Tuesday, April 18, 2017

From newyorker.com: #Vanlife

This is a long, but entertaining article about #Vanlife and a couple's connection to work, life and social media on the road. Great piece.

h/t Nancy

Friday, April 14, 2017

Back to the Journey of Everyday Life

While driving home on the final leg of this road trip, I came across a good read about happiness. The ages 23 and 69 were cited as the happiest. Both the blogson and husband are presently those ages. I fully subscribe to the 10 points illustrated in this piece:

Revealed: The two surprising ages when we're at our HAPPIEST (and why it's bad news if you're in your middle years)

Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences have identified 23 and 69 as the happiest ages in adult life, but discovered satisfaction dips in middle age.

Read full story

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Paynes Prairie State Park

Ah yes! Back to nature. Nature really does have a way of soothing the soul. What better way to spend Holy Thursday than surrounded by the beautiful blessings found only in nature? The Florida state parks continue to impress us.

My sister, Mary Ann, would fondly refer to her new home in low country SC as Jurassic Park. The lush overgrown flora; the abundant, scary and diverse creatures; crocs and gators that look like dinosaurs; camouflaged snakes galore are all reminders for me of Jurassic Park in FL.

But I love it all! It's a thrill and adventure to explore this amazing sunshine state. Here are some final shots of this trip and scenes from hiking and biking in Paynes Prairie State Park on Thursday. Bringing it home tomorrow.

Thanks for following along. Happy Easter!🐣

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Campsite Food Delivery

After our bike ride and hike around lower Sherando Lake, I enjoyed the picture-perfect Tuesday from my screened-in bed. Stomach pains and headaches had me in and out of slumber most of the afternoon and through the night.

We hit the road early Wednesday and had an uneventful journey to SC. We were hoping to meet big sis, Mar, for dinner but had trouble getting a mutually convenient campsite.

The KOAs are a last resort for me. They always seem like parking lots...campers right on top of each other. I particularly dislike campgrounds that allow long-term tenants, too. Kinda creeps me out. We had to settle for South Point KOA in Yemassee SC. The good news is that they have pizza and chicken wings and will deliver to your campsite!

A new road trip adventure and test for my queasy belly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NJ to VA

Monday morning is a bear when school and work are on the agenda. Luckily, we don't really have that angst anymore. Mondays just remind us of how much we ate and drank all weekend long.

We said our good-byes during the hustle of the morning. With a freezer full of NJ bagels, we started our journey south. The traffic was much lighter than a week ago heading north. We were in VA in no time at all.

We plotted Sherando Lakes Campground on the GPS and made our way through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests outside of Charlottesville. It is the most beautiful campground we have visited in our camper van. National parks really are the best.

There is limited internet, but I did take advantage of this 4G moment after our hike and bike ride Tuesday morning.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday in the Park

The fun continues in Bergen County with a visit to the Saddle River wild duck park. The boys had their scooters and we had Solo. Everyone enjoyed the spring colors and scents around the lake.

An afternoon nap refreshed the young ones and we made our way to Ally's friends' Shaina and Eric's house for a backyard visit. The kids ran around while we sipped wine and watched the Masters golf.

It was Chinese carry-out and a backyard fire back at Ally's for the last hoorah. The kids were exhausted and so were we!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Family Egg Hunt and Filet with Friends

We rolled into the Crestwood Lake parking lot moments before the scream of the starting whistle. Every kid in the north Jersey suburb was eagerly awaiting the shrill approval for a chaotic dash into a field of Easter candy.

Our little guys were happy to see GramKat, Papa and Solo. They collected some candy and we were happy to get out of the brisk morning air and into the warmth of their sweet home.

Ally and I made a tenderloin filet dinner feast for long-time friends Patty and Mike. A good day of fun and, of course, food, family and friends.

Gyros and Sake

After the teens went to school, the grown ups went out for breakfast at Edie's diner before starting the days' errands. Greek Eats was a inspiration at lunch. Fresh, fast, healthy Greek food could be a great business model for a Florida venture.

We reconvened for Friday dinner at the fabulous, family fave, Yumi Japanese restaurant in Sea Bright on the shore. Chris treated us to a memorable Sake to compliment the terrific food.

Back at home, Alexis got us into West Side Story on the TV before bed.

Bill made the traditional NJ bagel run on Saturday morning before our departure up the Garden State Parkway to Ally's.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Selfie with Teens

Our last night of camping on the way up to NJ was in Pine Grove PA. After bison burgers on the grill, our campsite neighbors joined us for a fireside chat. Gui and Maggie were heading home to Canada in an enormous RV and trailer. We had a lively conversation and shared a love for SWFL. Their seasonal home is right over the bridge from ours. Small world.

It was a tedious three hour hour ride in pouring rain. Finally in NJ, Kristy and Chris and the kids welcomed us with a fabulous dinner feast and wine pairing. We love seeing everyone and the kids are as sweet as can be.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

FL Sunshine Every Damn Day is Boring

It takes a road trip to fully appreciate diversity in weather and road conditions. It's 42 degrees, raining and chock full of potholes on our morning drive through PA.

Looking to the bright side, these April showers are going to make for a beautiful return trip. Spring flora! 🌸

The Modern Jiffy Pop

Remember the old tin foil pans filled with corn and oil for popping around the campfire? Jiffy Pop is probably pretty unhealthy by today's standards. Bill found this silicone popper on Amazon. It's perfect for the camper van but not nearly as much fun to watch. Nothing like the anticipation of that foil bubble growing and the explosion of kernels to follow.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

All We Have Is Time

When we took off for this trip to NJ, we had two weeks to invest in travel. Considerations for sightseeing and extended stays included Smokey Mountain National Park, Asheville NC, Helen GA and SC coastal areas. Instead, we opted to drive our usual route up north but for only 4-5 hours a day; allowing us to enjoy an afternoon of camp wherever the road takes us in route.

Getting there IS half the fun!

The picture is my view out the camper van window from bed Wednesday morning at National Bridge VA.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Marshmallows and Bailey's

We woke to clear, dry skies in Columbia on Tuesday morning. The beautiful morning at camp revealed all the spring buds and cherry blossoms of the forest. After another leisurely start to the travel day, we were back on the highway at 9:30am.

Getting through D.C. is always first and foremost in the route decision and, again, we went with avoidance. With that, we meandered westerly through the hillsides of NC and Virginia before settling into camp at Natural Bridge, VA.

It's fun to get on the dinner prep early and enjoy the late afternoon with snacks with a beer. Our feast included lemon marinated grilled chicken, puréed cauliflower, steamed green beans and dilly coleslaw.

With the drought concerns in the southern states, it's nice to have a campfire again. We celebrated with toasted marshmallows and Bailey's on the rocks for dessert!

Such a lovely season to take a road trip.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sesquicentennial State Park, Columbia SC

It was a big day driving on I-95N out of Jacksonville. All the snowbirds seem to be heading up and a band of weather followed us through several states. Rather than press on in heavy traffic and heavy rain, we pulled off the road short of our intended destination. 

There were plenty of options for hunkering down in the Columbia, SC area. We chose Sesquicentennial State Park; a 1,400 acre nature preserve and pine forest, which offers camping, hiking, biking trails and water activities around a 30 acre lake. 

While keeping a close eye on the thunderstorms in the area, we plugged into our cozy little world of the Airstream. 

Eat Play Love

The Ponte Vedra gateway to love and fun is always a favorite stop on our adventures. The family visits fill our hearts with joy.

Steph and Dewayne were welcoming hosts and nourished us in plenty of ways. Between a group bike trip to town center, a mini-binge on "Big Little Lies," steak tacos, cold brew, cold brews, Armada soccer games, a rousing game of Clue and shrimp on the barbie, we were indeed nourished.

The little snippets of life with kids and grandkids make for the best adventures on life's little road trip.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Weird Ass Wildlife in Florida

There are some seriously disturbing creatures in Florida. While camping at Lake Kissimmee State Park, I totally shrugged off the wanted-dead-or-alive-like posters alerting campers with a larger-than-life picture of a poisonous caterpillar lurking in the grounds. Meh. Me no worry.

Hours after my departure from the wilderness, while parked in the suburbs of Jacksonville, puttering around in the Airstream, I was startled to spot a slithering caterpillar in my galley. EW! Bill rescued me from death and removed the creature from my counter. Then, while getting ready for bed...ANOTHER CATERPILLAR SIGHTING on the wall in the camper! OH NO!

Thoughts of being eaten alive by poisonous caterpillars in my sleep kept me wide-eyed for a good part of the night.

UGH. I miss the younger, fearless adventurer I used to be.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lake Kissimmee State Park

The last day of March was a perfect time to hit the road again in our camper van. After a slow start in the morning, recuperating from the ICC Wine Club dinner extravaganza, we pulled out at 2:30pm.

Deciding to go off the Interstate, we took took an adventurous route and ended up at out-of-the-way, but absolutely beautiful, Lake Kissimmee State Park. Luckily, they had the best camp site in the park available for us. It was private and lush. One could only imagine the wildlife lurking in the heavy growth.

After spaghetti dinner at camp, we tried to find the lake, but we were too tired for an extended hike. Reading in bed was more like it.

Lake Kissimmee is now one of our favorite FL parks and definitely worth the extra mile detour.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Extended Weekend in Key Largo

Campsite cocktails
The Airstream was calling us for an adventure. Bill was able to get reservations at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park so we planned a dive trip to Key Largo in mid-March. Will was also on board. With pup tent and dive gear packed in the camper van, we were transported to another world in less than three hours.

The boys had four great dives. I had a relaxing time at camp with Solo while they were away. We had some good meals at camp and a few on the town. The Fish House, Encore and Hobo's Cafe were all excellent.

Rainy morning with devices

A couple of Will's friends came down for some spring break fun and found a hotel room nearby. Will Ubered out two nights after dinner to check out the scene with his friends.

A downpour at 5am on Sunday caught Will without the fly and soaked his tent inside and out. The downpour and resulting drama made for a lovely, lazy, memorable, cozy family coffee clutch in the camper. After pancakes at camp, the sun fully returned and we headed south for Islamorada to enjoy some microbrew beer flights.

Florida Keys Brewery
Will took off after a crazy lunch at Hobo's Cafe. Bill and I lazed around camp on our final night and binged-watched "Mozart in the Jungle." (I pretty much only watch TV in the camper; rarely at home). We took our time packing up in the morning and stopped for a final meal at Hiddenout Restaurant. Lots of laughs and a very nice family getaway.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fun Finale

Usually, on the way home from a road trip, we get into the must-get-home-ASAP mode. Thursday was different, however. Bill had a conference call at 10am, so we lingered around camp and enjoyed a slow morning with nature. We arranged to meet vacationing sister, Nancy and Terry, and blogson Will for lunch. At 2:15pm we pulled into a mutually convenient location in Bonita Springs, Doug's Seafood, and enjoyed a family reunion but not the disappointing meal. We sat in the RV and had a couple of beers in the parking lot (losers) before the last push home.
It was a good trip. We crossed the 10,000 mile mark. That's a lot of miles in 6 months. For the first time, we returned home with no major repair issues to take up with the dealer. Perhaps we have worked out all the RV kinks. 

The Airstream has been a fun mode of travel. We enhanced our overall experience with a major improvement: the RV Superbag. The Airstream bed is really comfy, but it was difficult and time consuming to make up every night because the mattress pad wouldn't stay put. There's no room under the bed for which the corners to adhere. The sheets get all bunched up as a result and the bed becomes lumpy with bedding. Bill discovered a solution: the RV Superbag. For what it is, I thought it was a little pricey, but after this trip, it's worth every penny. It's a custom made comforter on the bottom and another one on top with velcro sheets that attach to the comforters. There are three different weights: summer, winter and tropical. We used the winter weight on the bottom for extra cushioning and the summer on top for this trip. So easy and super comfy. The bag zips up for storage on three sides leaving the top open. It just lays on top of the bed and everything stays put. Nice addition.

It's always good to be home. Tune in soon for more adventures!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hillsborough River State Park

Our last night on this fun little getaway was just north of Tampa as we worked our way home. We packed up camp in Destin and were on the road at 8am Wednesday. Who knew the Panhandle was in the central time zone? It's a big state and we drove over six hours with a little over three to go.

We booked the last campsite at Hillsborough online and we're happy to have a spot, but it is our least favorite park so far. It's old with lots of mature foliage, which is very pretty but that makes it dark. The sites are crammed in next to each other like a parking lot. No space between neighbors. Oh well, it's just one night. We heated our fabulous dinner leftovers on the campfire and tucked in early.

Our campsite is very close to the river and we came upon this big guy while walking Solo. See the gator on the bank next to the tree?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Really Glamping

It was a half mile walk from our campsite, so we saved an Uber fare and made dinner reservations at the Henderson Inn Beachwalk Café. The restaurant next door to the state park was rated #1 in Destin on TripAdvisor. With sunset cocktails in hand and a flashlight in my bag, we ventured along the Emerald Coast. The emerald color of the water was really apparent in the setting sun.

We had an amazing dinner and bottle of wine while taking in the beautiful waterfront setting. The flashlight came in handy as we walked along the dark and empty beach back to camp. The stars were out but there was no moon to shed light our journey. It was a fun night hike and spectacular evening all around!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Bugs but Plenty of Other Air Traffic

This weather is so perfect! Severe clear sky, bright sunshine and temps in the 60s. The best part of it all is the fresh air in the van with the door wide open. No worries about bugs getting in our space because there are no bugs. Perhaps the stormy weather blew them away or it's just the way it is here in Destin FL in January.

There is no mistaking the presence of a nearby Air Force base, however. I'm not sure what's with all the training missions, but it is a very active area. The roar of fighter jets, carrier planes, helicopters...sonic booms and g-force rumbles deep inside the inner ear are plentiful here on the Emerald Coast. Bill is totally enjoying the sights and sounds overhead.

Coffee in Bed

It's a bright, sunny, brisk 49 degrees this morning. The heater is on and we're reading the news feeds and blogging on our devices. Solo's curled up in a ball.

Yesterday was almost too windy to play outside so we rode the bikes a couple miles to Destin Commons, another top attraction in the area. There we took in a matinee: La La Land. It was cute. Back at camp we made chicken wings on the barbie with another show-stealer side: creamy polenta. So good! The new Instapot has been useful in the RV.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Henderson Beach State Park

According to TripAdvisor, Henderson Beach State Park is the number one attraction in Destin. We were lucky enough to get a campsite here for three nights. This is our third FL State Park and equally impressive as Anastasia in St. Augustine and our first foray with the RV at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. Each park is on water, clean, private, offers nice amenities and is a bike ride away from commercial activity.

We made a fire after we set up camp at 3pm and started drinking earlier than usual (haha) after the anxious ride and tedious conditions. Luck and timing were on our side as predictions of the continued severe weather in the Panhandle were unfounded. Apparently, 14 people died from the storms that blew through the area.

With gratitude, we enjoyed our cocktails around the warmth and comfort of the campfire. The fire provided the perfect heat for slow roasted, caramelized Brussels sprouts, which stole the show at dinner. With sleeping weather in the 50s we were out like babies.

Feeling rested and content after a morning hike with Solo, we're off to further exploration!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Eglin Air Force Base Beach

The stormy skies opened up to sandy seas. We arrived on the Emerald Coast safely. This beautiful country amazes me with stunning new sights around every bend.

Adventure in Travels

"Getting there is half the fun," travelers like to say. Life on the road is filled with adventures and that's what makes RV travel so exciting. We left St. Augustine this morning for the next leg of our journey: the FL Panhandle. The severe weather that has passed through the south over the last 12-18 hours is definitely a factor as we head west on I-10. Tornado and thunderstorm warnings are currently in effect for this region as we navigate serious gusts of wind on the last 87 miles to Destin. It's a little scary, but we're in good hands; God is our co-pilot.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

30 Mile Reward

When you have protein shakes for breakfast then ride the bike 30 miles, you can have French fries covered in clam chowder, bacon and cheese for lunch. Whoa. We rode Anastasia Island from north to south on a gorgeous day. Lunch at the Sunset Grille was almost a guilt-free splurge.

Campsite Breakfast Dishes

It's a simple life of French pressed coffee and Isagenix protein shakes. Makes for easy clean up, too!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Long Walks on the Beach

Such a pretty area. Loving the surrounds. We're living a clean life of exercise and good campfire food while working in visits with the kids.

I had some drama with my phone yesterday. It fell through a crevice in the wall of the RV. It looked like a window sill but ... down it went.

We took the Airstream to a mechanic and his genius mind rigged up a tool, which was able to retrieve the phone. Brilliant work by this young man! He said no charge, just say something good on social media. I did; and I'm back in business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oldest Town USA

It's odd to think of how many times I have passed through St. Augustine and never once stopped to take in the civic and historical sites of the country's oldest town.

So, after a lazy morning, which included a nice nature trail hike with Solo, we mounted the bikes and headed out to highway A1A. While busy, the road was not as dangerous on the bikes as it may sound.

The first detour was the St. Augustine light house for a quick walk through the museum and grounds surrounding the site of the first light house established in FL.

We then crossed the Bridge of Lions from Anastasia Island to downtown St. Augustine. After a ride around the little streets surrounding the beautiful Flagler College campus, we stopped at Castillo de San Marcos: an impressive old fortress, now a national monument, in ruins on the Matanzas River.

We walked our bikes down the cobblestone village of boutiques and ice cream shops before heading back to our camp on Anastasia Island.