashore.

Where we found a nice campsite separated from the Atlantic Ocean by coastal dunes.

As the sun set in the west, Kit and I enjoyed a nice meal with a glass of fine Cardbordeaux wine…

…while watching the antics of our fellow island inhabitants…

…as the sun set in the West…goodnight!

 

Tuesday, May 8 and Wednesday, May 9, 2018-Assateague Island National Seashore: Woke to cool but sunny skies, with yesterday’s storm rolling out to sea.

After breakfast, Kit and I bundled up and walked across the dunes to the shore.

Being low tide, the beachcombing opportunities were great, and I was able to collect a few of nature’s souvenirs.

After lunch, we made the pilgrimage to the Assateague Island Visitors Center.

We learned that Assateague Island is a 37-mile long, 1-mile wide, barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Largely undeveloped, the island is home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the National Seashore we are camped at. We also learned about the islands famous wild ponies…like these fellows who were grazing outside our camper window this morning.

The beautiful and inquisitive animals have the run of the island and frequently visit the campground and other public places. These feral ponies are descendants of colonial stock that were pastured on the remote island by early mainland settlers in order to dodge the “Fence Tax” levied by the British government. Technically horses, their diet rich in salt causes their stunted growth to pony size.

As docile as they appear, these animals are wild, receiving no supplemental food or veterinarian care and have been known to be aggressive…as many other animals in the wild can be.

As in most National Park units, this campground does not have hook-ups to electricity or water. However, with our stay being only 2 days, we filled our 82-gallon fresh water tank to capacity and ensured the two 12 Volt batteries were fully charged…so we managed just fine.

Any ocean front camping has the propensity to provide for excellent kit flying opportunities, and Assateague was no exception. I spent many hours flying in the fresh ocean breeze…Kit was able to grab this shot across the coastal dunes from the comfort of our campsite.

Before we leave this beautiful spot, a few words about my camera of choice.

Over the years, folks have asked about my photography equipment and as you can see, it is pretty basic…a Canon compact (pocketable) camera. It is however, a high-quality compact stuffed with a considerable amount of pro level electronics and image capturing technology. What it lacks is a large zoom capability, high output flash, or a detachable lens. Nevertheless, it is the perfect camera for me considering the nomadic way we travel…I carry it always which makes the camera convenient to capture any view that pops up!

Well, Kit and I enjoyed a great stay at the National Seashore, but tomorrow we continue motoring north.

 

Thursday, May 10, 2018: Good morning…it’s 1000 hours and we are heading back to the mainland traveling under sunny skies and warming temperatures.

Kit and I are on our way to visit family in the Philadelphia area for the weekend, but first a quick overnight stay at the US Air Force campground in Dover, Delaware.

Traveling through the base, a poignant moment occurred when we passed the Department of Defense Mortuary Service Command. This hallowed facility is where all military killed in action first return to American soil. Please remember the sacrifices of these brave heroes, and their surviving families, come Memorial Day.

The RV Park at this military installation is small with only 10 full hookup sites, and it’s located clear on the other side of the runway from the gate…but the spaces are roomy, and beautifully landscaped.

Spent our time here doing some laundry and resupplying the pantry from the base commissary, followed by an entertaining evening watching military aircraft departing to or arriving from parts unknown…goodnight.

 

Friday, May 11, 2018: Underway at 1050 hours for the short haul into the town of Springfield, Pennsylvania which lies just west of Philadelphia, and the home of cousin Mary Kate…where we will be dooryard surfing for the next few days.

That evening, as we customarily do, Kit and I treated or dooryard host to a meal out at one of their favorite local spots…this year they choose Nick’s Roast Beef Restaurant.

A neighborhood joint that specializes in local brews and all things roast beef.

Their signature sandwich was delicious, but the side of “Gravy Fries” were incredible! If you like Roast Beef, you’ll love Nick’s! Then, with full bellies, we returned to the camper…looking forward to a fun family weekend ahead!

Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13, 2018-Springfield, Pennsylvania: My mother’s side of the family is so large, numbering over 50 folks, that Mary Kate had to organize a two-day reunion so most everyone could attend at some point. The entourage was led by the family patriarch, my Uncle Don, who is my mother’s younger brother.

A large, close knit, Irish Catholic family, they love to get together and party at the slightest provocation…and even though it was Mother’s Day Weekend, we were able to visit with most everyone in town! What transpired was basically a two-day party with family members gathering for food, fun, and frivolity.

Folks we enjoyed seeing during our all too brief stay in the area included cousin Don and Pat.

By the way, the Mars Rover that Don had a hand in developing is still roving about the red planet. Accompanying Don and Pat were one of their offspring, Sarah…shown with her boyfriend Jonah.

The two of them work for NavSea Philly in the Naval Foundry and Propeller Center…while working for Lockheed on the Navy’s newest ships, I always wondered where those props came from.

Then there were Cousin Anne and Buck with Alli, Kevin, Megan and Tim.

A fun-loving family with professional acting and musical accomplishments to their credit, this versatile and talented group enjoys entertaining.

Also, Cousin Joe and Dolores with newly married daughter Veronica and son Ryan.

Joe has been our go-to resource for quirky attractions and offbeat places to explore in the region…a road-trip pied piper, he is usually accompanied by other members of the extended Philly family.

Then cousin Mark and Ruth with college student Katie and son Stephen.

Readers may remember several years ago when Kit and I travelled with Marvelous Monkey, which was a school project of Stephen’s to see how far the students favorite stuffed animal could roam. Also, you may recall that Katie was instrumental in helping to locate a long-lost gravesite of my mom’s birth mother.

Cousin John and Denise with their offspring Neil and Owen, along with his girlfriend Maggie were able to attend.

The two boys are budding film producers with a few high school and college film credits on their resumes…look for them to be in Hollywood soon. Their daughter, Erin Marie was unable to attend due to her teaching job in Kentucky.

Next, our consummate hosts during the stay…cousin Mary Kate with daughter Alora and sons Jack and Jimmy with resident pooch Gidget.

Alora’s longtime boyfriend Ricky was able to spend time with us as well.

Alora recently graduated with a PhD. in Occupational Therapy and will soon be pressed into service caring for us aging baby boomers.

And the youngest cousin, Matthew, was celebrating his 42nd birthday!

An inspirational and loving young man, Matthew lives nearby with other challenged adults and is always included in family gatherings…Happy Birthday Matt!

And representing my departed Aunt Joan (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Jack’s family were cousin Barbara and husband Jason.

Always fun to see Barb, and Jason is restoring a vintage motor scooter, so he and I had a nice “gearhead” discussion!

Also, from that side of the family, cousin Jane and husband Larry were able to stop by.

We enjoyed visiting with these folks who are currently expecting a new grandchild.

Well, Kit and I had a great time in Springfield…thanks again Mary Kate for your hospitality!  Tomorrow we’re back on the road as we have a very important function to attend in the Large MacIntosh…stay tuned for the final episode of Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure.

 

Kit’s Bit’s: As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the Byrnes Family. My mission this time was to learn the “order” of all the cousins, which I was able to accomplish, with their help, of course. So, here goes: on the Byrnes side, Donny, Anne, Joe Byrnes, Billy, Mark, John, MaryKate & Matthew. On the Morrissey side: Patty Ann, Jackie, Barbara & Jane. We always enjoy our time visiting with the cousins and their families! Thank you, MaryKate for hosting us.

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

― Christopher McCandless

 

Saturday, April 28, 2018: Leaving Whittier, NC and continuing our travels East. It’s a nice Spring day in the south, and we should be able to make some good miles today!

At our first rest stop, two hours into the days trek, I was conducting my usual safety check of tires, wheel bearings, and suspension components on the camper…a task that is even more important due to the tire blowout of a few days ago. I’ve been told that when a tire lets go like that one did, all the weight of the camper comes down on the sole remaining tire on that side, and can lead to tire, wheel, or suspension problems later, down the road…kinda like this!

Um, that spring eye is supposed to be connected at the frame plates by a ½ inch shackle bolt. Fortunately, the way Dexter Axle engineers their spring and axle sets, if there is a bolt failure the camper drops and captures the spring eye between the mounting plates. Unfortunately, it’s only secure enough to limp to a safe spot and pull over, which of course I had already accomplished.

So, I called roadside assistance, and fortunately they dispatched Jeff to the rescue.

Unfortunately, being a Saturday, there were no trailer parts dealers open. But fortunately, Jeff used some Rebel Ingenuity and picked up a ½ inch carriage bolt at Home Depot, which got us back on the road! Unfortunately, as we pulled out, Jeff exclaimed; “that’s only good for about 200 miles or so”! But fortunately, we only had 65 miles to go to make it to Cary, NC…the home of my cousin Bill’s place!

All’s well that ends well!

 

April 29, and April 30, 2018-Cary, NC: Great time in Cary with Bill, Joanna, Jillian, Aivan, and Rudy!

These folks are part of the Philadelphia contingent of our extended family…Bill is the son of my Uncle Don, my mother’s brother. While in town, we enjoyed visiting with the family and seeing some local sights. And, since it was baseball season, and since Aivan plays ball on two different teams…

… Kit and I were able to enjoy a game as well!

An accomplished ball player for his age, Aivan hits very well and can play various positions, including pitcher! Had a great time watching these youngsters play ball while being coached by volunteers and encouraged by parents in the bleachers…a typical Norman Rockwell type experience.

On one beautiful spring morning during our stay, Joanna, Jillian, Kit and I made a trip into Durham to enjoy the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University.

These gardens are a memorial to Sarah Duke, the wife of a North Carolina tobacco magnate and a major benefactor of the university. Originally, the low-lying plot of ground within the campus property was slated to be a lake…however funds grew short so a modest donation from the Duke family was used as seed money (pun intended) for a small memorial flower garden. Today, this world class arboretum lies on 55 acres and features over 5 miles of walking trails that provide access to several distinct flower garden areas…

…and fish ponds in the vast botanical garden complex…

…including an Asiatic Garden with a stand of bamboo alongside a flowing river…

…with a majestic Japanese Moon Bridge spanning the river banks.

Being spring in these parts, everything was greening up and bursting with blooms.

The group enjoyed a great morning walking amongst the beautiful gardens.

But the day was not over…bordering the gardens to the west is the towering University Chapel.

The multidenominational church, dedicated in 1935, is located in the center of the university complex, and was the first building that the schools founder, James Buchanan Duke, ordered to be built. It took legions of stone masons two years to carve the locally quarried stone and erect the chapel which is anchored by a 210-foot bell tower.

The interior features almost 80 stained glass windows, some as large as 38 feet by 17 feet!

Many historic figures of the old south are depicted in stone within the chapel…including Robert E. Lee. However, the sculptors made an error (or was it?) while creating Lee’s statue when they carved the letters US on the Confederate Generals belt buckle. Recently General Lee’s statue has been removed following the nationwide call for uniting the south and healing old wounds.

Leaving the chapel, we meandered about the campus while finding our way back to the car. It struck me as interesting how the original Gothic Architecture of 93 years ago was in juxtaposition with modern styles built in this decade.

Departing the Duke University complex near dinner time, Joanna recommended a highly rated pizza shop in town.

A quirky little place with a comfortable downtown vibe, the brick oven Pizzas were incredible!

Speaking of food, Bill and Joanna jointly cooked us some incredible home prepared meals…including these delicious blueberry pancakes one morning!

We really enjoyed staying and reconnecting with these great folks, but tomorrow we must be moving on…thanks for the hospitality!

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018: Reluctantly leaving Cary, North Carolina. The skies are clear, and the temperatures are rising into the 70’s as we made our way toward the Northeast by way of a variety of local and state roads.

Oh, forgot to mention…while in town, we had the trailer fixed properly at a truck and trailer shop a few miles away, all is good now!

After a few hours travel, we stopped at a rest area alongside the Great Dismal Swamp and Canal.

Following a quick lunch, Kit and I decided to walk over to the associated state park for some exercise.

The Great Dismal Swamp came by its name due to a mispronounced French word for swamp, and stuck because it was historically a place inhospitable to humans…so much so that an attempt was made to drain the swamp (yep, and you thought that was a modern political term!) to create fertile farmland.

However, as with most attempts to fool with Mother Nature, the project was a dismal (pun intended) failure. However, the dug canal did allow access to valuable stands of timber and provided a method to transport the logs to sawmills.

The Great Dismal Swamp played a role in the era of slavery as well…escaped slaves found shelter in the swamp and created Maroon Colonies by partnering with other disenfranchised Americans, the Native Indians of the region.

A nice visitors center explained the history of the area and offered paddle craft for rent…I’ll have to return and paddle the Dismal Swamp someday!

Back underway, we crossed over the Virginia state line at 1537 hours and headed east toward Virginia Beach.

Within an hour we were pulling into Oceana Naval Air Station to camp for a few days where we were greeted by this little fellow sunbathing!

Goodnight!

 

Wednesday, May 2, through Sunday, May 6, 2018-Virginia Beach, Virginia: Historically, while staying in this region we choose one of four available military campgrounds for the duration…however camping has been growing in popularity and the weather hereabouts is getting very nice, so we had to piece together time at two campgrounds…which resulted in two days at Oceana.

And three days on the Little Creek Amphibious Base, a few miles to the north.

While in town, Kit wanted to see an old friend from our military days stationed in the area.

Bess, and her Navy husband Jack, were our friends back in the late 1970’s. Jack passed some years ago…but Bess, at 84 years old, is still living in the family home! Had a great visit and was able to get caught up on each other’s lives.

While in the old neighborhood, we did a drive by of the first house we purchased.

Kit and I bought the starter home in 1976, and with Kim, Joe and Suzie, lived in it until being transferred to Vermont in 1980…except for a year over 1977-1978 when we rented the house out due to my ship going to Bath, Maine for a baseline overhaul. It was that one-year assignment at Bath Iron Works that sold us on Southern Maine as a place we wanted to eventually settle down.

Even though we lived in Virginia Beach for those years, we still did not see everything the region had to offer…such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, the navigation aid marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

Actually, as you can see, there are two lights…the one to the right is the historic structure built in 1792 and is the first lighthouse in the nation authorized by the U.S. government. This was replaced by the more “modern” one in 1881 because the shifting coastal sand was causing the original lighthouse to develop cracks and the experts of the time determined it would soon fall over…guess they were proven wrong!

To access the historic Cape Henry light, one must climb some steep stairs.

Which leads to the base of the lighthouse.

Which leads to a spiral stairway up the tower…

…which leads to the light platform…

…where panoramic views of the coastline can be enjoyed…

…including the “new” lighthouse complex…

…which is still manned by the US Coast Guard. The lightkeeper and his/her family live in the red roofed homes nearby.

Well, that ends volume # 15 of our journal. Tomorrow we head north across the Chesapeake Bay…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a wonderful visit with Bill, Joanna, Jillian & Aivan in Cary, NC. Both kids have grown so much since we last saw them! It’s always nice to catch up on their activities and visit with them. It was also nice visiting with my friend Bess, whom I haven’t seen since the 70’s. Virginia Beach, like most cities has grown tremendously. We finally made a short trip to the Lynnhaven Mall, which was being built when we left the area in June of 1980. The mall is a “stone’s throw” from our house. Strawberries were one of the main crops on this land and, the kids and I used to go over and pick many pounds of the berries during the late spring. Of course, the traffic in the area is much worse now with the mall.

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Old roads, old dogs, old folks and old ways still have a lot to offer in this sped up world.
Unknown

Monday, April 23, 2018-Tenkiller State Park, Vian, OK: The unusual name of this park is derived from the original inhabitants…a Cherokee family called Tenkiller. Couldn’t find any information as to the genesis of the family’s name, but I bet it had something to do with making sure folks atoned for the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears. Either way, it features an incredible campground!

As most state park campgrounds are, Tenkiller is on the rustic side…just the way we like it! The sites are large and most existing vegetation was left in place. Also, in keeping with the style, the bathhouses are built with native stone.

Kit and I spent the day walking about and exploring the park via their fantastic trail network.

While following a path through the woods…

…we rejoiced in all the new spring growth.

And to accent the vibrant green were many colorful wildflowers.

Reaching the parks namesake lake, Kit and I sat on a bench while enjoying the sun and gentle breezes.

Tenkiller Lake is made by impounding the Illinois River and at 13,000 acres, is a major recreation facility and hydropower station which can generate up to 40 Megawatts of electrical power.

Returning to the campsite, Kit wanted to sit in the shade of an Oak tree and do some reading, and I wanted to explore some more…this time by bike.

Stopping near an old shed I was overcome by the sense that I was being watched.

Yea, kind of a strange sensation…and the guy staring at me seemed a bit squirrely!

A great day in a beautiful park…as usual we could justify staying here another few days but need to continue east if we hope to get home before summer is over!

 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018: Up to partly sunny skies and a temperature of 49 degrees, pulled out and made our way to I-40 to continue our eastward trek.

An hour later found us crossing into the state of Arkansas and stopping at a nice rest area for breakfast. Kit whipped up some cheesy scrambled eggs with sausage crumbles, with grilled bread in the skillet…what a great breakfast!

Within the hour, we were back underway and merrily rolling down the interstate when a fellow traveler pulled up along side of us motioning that something was amiss with the trailer. So, I eased the rig onto the breakdown lane…

…and discovered this!

Yikes…and I didn’t feel a thing!?!? This is the first tire blowout we have experienced in over 130,000 miles of RV’ing and from the experiences of others I’ve learned that modern trailers are engineered to sustain such an event and carry the entire load on the single remaining tire on that side…for a little while. Not having a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for the camper, there was no way to know that we were travelling on three wheels…thanks go to the good Samaritan that notified us! Thinking a TPMS is now in our future.

As I was contemplating whether to call roadside assistance, and wait, or just replace the tire myself…this young man pulled his truck over and offered to help.

Alberto was on his way to work but had time to assist us…so between he and I, we had the tire changed out in about ten minutes!

What a nice young man…makes one feel good about the sort of people us old folks are turning the world over too! He refused payment, but I persuaded him to take it as a token of our thanks!

Back on the road, we stopped at a Goodyear store in Russellville, AR to replace the damaged tire…this is what an 80PSI tire looks like after suffering a detonation!

I’m meticulous about checking truck and trailer tires at most every place we stop…even monitoring tire and bearing temperatures with an infrared sensor…so, what went wrong? Well, a postmortem by the experts concluded that the tire suffered a tread separation. As you can tell, there was plenty of tread remaining…however this tire, original to the camper, has over 30,000 miles of rough use so I guess it was inevitable. Fortunately, that was the last remaining original as the other three, when they appeared suspect, had been proactively changed out!

Back underway, we made our way to West Memphis, Arkansas and found the Tom Sawyer RV Park nestled along the shores of the Mississippi River.


A nice meal accompanied by a glass of wine, followed by a walk along the river, completed our day.

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018: Woke early to brilliant sunshine bouncing off the surface of the Mississippi!

This RV Park is on the river side of a tall levee and everything is built up on stilts, or in the case of the office, built on wheels so it can be hauled out of harms way in case of flooding. The spring snowmelt and rains have brought the Mississippi to a few inches below the riverbank, and all the campers realize that when the word is given it’s time to bugout!

So how high can the Mighty Mississippi get at flood stage? Well, the sign on the second-floor laundry building tells the story!

No concern to us, we had planned to leave today anyway! And so, Kit and I hit the road at 0821 hours and headed back to I-40, crossing the Mississippi River into Tennessee.

Nearing 1000 hours, and not having breakfast yet, Kit and I were getting a bit hungry as a billboard appeared advertising a Cracker Barrell Restaurant at the next exit…so exit we did and enjoyed a nice fulfilling meal!

Back underway we motored through Tennessee until about 1700 when Kit found a TVA campsite near the town of Lenoir. Being prime camping season in these parts the campground was packed…in fact, we scored the last available campsite, but it was a bit tight. However, at only 30 feet long, we were able to squeeze our camper in by jackknifing the rig. Could have disconnected and parked the truck alongside the camper, but since we were leaving in the morning, didn’t want to go to the trouble.

No dinner, just snacks…we were still stuffed from this morning’s breakfast. But did take a walk about this nice riverfront campground run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Goodnight!

 

Thursday, April 26,2018: Departing Milton Hill Dam campground on the Clinch River at 1100 and made our way back to I-40 East, then at 1315 crossed the border of North Carolina. This part of the highway skirts the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and is steep and winding with numerous tunnels…and to add a bit of interest, it started to rain!

Taking it slow, we made it to our destination of Whittier, NC and pulled into the Tuckasegee RV park.

And set up for a two day stay with the Tuckaseegee River roaring outside our rear window.

 

Friday, April 27, 2018-Whittier, NC: So, what are we doing in this North Carolina town of 4,863 folks? Well, to visit with these friends from our Navy days.

Ted and Debbie, originally from upstate New York, were stationed in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont while we were in the town of Barre, a bit further south. We were Navy Recruiters, and at that time of the 1980’s, there were less than a dozen Navy folks in the entire state, so we pretty much connected and socialized when possible…fast forward some forty years, and we are back at it!

Following a great meal at one of their favorite local spots, Ted and Debbie invited Kit and I back to their beautiful mountainside home for coffee and cake, and more great conversation. Really nice seeing you folks after all these years…now, come see us!

Lulu’s, the place we met Ted and Debbie for dinner is in Sylva, a pretty little mountain town nestled in a valley alongside the Tuckaseegee River.

This sleepy little hamlet of 2,644 souls was thrust into the public eye when Hollywood descended on them in 2017 to film the movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri!

Neither Kit nor I had seen the film, an oversight quickly solved when Ted purchased the DVD and presented it to us along with a tour of the spots in town that played a prominent part in the filming…such as the Ebbing Police Station.

Photo from the Web

Which was transformed from a consignment shop called Sassy Frass and was the location were Frances McDormand’s character Mildred Hayes threw the Molotov Cocktails…the resulting fire was real, however, what was burning was a façade the production company had built over the existing building. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is an intense movie and it was fun seeing the town where much of it was filmed. Oh, and as a side note…several other movies were filmed in Sylva, including the 1972 epic Deliverance.

An added bonus to being in this part of North Carolina, is its close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Kit wasn’t much interested, so the second morning in town, I took a ride into the park.

A major North/South highway, US-44, bisects the park and allows for quickly getting to the interior. I stopped at most pullouts and overlooks along the way….at 5,046-foot Newfound Gap, there were panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountain terrain.

The Smokies, as they are called in these parts, are in the Appalachian Mountain chain and came by their name due to the fog that is created by vegetation releasing moisture into the atmosphere. This National Park, established in 1934 boasts over 11,000,000 visitors a year, primarily due to its proximity to large metropolitan areas and US Highway 441.

There are many historic structures preserved in the park, including this water powered grist mill.

Still functional, the mill ground primarily corn for the many farmers that lived in the lower regions of the area.

The small square box under the handwheel at lower right holds 1/8 bushel of grain and is the millers pay for each bushel ground…he could save it for personal consumption, or sell it for cash, as he saw fit.

A nice morning in the Smokies however I needed to head back as Kit wants to explore more of downtown Sylva.

After lunch, we headed for the local library…an imposing structure converted from the old Jackson County Courthouse.

Sitting prominently on a hillside at the south end of main street, it allows folks a bird’s eye view of downtown.

The library is one of the nicest we’ve seen, especially for a relatively small community! The views out the windows are impressive…

…as are the vast views from the western facing balcony!

Of particular note is the young people’s area.

Decorated to simulate a diner!

Kit is a big fan of the public library system. As a young teen, it was the neighborhood library where she escaped to find solace from her large family and immerse herself in the pages of a book.

Leaving the hillside library, we drove around the backstreets and neighborhoods of Sylva before parking on Main Street to walk about a bit. This is where we split up…Kit likes to poke around in different shops than I do, so we came to an understanding years ago that it’s best if we go our separate ways. Generally, I like to just walk the streets, take photos, and watch the towns folks go about their day…but spying this store lured me inside.

Where I spotted the proprietor wearing a US Navy cap.

Surrounded by an incredible array of old stuff.

Well, this is the place for me! Marion Jones asked me to sit a spell, and the next hour was filled with swapping of Sea Stories and learning about how his hobby of collecting old and interesting items got out of control which resulted in a business. It was then that Kit texted it was time for lunch, so I bid my goodbyes to Marion and located her a few steps away, patiently waiting.

Thought about eating in town but decided instead to return to the camper for dinner, and to prepare for our departure tomorrow morning.

Well, Kit and I had a wonderful time visiting with Ted and Debbie. We also enjoyed exploring this tiny corner of North Carolina. Tomorrow we pull chocks and continue East…stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: We really enjoyed our time with Ted and Debbi! It was nice to reminisce about old times and share the news of our families and lives. It was also a nice respite after the tire blowout! We are so thankful, first for the man who noticed it and told us, as we were both going 60 MPH on the highway and second, for the young man, Alberto, who stopped to help Bill change the tire! He was so kind and helpful, and, at 19 years old, has a bright future ahead of him. Also, he was born in San Diego! He was shocked when we told him SD is our home town. Many thanks, Alberto!

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.
Peter Hoeg

Wednesday, April 11, 2018-Santee, California: Good morning…today marks the official day we start heading home!! But first a report on an event I attended last week, that I did not have enough room to include in Journal #12.

While Kit was spending time with JoAnne, her best friend from high school, I took the opportunity to attend the annual the Goodguys Car Show a few miles away in Del Mar, California.

This show, featuring over 2,500 hot rod and custom cars from all over the Southwest. It is an annual event sponsored by the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association…which at 70,000 enthusiasts strong, is the largest group in the world devoted to modified cars. The Del Mar show is a national event, and in addition to the incredible cars and trucks, there are vintage drag racing and autocross competitions as well.

So, what about that name? Well, in the 1950’s when returning WWII service men and women were reentering society, there was a fringe group of folks that modified their cars for more speed and performance and they were labeled by their neighbors as outlaws. So, to show that hotrodders could be good guys as well, an association was born.

The Del Mar show, being in the car crazy state of California, is reported to showcase the finest custom automobiles in the nation, and I couldn’t agree more!

There were traditional hot rods…

… and lead sleds…

…street rods…

…low riders…

…full customs…

…including this unbelievable vehicle built from a 1961 Ford F-150 pick-up truck!

The event also served as the annual meeting of the San Diego Woodie Club…showcasing a favorite automobile body style of mine.

Where I met one of the club officers from the National Woodie Club.

Who, coincidently, is originally from New England and mentioned the club was planning a national event in Maine for 2019! George, the national club secretary, convinced me to join the National Woodie Club of America, which I have. He also introduced me to a young man on vacation from New Hampshire who is working on his own Woodie, so we exchanged contact information as well.

The Woodie is the iconic surfers wagon, and ever since I missed out on buying one back in 1963, I’ve longed to acquire a vintage woodie…well, dreams do come true!

In addition to the traditional wood bodied station wagons on display, there was this very unique, full custom Studebaker.

A steel body car but clad in Maple and Mahogany…the woodwork was absolutely stunning!

And…it possesses a Mercedes 603HP DOHC engine to motivate this piece of fine art down the highway!

An amazing car!!

Another unique car was this movie prop from Grease.

The infamous 1949 Mercury, with the can-opener wheel discs still attached, and the signature of Olivia Newton-John affixed to the dash, was purchased from Paramount Studios by the current owner.

Fun to see that movie car up close!

Then there was this 1939 Ford COE truck, with a blown 455 CID engine sitting in the bed!

The weight transfer of the engine placement likely makes this vintage truck lift its front wheels off the pavement upon acceleration!

Also, a feature of the show is the Car Corral, where hundreds of cars were offered for sale…such as this fine looking 1959 Corvette.

And at $59,000.00…a pretty good deal!

As mentioned earlier, there are various activities taking place in conjunction with the rod and custom show…such as an Autocross for vintage race cars.

A timed event around a road course made up of traffic cones…the winner receives a trophy and bragging rights. As much fun as it is to see vintage cars race, the real draw is the number of high value original sports cars that compete…such as this AC Cobra!

Rare to see an example of this iconic seven figure Carroll Shelby built car outside a museum…

…but this guy was throwing it around the race course much to the delight of the crowd.

Another feature of most Goodguys events is a cruise road that travels the length of the show grounds. The public can then see and hear these beautiful cars under their own power cruising the boulevard.

What a great day at the Goodguys Rod and Custom show!

Well, it’s time to consider heading home…this morning (Wednesday, April 11th) we hit the road for the right coast, turn left, and meander up the Eastern Seaboard.

Underway from Santee Lakes Regional Park at 0857 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 69 degrees. Kit navigated us through the countryside until intersecting I-8 which we took toward the eastern San Diego Counties Mountains.

Topped out at the 4,140-foot elevation at the Tecate Divide before dropping into the Sonoran Desert where the temperature is nudging up against 90 degrees. Kit and I made our way to the campground at Naval Air Facility, El Centro which, at -42 feet, is entirely below sea level.

Due to the rising temperatures, the campground is sparsely populated as most of the Northwest Snowbirds have flown home.

Thursday, April 12, 2018-NAF El Centro, CA:  Had intended to just stay overnight, but woke to high winds from the west…not very good traveling weather, so spent the day doing laundry, catching up on administrative items, and reading. Due to the surrounding agricultural fields of this Imperial Valley region, we did enjoy a nice dust enhanced sunset however.

Goodnight!

Friday, April 13, 2018: Yep, Friday the 13th, and we are hitting the road, and its still a bit gusty…but not as bad as yesterday when the winds averaged 44 MPH and gusted at over 60 MPH!

Underway at 0811 hours and continued east on I-8. After a pleasant drive, which included a stop for breakfast, we crossed into Arizona at 1149, and encountered our first Border Patrol checkpoint of the return trip.

Then found US-85 heading north and drove it to the tiny desert outpost of Gila Bend.

Decided to seek shelter at the Luke AFB Auxiliary Field as the winds started to rise again, so pulled in at 1440 and set up in their sparse and inexpensive campground.

As in El Centro, most folks have abandoned this spot as well to head home for the summer, and just as spring was budding out!

Saturday, April 14, 2018-Luke AFB Aux Field, Gila Bend, AZ: Well, that was an interesting night…the winds increased, and the trailer was rocking on its springs!

Spent the day, waiting for the winds to subside and then performed some truck and trailer maintenance. Also got a bit of kite flying in…no sense wasting those winds!

Sunday, April 15, 2018: Fortunately, the winds died down overnight and the morning dawned bright and sunny. Broke camp and hit the road by 0830 traveling north on US-85 before intersecting I-10 and heading east before moving over to I-17 which we took heading north once again. A few hours later, needing a break, we pulled into a convenient Wal-Mart parking lot where Kit participated in some retail therapy and picked up a late breakfast for us from their deli.

As you can see by the blooming Palo Verde tree…it is indeed spring time in the high desert!

Back on the road we continued north and started climbing into the mountains of the Coconino National Forest. As we gained altitude, the vegetation quickly transformed from desert to evergreens. Topping 6,000 feet, and nearing the town of Flagstaff, we pulled off the interstate, and found our way to the USAF Recreation Complex, Fort Tuthill.

Where we set up for a few days stay at a nice wooded campsite.

As much as we like the winter warmth of the American Southwest, it is nice to be in the cooler mountains surrounded by pine trees once again…reminds us of home!

Monday, April16 and Tuesday, April 17, 2018-Flaggstaff, Arizona: We have explored this area extensively over the past ten years, so decided to stick around this very nice campground and prepare, mentally and physically, for our upcoming transcontinental trek across the US.

Adjacent to the campground, Fort Tuthill features a nice lodge with a very comfortable lounge where one can sit in comfort and enjoy the mountain views out large windows that frame a giant stone fireplace…and that was Kit’s favorite spot!

There are also dozens of miles of hiking paths that allow easy access into the back country…which was my favorite feature. Walking through the Ponderosa Pines on a beautiful spring day brought about a pleasant assault on the senses!

The sight, smells, and sounds were mesmerizing…I stopped many times to just sit on an old log and take it all in! Continuing my climb brought me to an elevation of 6,695 feet and a large meadow with vast views of the Kachina Peaks, and 12,633-foot Mount Humphries looming over them.

Part of the hiking trail ran along the edge of this meadow and intersected a Rails to Trails (R2T) path that was built on top of an old logging railroad bed of the defunct Arizona Lumber and Timber Company.

Ambling along this R2T pathway, I could visualize an old steam locomotive barreling through the trees, pulling cars laden with freshly sawn timber heading toward the sawmills of Flagstaff. In previous years, I was able to find a few rail spikes and tie markers that had been cast aside…however, it appears other scavengers have picked through most of them, and many others were probably now hidden below the accumulating forest duff.

On the final day of our stay, a camper similar to ours pulled in to a site nearby. Jeff and Shannon are snow birding from Seattle and we had a lot in common, so a lot to talk about! They are planning a trip to New England later this year, so we invited them to dooryard surf in our driveway for a few days…hope they take us up on the offer!

A very relaxing two days camping in the woods of the Coconino National Forest, but tomorrow it’s back to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018: Up and on the road by 0730 hours under a sunny sky with a temperature of 34 degrees…for the first time in many years I had to clear a bit of frost from the windshield!

Found our way to Interstate 40 and headed east across the high plains of Arizona and on into New Mexico. I-40 is the second longest interstate in the country and for much of its East/West path lies on top of historic Route 66. Just past the town of Gallup, we tipped over the Continental Divide at 7,142 feet and began a slow descent into the South-Central Plains.

After a few rest, food and fuel stops, we rolled through the city of Albuquerque and made our way to Kirtland Air Force Base and our stop for the evening.

Thursday, April 19, and Friday, April 20, 2018-Albuquerque, NM: Had intended to only stay one evening, but the weather forecast until Saturday was for high winds from the north, so we just laid low, did some laundry and shopping, and goofed off. The campground is bare bones, but inexpensive and as the say… “Any Port in a Storm”!

This trip has been plagued by winds! Each year there are a few days Kit and I are delayed by unsafe travel conditions. However, this year there have been 8 days we were pinned down by high winds…oh, well, that’s life on the road!

Saturday, April 21, 2018: Woke to calm conditions, sunny skies, and temperatures in the mid 40-degree range. Broke camp and hit the trail by 0740 hours continuing east on Interstate 40.

Four hours later, we crossed into Texas and the Central Time Zone, and by 1548 made the border of Oklahoma…Yep, Texas isn’t so big this far north!

Stopped in at the Oklahoma Welcome Center to take a break and pick up information about the state park system. There was a nice lakeside park another hour east, but its been a long day and at 416 travel miles, we’ve already exceeded our self-imposed daily limit by over 100 miles…so we just spent the night right here!

Sunday, April 22, 2018: Kit and I enjoyed a very restful night and by morning, we discovered dozens of our traveling brethren had joined us overnight.

You may have noticed in the photo above, that we only extended the smaller of our two slides. One of the features we like about this camper is the ability to stay in it with the slides retracted…pays dividends when blacktop camping at a roadside rest or truck stop.

On one side we had a long-haul trucker, and the other a Campervan with this cute couple peeking out at us.

Hit the road at 0834 hours and continued our trek easterly on I-40.

There are many great things about traveling with a trusted companion…one of which is that they are on constant alert and help immensely in spotting roadside attractions, or hazards, while the driver concentrates on, well…driving!

Um…never mind.

After 300 miles, on the dot, Kit awoke to assist in discovering a lakeside Oklahoma State Park near the town of Vian and we pulled in for a two-night stay…which, is where we will pick up in Episode #14 of Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure. Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: Looks like I needed a bit of a snooze! The trip east has been fraught with wind warnings. We will have to pick up our pace to make it to the east coast. High winds have been our constant companion this spring. Climate change? Who knows… These long-distance days can be exhausting but, fortunately, we leave early and stop early for the night. There was a time when we wouldn’t stop until after dark which caused all sorts of problems. Looking forward to getting home.

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #12

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

To travel is to take a journey into yourself.
Danny Kaye

 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018: Kit and I enjoyed a great camping vacation at Fiddlers Cove Marina and RV Park with the Pacific Ocean on one side of us, and San Diego Bay on the other. This thin strip of land known as The Silver Strand is very picturesque…we are going to miss views like this from out bayside campsite!

On the road at 1054 hours and made our way south to Imperial Beach. Then headed east to Interstate 805, which we traveled north until it merged with I-15 and our ultimate destination of San Diego’s Mission Valley and…our camping residence for the next few days, Admiral Baker Park.

We set up in a nicely sited spot in this very convenient military recreation facility, one we have visited many times in the past.

 

Sunday, March 25, through Wednesday, April 2th, 2018-Admiral Baker Park, San Diego, California: Kit and I enjoyed our time in this area, which is located just a few miles from where we grew up, then initially met back in 1963. We still have a number of family members and friends in the region who we try to see each trip. However, this year Kit suffered a pretty severe allergy attack and wasn’t really up to going much of anyplace or seeing much of anybody. But on her good days, we did get some touring and visiting in…here are some of the highlights during our stay in Mission Valley.

We managed to finally see Gloria when she and Rod came up from Tecate, Mexico to spend the day with us. After visiting around the campsite, we all decided to go a few miles down the valley to one of our favorite burger and beer joints…The Islands Restaurant.
Known for their specialty hamburgers and incredible seasoned fries, The Islands also features a variety of great beers on tap.

Established by two US Navy sailors that were stationed in Hawaii, The Islands has a distinctive tropical feel.

Kit and I had a great time reconnecting with Rod and Gloria and made tentative plans to host them at our Maine home later in the year.

When Kit was up to it, we took care of some family business, and then poked around the old neighborhood. Our childhood homes are still standing pretty much as they were when we left in June of 1965. Kit’s looked in a lot better shape than mine, which I believe has been a rental for a number of years.

My parents purchased this brand new home in the summer of 1957 for $12,500.00 ($111,011.57 in today’s dollars). Previously we were living a few blocks away in Cabrillo Navy housing so most every night, after dinner, mom, dad, brother Don, and I would walk over to see how progress was coming on our new home. Today that old flimsy track home is valued at $546.187.00! An example of the red hot Southern California real estate market!

After my dad bailed on the family, and my mom started working two jobs to ensure we didn’t lose the house, that place was my sanctuary…and the neighborhood hangout spot! The two-car garage, which never saw a car, would be the afterschool gathering place for myself, Kit, Rod, Billy, David, and Joanne. Below is a sketch I made in 1962 and used as a guide to draw a large mural on one wall of that garage.

I’ve often wondered if that mural still exists…what are the odds? One of these days, I’m going to knock on the door, and inquire!

In addition to painting the garage walls with beach scenes, we used the space to build and repair surfboards, move into and out of romantic relationships, build and ride skateboards, listen to Beach Boys music blaring from a portable record player and basically cause the prim and proper neighborhood folks to wonder what this new generation was coming to…fun times!

While out and about, Kit and I happened by a new lunch place and decided to give it a whirl.

The Grater Grilled Cheese specializes in the namesake sandwich. This high calorie comfort food we all grew up with has become high cuisine with the addition of a large election of meat and vegetable choices.

Who would have thought that the lowly old grilled cheese sandwich would be reinvented?! We thought the name was creative…or did they rip it off that political slogan: Make America Grate Again?

Kit and I spent one day visiting the National Veterans Memorial on top of La Jolla’s Mount Soledad.

This sacred spot contains memorial plaques with the names of many service members who have passed…most of them were Navy and Marine Corps, which one would expect in this Navy Town.

Mount Soledad is US Government property and the cross has adorned the summit since 1913. In the late 1980’s the cross was designated a National War Memorial, which gave it some exposure in the press…this resulted in a group of atheists, later joined by a Jewish organization, (yea, I know, strange bedfellows) to challenge the legality of a Christian Cross on Government property. They won their case in the United States Court of Appeals, and the government was faced with removing the cross under court order. Finally, after 25 years of litigation and controversy, some local folks banded together and raised over 1.5 million dollars to buy the 1/2 acre of land under the memorial from the government putting the issue to rest once and for all.

The views from 882-foot Mount Soledad, of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean beyond, are incredible.

As is the solemnness of this memorial to past military heroes.

Rest in Peace Brothers!

Since Kit was under the weather, and relished some peace and quiet, I took the opportunity to take an excursion to areas of the beach communities that we used to haunt…or, what I like to call: My Childhood Playground! The first stop was South Mission Beach.

Even though this is spring break season, the beach was lightly populated, probably since this area is mostly residential with few motels, bars, or restaurants.  However, that did not deter this Spring Breaker!

One can always tell the birds that are on spring break by their white legs.

Next stop, a short distance away, was Mission Bay.

My mother would take my brother and I, along with any other neighborhood kids that we could pile into the Family Truckster, to this bay for swimming, boating and a picnicking. We always pleaded for her to take us to the real ocean once in a while, but since mom was not a good swimmer, and since the Lifeguard Service was a lot smaller then, she was too afraid to tempt fate in water that occasionally developed a strong undertow.

I then drove north up Mission Beach Boulevard toward Belmont Park…this place was absolutely packed! There was zero parking anywhere near this local amusement park that sits on the shores of Mission Beach, so I just kept going toward my next destination…the village of Pacific Beach.

This was place was crowded with Spring Breakers as well, but just a few blocks off the beach I was able to find street parking in a residential area.

PB, as we used to call it, was our local surf spot back in the 1960’s as it was very close to where we lived, and usually could be counted on for acceptable waves…especially with an offshore wind.

The anchor for PB was Crystal Pier…

… privately owned by the same family since 1961, Crystal Pier is open daily to the public and features cottages for nightly rental along each side.

Took a stroll toward another childhood play area…Tourmaline Canyon.

Situated on the far end of the beach, just where the cove turns west, is a great surf break. Back in the day, it took a climb down a narrow trail to reach the rocky beach…nowadays, there is a road down to it with a parking lot and bathroom/shower facility…times change.

The last beach I wanted to check out was a short distance, as the crow flies, from these others…but since it was on the other side of the inlet for Mission Bay, I had to go inland a bit to access the bridge.

In addition to checking out how the beach area had changed, I wanted to grab a late lunch at an institution in the area…Hodad’s.

But when I arrived the line was down the block…thanks, Spring Breakers!

However, the silver lining was that today is the weekly farmers market, where the main drag is closed off and local farmers sell their wares.

There were several food trucks in attendance to capitalize on the increased foot traffic, one of which catered to those of us who like Filipino food! So, I took my beef meat sticks, lumpia, and chicken adobo down to the pier to enjoy the best native Filipino food since my stent in the Philippines!

A great day exploring the coastal areas of San Diego, and Kit really appreciated the peace and quiet in the bargain!

 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018: Departed Admiral Baker RV Park mid-morning for the 18-mile trek east to our next camping destination…Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve. So, why go to the trouble to move such a short distance? Well, one of us will soon celebrate a milestone birthday…and she wants to celebrate in her favorite campground, with her best friend from the old neighborhood who will be entering the 7th decade as well…on the same date!

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 through Tuesday, April 10, 2013-Santee, California: Kit and Joanne have been best of friends since junior high school days.

However, they lost track of each other for about 50 years, until a FaceBook search reconnected them in 2016.

A lot has transpired in their lives over that period of separation…including JoAnne’s bout with some very serious health issues. But now that they have reconnected, both of them are making up for lost time!

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is a municipal recreation and camping facility run by the Padre Dam Water District. Back in the mid 1950’s, the local water district began researching ways to effectively treat wastewater for reuse. In 1961 a seven-step wastewater treatment facility opened, and the output was sent down via a surface stream to the newly constructed Santee Lakes impoundment. Today the treatment plant is capable of processing over 2,000,000 gallons of wastewater a day into fresh water that is approved for recreation uses.

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve consists of 7 lakes with fishing, picnicking, paddle-craft boating, bicycling, and camping available.

And a mecca for aquatic birds.

Since Kit and JoAnne wanted to spend their joint birthday’s together, and since Kit wanted to be at Santee Lakes for this major milestone event, I booked our reservation back in November 2017, so we would be assured of a site in her preferred “deluxe” section of the park.

JoAnne, and her husband Ron, were able to score a spot as well and parked their rig a few doors down from us.

And, as a pleasant surprise, JoAnne noticed that hidden around their campsite were a clutch of the famous Santee Rocks!

These works of art with information on the bottom as to date and origin, have been an outdoor pastime in this area for a few years…it’s always fun to discover a Santee Rock.

Before we got to the date of the Kit and JoAnne milestone…there was a lesser birthday to celebrate at a local Mexican Restaurant. Even though I knew that our meeting up with JoAnne and Ron was to recognize my 71st birthday…

…I was totally unprepared for them to cover our bill, and, as an added bonus, they had snuck a cake into the place!

After a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, that the entire restaurant joined in on, we enjoyed the dessert before heading back to the campground. Thanks folks, for a great birthday surprise!

As mentioned, there are various paddle-craft to rent at Santee Lakes…some of which are peddle boats.

One afternoon, Kit and I decided to walk down and rent one for an hour. After a brief indoctrination, it was off we went.

There are numerous manmade islands that dot the lakes, and we circumnavigated all but one…being the island where Mother Goose was protecting her fledglings from any and all intruders.

The boat was interesting to propel…having bicycle like pedals it was pretty simple, but not having any way to adjust the seats I was forced to pedal from an unnatural and uncomfortable position. However, it was only an hour and we had fun on the water nonetheless!

Kit and I spent a few enjoyable afternoons at JoAnne and Ron’s place a short distance away. In addition of walking down memory lane to the era of 1960’s San Diego, JoAnne shared information about her father’s military career during WWII and his war souvenir.

Serving on a US Navy warship in the Pacific, he was assigned as a member of a landing party that went ashore moments after VJ day. Reportedly, the locals were very happy to see them, and most of the Japanese military had left their weapons and gone home…so there were plenty of these Arisaka rifles…enough for most every member of the crew.

One of our favorite breakfast joints is The Omelet Factory…where we met Ron and JoAnne on three separate occasions! The food is incredible, and the portions are substantial!

On one of these visits, they invited some friends to join us.

From the left; Ron, JoAnne #2, JoAnne #1, Paul, Gavin, and Kit. Paul was a retired Navy guy, so we had a lot to talk about…great meeting you folks!

Then, the BIG DAY arrived and was kicked off with a toast to the honored septuagenarian’s! Yep, these two wonderful ladies turn a very youthful 70 year’s old!

Then there was the exchanging of gifts…

…including this very nice ring that JoAnne gave to Kit.

As nice a gift that it was, the symbolism of the ring overshadowed the gift itself…you see, JoAnne had worn that ring for many years until her debilitating illness prevented her from continuing to enjoy it. What a magnificent and loving gift from one friend to another!

The meal was catered by Blundering Bill’s Babes, Beer and Barbeque of Brunswick…

…with all the fixings…

…also cocktails and this Rack of Cerveza provided by a secret admirer.

All this was followed by an appropriate dessert from Nothing Bundt Cakes!

Which resulted in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday sang in four-part disharmony by the assembled guests.

Happy Birthday Kit and JoAnne, love you both!

A side note…there has been a tradition that Kit and I have fallen into for the birthday boy or girl to choose how to spend their special day. Kit’s wish was to spend it with JoAnne here at Santee Lakes…and my choice was to spend my day in Del Mar attending the Goodguys National Car Show. Since our stay here has more to do with Kit and Jo’s birthday, and since I’ll likely run over my self-imposed word limit, I’ve decided to defer writing about the sights and sounds of this national event put on by the world’s largest hotrod and custom car association to an upcoming issue…Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: Such a nice way to spend our 70th Birthday! Since JoAnne and I had lost contact with each other for 50+ years, it seems only fitting that we spend as much time as we can together to get caught up on how our lives have turned out. And, spending our 70th Birthday together was exactly what I wanted. We still have lots and lots of things to share about our 50 years but, I think we both expect to be able to get together as frequently as we can in the future to “catch up”! Thank you, JoAnne and Ron for sharing our birthday! Love you both!

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #11

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Never go too long without watching a sunset.
Atticus

Monday, March 12, 2018: This morning we depart Catalina State Park and head toward the coast…looking forward to visiting our childhood hometown of San Diego, but we are going to miss the desert and its incredible sunsets.

OK, full disclosure…I did not take this photo. It was lifted from the National Park Facebook page, profiling Tucson’s Saguaro National Park. However, it does represent sunsets in the region we camped, and I really like the image…so, sue me!

Departed the state park at 0900 hours and made our way through the Catalina Mountain foothills toward Interstate 10.

Cruising along the turnpike, we decided that since we departed before breakfast, and since a Cracker Barrell Restaurant was tantalizingly close, we could afford a stop and treat ourselves to a big country breakfast!

The place wasn’t very busy so our very efficient and friendly waitress, spent some time visiting with us. We noticed as she talked she was writing something on the back of our guest check, then left it on the table.

I flagged her down to compliment her on the neat desert themed doodle, and learned she was a double college major…one of them being art!

Returning to the camper Kit and I smiled when we noticed our camper had company…an old school bus that had been converted into a motorhome…

… pretty neat!

Back on the road, we quickly intersected Interstate 8 and made tracks for our traditional in-transit overnight camping opportunity at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in the middle of nowhere. This spot offers an inexpensive, bare bones, military campground, that we’ve profiled many times before in our journals.

Checked in, hooked up, enjoyed a meal and drinks, until the setting sun reflected off the side of our camper.

Goodnight!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018: Up to cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 80’s. Broke camp and headed toward Yuma to meet up with some long time RV’ing friends.

John Roger and Karen live in Bend, Oregon but winter over on BLM land outside Yuma. It was great meeting up with them and sharing stories of our lives over this past year.

Back on I-8 we meandered westerly until reaching the town of El Centro, California where we plan to spend a few days taking care of laundry and other chores. Pulling into the local Naval Air Facility RV park we noticed a number of open sites, unusual for this time of the year. Apparently, the mild winter in the Northeast encouraged many snowbirds to head home early.

Following dinner, and a cocktail, we sat outside as the setting sun bounced off some low hanging clouds.

Goodnight!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018-El Centro, California: Only planned to spend one night here, but a windstorm kept us pinned down today…a great day to stay indoors, get in some reading and journal writing, and basically just veg out!

Around 0800 hours, the wind was clocked at 40 MPH and the gusts exceeded 55 MPH!!

Yikes! Guess we made the right decision…not a good day to be on the road in a high-profile vehicle!

I disconnected our truck from the trailer, so we could get in some shopping and refill a depleted propane tank. With the strong winds, the nearby farm fields were losing a bit of their soil.

It looks like there will be a lull in the storm early tomorrow morning, so I reattached the truck and camper, disconnected all the utilities except power, and basically prepared for an early departure.

Thursday, March 15, 2018: On the road at 0705 hours under hazy skies and brisk winds.

Found our way to I-8 and headed west toward the Cuyamaca Mountains. The wind was predicted to increase from the southwest, accompanied by a rain squall, as a cold front came through. This portion of Interstate 8 can be very hazardous in high winds, and even more so if the roadway is wet. We figured that there was a fairly narrow weather window of opportunity to navigate the mountain highway, so we didn’t dally.

As I drove with both hands on the wheel, Kit was able to snap a photo with her iPhone of the sunlit highway and the rain clouds beyond…she even captured a rainbow that stretched from horizon to horizon!

What a great shot!!

We were actually making too good of time, and there was a concern that we may encounter very high winds and heavy rains at the summit. So, I reduced speed, put on the four-way-flashers, and crawled up the steep mountainside along with about a half dozen long haul truckers. The scheme worked, as we came to our offramp at the small town of Boulevard with minimal buffeting and only a few sprinkles.

Once leaving the interstate and heading south, we were in the lee of the mountains and the wind abated. At around 0930, Kit and I pulled into the village of Potrero, California and found our way to its namesake state park.

Then all heck broke loose…wind, rain, and a bit of surface flooding! So much so, that I didn’t bother to set up for our stay but rode out the storm from the safe and dry confines of our camper.

It rained throughout the afternoon, so we just sat inside, read, enjoyed dinner, and turned in early…goodnight.

Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17, 2018-Potrero State Park: Woke to a beautiful morning in one of our favorite county parks.

The rain stopped during the night, and the sunshine was quickly drying everything out. I was able to disconnect the rig and connect the utilities.

Potrero, California is in the Mountain Empire region of Southeast San Diego County and at 2,336 feet in elevation, the vegetation is lusher then in the coastal areas to the west. A rural and peaceful community, Potrero was embroiled in controversy a number of years ago when the quasi-military firm, Blackwater USA, of Bagdad atrocities fame, applied to purchase land and were approved to establish a weapons training facility for its employees…much to the displeasure of the locals. As a result, the citizens of Potrero launched a recall campaign that forced all five members of the local planning board out of office, and the Blackwater training facility was cancelled.

The park was lightly populated for a nice California weekend, so we were able to select a private and roomy site.

I love walking in the woods after a heavy rain…everything smells so fresh and the pungent odor of the vegetation is intoxicating. So, while Kit relaxed at camp, I struck out on one of the many trails that honeycomb the park.

All along the trail, I kept noticing these bushes covered with unique looking flower buds.

Not sure what they are, but the fragrance was incredible!

The walk was only a few miles long, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting out in the refreshing mountain air!

Our high school friend, Rod and his wife Gloria, live a few miles away in Tecate, Mexico. Gloria has just lost her 102-year-old mother a month ago. We met Minga on one of our earlier trips south of the border and found her to be a delightful woman.

So sorry for your loss, Gloria.

We invited Rod and Gloria to a barbeque at our campsite, but Gloria was battling a cold and wasn’t up to attending…however Rod did slip across the border for a few hours to join us.

After, a nice steak meal, we sat around enjoying a few beers and reminiscing about old times in the old neighborhood…and our various shenanigans to ditch school and go surfing. It was a much simpler time in 1960’s San Diego…the school officials let kids get away with some things, especially heading to the beach if the surf was up, because many of the teachers enjoyed the sport as well.

Speaking of sport, the winds were favorable coming across a large grassy field in the park, so I was able to introduce Rod to the sport of high performance kite flying! We started him out with a 1.5-meter parafoil kite which he was able to figure out in short order.

Then transitioned to one of the delta kite’s.

Which gave Rod a bit more trouble, however he figured out the basic maneuvers on that one as well! You may notice the two kite strings, known as a line-set, attached to the kite. Those allow the flyer to control the direction and speed of the kite and facilitate a number of aerial tricks. Rod seemed to have a great time flying the kites, and a few days later texted me that he had ordered a foil kite for himself…another kite flyer is born!

Sunday, March 18, 2018: Kit and I departed Potrero County park at noon and wound our way west on California Highway 94.

This narrow, winding road with little traffic is a prime magnet for sport bike riders to test their mettle. Piloting a large cumbersome vehicle as I do, I’m constantly aware of fellow travelers that I may be holding up and pull over to let others pass when it is safe to do so. Most wait patiently, but some tempt fate by passing when the road ahead is obstructed. Sadly, a few riders have met their demise on this stretch of road over the years.

We navigated through Imperial Beach and turned north up CA-75 toward the City of Coronado, and our destination for the next few days…Fiddlers Cove Marina and RV Park.

This is one of our favorite military RV parks in the system…it is also very popular with folks that reside near this Navy community, and therefore difficult to get into. Some campers reserve a year in advance, but that’s not our style, so we just call periodically and hope to score a site from a cancellation…as we did this time!

In addition to great RV sites, a large fleet of watercraft to rent, and close proximity to the resort city of Coronado, the park is situated to enjoy some very nice sunsets!

So, with cocktails in hand, we bid you all a goodnight!

Monday, March 19, through Saturday, March 24, 2018-Fiddelers Cove, Coronado, California: Kit and I have decided to use our six day stay in this area as our ‘vacation” from being on the road…seems odd that retirees would need a vacation, but we have learned that occasionally we need time to relax, recreate, and otherwise goof off.

We did enjoy a few meals in town, but for the most part, we cooked at the camper…illustrated by this fine breakfast made by Kit.

Which was even more enjoyable since we had views like this from our dining room table.

There are two rows of RV sites in the park, and even though a view can be enjoyed from any of the spots, the waterfront sites are the best…

…and that’s where we were!

There is a walking and biking path that goes by the RV park and leads right into Coronado, which is about 2 miles to the north.

Kit and I left early one morning and walked that path to town.

Along Glorietta Bay, there are vast lawns, picnic shelters, boat ramps, marinas, and a municipal boathouse that rents paddle and sail craft.

The landscaping is first rate, and at this point in the year there were many flowers blooming, such as the Bird of Paradise.

A new sculpture has been installed on the waterfront honoring the US Navy’s UDT and the Seals.

The card hanging around the statues neck has two numbers written on it…the top number notes the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALS) class in session, and the bottom signifiers the number of students that have been dropped from that class. The drop statistics are updated frequently as the failure rate from BUD/S is near 80%.

Near the small boat launch I came across a young man unloading this piece of equipment.

Made by L3 Corporation, it is an autonomous submersible that can be programed by computer to dive to the sea floor and map contours…pretty neat!

While walking about downtown, we made a pilgrimage to the scene of our nuptials.

Almost 53 years ago, in this very building, Kit and I were married!

After a nice meal in our favorite Coronado Mexican Restaurant, we walked back to the RV park tired but pleased that we had a great day while amassing over 17,000 steps on our fitness app!

Being on the coast, the beach just south of the RV park is excellent for kite flying, so I spent a few days doing just that!

That kite is fairly large at 2.5 meters and the tail is 75 feet long! Had a great time in the sunshine on a secluded beach flying…and Kit equally liked the peace and quiet back at the camper!

Kit and I enjoyed a really nice vacation, but as we sat outside, watching the sun set over the RV park, we came to the realization it’s time to get back to the business of being a traveling retiree.

Goodnight!

Stay tuned for more of Bill and Kit’s adventures in their ancesteral hometown!

Kit’s Bit’s: I’ve decided that Potrero County Park and Fiddler’s Cove are my favorite parks while in San Diego. Potrero because it’s so remote and during the time of year we are there, it has very few campers. And, Fiddler’s Cove because it was where we got married and from the park, we can walk in to town for the day and, there are always cool breezes off the water. Plus, it’s nice to see the Coronado Bridge all lit up at night. It was not there when we got married in 1965, we had to ride the ferry to Coronado. The bridge was built in 1969.

And here is a night shot from our campsite across the marina with the Coronado bridge in the distance.

Looks like a string of pearls!

Bill