Smooth Sailing One Week After the Sale

It’s now been one week since we closed on our house and have been officially “house-less.”

To Mama’s relief and surprise, it truly has been smooth sailing.

The new owners have been in touch with us and met their new neighbors, who we love very much. As expected, they really like their neighbors and feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

Not a single tear has been shed, and there’s yet to be any feeling of sadness or regret felt by anyone.

Time and again the boys get excited that this is truly our home and that we’re doing something we never though we could…or would.

Despite it’s now May and the temperatures have climbed well into the 80s, only a handful of times have we turned on our air conditioner, simply because June has so many windows and is parked under the shade of a large oak tree, so we constantly have a steady cooling breeze blowing through the open windows and doors.

Just last week a new pair of volunteers moved in, so it’s no longer just us. It’s been nice to have another couple here again, both to chat with and share the duties. They’re very nice folks from Arizona.

The population of turkeys, squirrels, armadillos, and deer visiting the Village remains steady, and now we have a baby racoon that stops by nearly every night. The wren chicks in the nest on our site are being taken care of by the parents very nicely and are getting big quickly.

One day we even came across a very large yellow rat snake that had clearly just swallowed a meal that will probably keep it content for a few weeks!

We continue to learn new things and take part in more projects, and it’s been amazing. The only problem we foresee is that this park and its staff are so wonderful that they’ve raised the bar so high we’re concerned we may be disappointed anyplace we go after this!

Something else our boys love is that they are finally able to play in dirt. It’s not that we didn’t used to allow them to play in dirt before, but rather that our house was built on a mix of fill dirt and sand that they never had dirt in our yard. When it rained, no mud formed. When they tried to play in the yard, they had issues with ants nearly everywhere. They are positively thrilled to finally have dirt — and when it rains, mud — to play and dig around in.

That’s not really something we’d considered before. It’s one of those things you just take for granted, we suppose.

Now that we’re officially full-time RVers we’re making plans to redo the galley. We want to replace half of the dining area, get a new loveseat, and set up a better work station for Papa ‘Skiy. Ultimately, we’re going to make it more homey.

So yes, it’s safe to say it’s been smooth sailing since we sold the house. It’s gone better than we’d imagined it would, and we’re genuinely looking forward to what the future brings, no matter the wake.

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One Month As Workampers

It’s hard to believe that one month ago today we moved to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park and began our workamping position as camp hosts!

So much so that our boys still don’t quite believe us.

Fortunately, we moved into this position very smoothly and with ease because our house was located only thirty minutes from here, allowing us to spend some time at the preserve three times in two months before we actually began volunteering here. During our first week and a half we were guided and trained by a few of the volunteers that had been here since the previous season, so at no time were we ever uncomfortable and uneasy about anything. Not to mention each park ranger and staff member here is extremely helpful and accommodating, which was truly a blessing since we were still in limbo with trying to sell our house.

In the month we’ve been here, we’ve opened and closed the park, tidied sites and trails, picked up trash along the main road of the preserve as well as anyplace else we find it, and helped out with miscellaneous projects such as fetching some needed equipment during a controlled burn. Mama has been working at the visitor center at least one day every weekend and keeps the restrooms there clean. She also vacuums and empties the trash at the visitor center and cleans the administrative office, where the administrative assistant and three park rangers house their offices.

We are just entering the rainy season and will also begin mowing several of the frequented areas, such as the visitor center and parking locations. Mama was also informed that she and the boys will be able to assist the biologist here with an upcoming project with the scrub jays.

There’s work to be done here, but in no way is it stressful or redundant, and we — namely Mama — look forward to anything asked or expected of us.

In terms of wildlife, this place is teeming with it!

We’ve seen families of deer, including fawns still tiny enough to have spots and only about the size of cats, and every night we have to travel the road here carefully because more than a dozen will run out in front of your vehicle. The day we moved into our site a Carolina wren was building a nest in a hose box on the side of our well house, and the other day the four eggs that had since been laid in there hatched and we’ve been enjoying watching the wrens take turns feeding and caring for the chicks. We see turkeys daily, especially males strutting their stuff in an attempt to impress females, and the dozens of young squirrels playing tag together and jumping between the branches have not only entertained us but also our cat, Luna.

One evening D ‘Skiy was just about ready for bed and decided to lie down on one of the bench seats of our dinette, below an open window, with his eyes closed. Why? He was listening to crickets and whippoorwills. Then he declared the sounds here are better than any sound machine we’ve ever owned…and best of all they don’t require batteries or a plug! His words, not ours.

On top of that, we sold our house five days ago, and not once has Mama (or anybody else, for that matter) cried! Perhaps deep down we truly were meant to do this all along, but it also helps that Mama and one of the new owners (the mother/wife) also contacted her the day after closing and continues to communicate with her daily. Not only did they purchase (and love) our house, but now they’re also our friends. It doesn’t get much better than that!

So we’re one month in, and although we know things will pick up and get a little busier now, we’re not sure when — or if — we’ll set an end date to this journey. Yes, it’s still quite early in this expedition and new chapter, but time definitely flies when you’re doing something you truly enjoy down to your core.

Case in point: it’s already been a month?!

Already Ready For Full-Time RVing

We set a “launch date” of April 4th once we’d established when we could move down to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park to begin our camp hosting position.

But we simply couldn’t wait that long, and apparently we weren’t meant to wait!

We needed to finish getting June ready for us to live in her and empty out our house. However, the City of Palm Bay has strict rules against RVs parked in front of a house, even if it’s on your own property, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not in a deed-restricted community, which we are not. We do park June next to the house, where it’s permitted, but she has three slideouts and they can’t be pushed out enough to get the rig move-in ready.

The solution? Camping again!

We decided to book another trip to our favorite local campground, Wickham Park. This would allow us to pile stuff into our vehicles and open up the RV enough that we can pack and prep her appropriately. Plus we’d be close enough to the house and storage unit that we could run to either anytime we needed.

Now, we didn’t intend on not ever returning to the house for any other reason than to clean it out, open it up for inspectors, and so on. We’d planned on camping at Wickham from March 25th through the 30th and then head to Mama’s parents’ house for our regular family Easter weekend, after which we’d head back to the house for three more evenings before relocating to the Preserve and become permanent full-time RVers.

However, Mama’s maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away on the 26th after prolonged battles with some health issues, and on the 27th Mama’s parents were simultaneously diagnosed with Flu B and needed to be quarantined. Needless to say, our Easter weekend plans needed to change.

We’d considered just going back to the house until our camp hosting position began.

Then we thought about staying a Wickham Park a little longer, which was the preferred choice.

However, no camp sites were available on March 30th, although we could get a reservation at another site from March 31st through April 4th. So we booked that available site and decided we’d treat ourselves to a day at EPCOT after checking out Friday, staying at a different campground someplace in Orlando for the night of March 30th.

The park staff at Wickham kept informing us to call again and again to see if a cancellation had popped up for Friday because it was likely one of the resident Snow Birds would leave before their reservation was up, that way we could just stay. Between Mama and Papa, we checked more than a dozen times but had no luck.

Finally, an hour and a half before we were set to check out that Friday and head to Orlando, Papa called the park office one more time and suddenly their was an available site!

Needless to say, we took it and relocated. And to make it all the better, this site was not only available the night we needed it but also for the remainder of our stay!

(Oh, and we still made it to EPCOT that day.)

We were genuinely ready to just stay in our RV and return to the house only for necessities, although that was certainly not our original plan. Apparently it was in the stars for us to begin our full-time journey a little earlier than intended. This has also given us ample time to finish getting June move-in read.

We were supposed to officially launch April 4th. Our launch date became March 25th!

It’s official now: We’re a full-time RVing family!

There Are No Bullseyes Unless You Take a Shot

One of the holy grails of full-time RVing is being able to successfully clinch a workamping or campground host position at a park. But that can be a challenge if you don’t have any formal experience in either.

Case in point, we really want to give workamping/camp hosting a try. And we were intimidated by the thought that many others vie for such opportunities.

Others with experience.

However, you’ll never get the chance if you don’t get out there and apply.

In January Mama ‘Skiy decided to complete an online application with Florida State Parks for volunteer resident and campground host gigs.

It was a long shot, but she hit the mark.

On Monday — just a couple of weeks later — she received a phone call from a park ranger at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in Fellsmere, FL, only thirty minutes south of our sticks and bricks. The ranger said she saw her application and asked if she’d be available for a camp hosting position over the summer.

Too good to be true?!

Well, Mama said yes, so they made arrangements to meet the upcoming weekend.

Fast-forward to Saturday. Today. We all drove down to the park to meet with the ranger at 10am to learn more about the job and find out if we are a fit.

It’s safe to say that Mama’s jaws are still sore, she’s been grinning so much ever since!

We were taken on a guided tour of the 22,000+ acres of the preserve, to see where the full hookup resident circle is located, learn where the trail heads are and where they run, get an idea of the land, see the equipment that would be at her disposal, and so on.

And it was perfect!

After touring for more than an hour, we enthusiastically accepted the offer. We’ll begin sometime in April and will live there until possibly August or September.

Mama’s duties will include assisting with tagging and tracking various bird species, cleaning and clearing trails, opening and closing the park gates, helping out in the visitors center, and more.

Her commitment is only 20 hours of service per week, in exchange for us staying on-site at their private and gated full hookup resident camping circle.

This is not only yet another dream-come-true for Mama, who wished she could be a park ranger when she was a child. This is also an incredible volunteer and educational experience for D ‘Skiy and M ‘Skiy, who will be permitted to assist Mama when she works.

On top of that, one of the trails we drove on leads to a county swimming pool, and the huge C-54 canal that separates the north section of the preserve from the south can be fished and is inhabited by manatees.

It’s difficult to say who is most excited about this opportunity: Mama, Papa, the boys, or the ranger we met with today.

We took a chance. We have loads of RVing, traveling, and maintenance experience, but zilch as workampers or camp hosts.

This ranger was happy with what she read in the application, and she was even more enthused when we showed up to our — for lack of a better word — interview and we finally met face-to-face.

Honestly, this was a long shot. It’s no secret that most workampers and camp hosts are retired. We don’t fit the stereotype, but we certainly fit the bill.

Everything is falling in to place for us, and we’re so grateful and blessed.

And now, no matter when the house sells, we already know where we’ll be for the summer.

Bullseye.

A Year of June

A year ago we got our fifth wheel June and married her with our Ram 3500 truck Bertha.

And it’s been an amazing match!

In that time, she has been towed through 20 different states and has been camped in 17 different locations in 9 states. In all, she has been towed more than 9,000 miles already!

We have made a few small modifications to her during this time as well.

The first thing we did was upgrade the tires and rims! RV tires are poorly made, and RV rims barely support the GVWR of the RV they are put on to. On our last rig we experienced a blowout and another time the tread split but was caught before we got on any highways. Each were traditional trailer tires. Stay away from RV tires! Period! This time we went with truck tires, specifically Goodyear G614 RST. They are unisteel, regrooveable, American-made truck tires. And in all the miles we’ve traveled and all the temperature and terrain variations we’ve been through so far we’ve not had the first blowout, bulge, or tread issue whatsoever. We also upgraded from 13-inch trailer rims to 14-inch aluminum truck rims. Now we know our rims will be able to handle the weight of our rig and any rough roads we may encounter.

Inside, the first items changed were a couple of interior doors. We removed the solid doors that lead into the boys’ bunkhouse room and their half bathroom and replaced them with lightweight accordion doors. Doing this allows us to now utilize their bedroom and bathroom even when we are boondocked or the slideouts are in. It was a very inexpensive modification too, running less than $40 for both doors (purchased less expensive at a hardware store but also available online for convenience).

Then we added a chain hotel lock and alarm to the boys’ back door, which is on the opposing side of the rig and, despite that we love having two entrances/exits, we were concerned for the safety and security of our sons. Stock RV door locks are universal, meaning there are only a couple of handfuls of key-and-lock combinations for RV doors and locks and the chance that the neighbor in the campsite next to us could use their own key to unlock our RV door is very possible.

On that note, we also swapped out the lock and handle on the main entrance of June. We found a set of universal RV locks by RVLock that is keyed and has a numeric keypad. The deadbolt can be locked/unlocked with a key, personalized 4- to 8-digit code, or remote fob (choice of the user) and the handle can be locked/unlocked with the provided key. This is not a stock lock, so the likelihood that anyone in any campground being able to use their key to open our door is slim to none. This was not an inexpensive upgrade, but it’s more than worth the $250 we spent on it (and it’s gone down in price since then!).

Papa worked (and will work) out of the rig, but the builtin desktop in the master bedroom wasn’t large enough for what he needed. So we installed an Ikea wall-mounted drop-leaf tabletop/desktop on the wall across from the foot of the bed. When it is folded down it doesn’t obstruct the walking space in the bedroom at all. When it is propped up, Papa sits at a chair at the foot of the bed and is able to comfortably do his work in the quiet privacy of the master bedroom. This has worked out so well!

Possibly Mama’s favorite addition to our RVing lifestyle are the washer and dryer that we’ve purchased. This is our first RV with a space and hookup for a washing machine and/or dryer. However, full RV washers, dryers, and washer/dryer combos are extremely heavy and expensive. After a lot of research, we decided to save a lot of weight and money and go with the compact Manatee washing machine with pump and spin-dry, as well as the Tidalpool portable UV clothes dryer. This setup has saved us so much time and money!

The washing machine is very lightweight and works remarkably well. When we first started using it we set it up next to the kitchen sink in the galley, so there was a water source and a way to drain the water from the tubs, and only stored it in the closet intended for a washing machine when we were traveling. Then papa was able to set it up so the washer actually stays in the closet with the washing machine hookups, where there are cold and hot water spigots and a location for draining. Clothes — everything from delicates and shirts to linens and snow suits — are washed in the tub on the left. The water is then drained and the clothes are relocated to the spin-dry tub on the right. In this tub we rinse the clothes, spin it again with either liquid laundry detergent or distilled white vinegar, and then spin-rinse/dry again. The tub doesn’t dry completely, but it is so powerful that the clothes are barely damp and then dry quickly.

The dryer folds up and packs away into a duffel bag. When it’s assembled it stands tall and the clothes are hung on it to dry. When the clothes are hung up then a bag is placed around them and the unit is turned on to the desired length of drying time. A full load of clothes can dry in 1- to 1.5-hours, depending on the thickness of the material of the clothes, and the final half-hour of the drying cycle is when the UV lamp kicks on, which then sanitizes the clothes. We have used it set up in the galley, under a vent in the roof (to our surprise, it didn’t heat up the rig!), but we have also set it up outside, between the main entrance and the exterior wall of the boys’ bunkhouse slideout.

Could we simply use laundry rooms at campgrounds? Sure…if they’re provided or available. However, a full day can easily be used up that way too, and it’s not at all sanitary. You can’t just leave the clothes in the laundry room, so you would need to stick around and wait for the loads to be finished, so you are there when they’re finished and other people don’t walk off with anything. The dryers don’t heat up enough to kill off germs, so viral and fecal germs from the clothes of others can and will end up on  your own clothes! And let’s face it, laundromats — whether they’re elsewhere or at campgrounds — are pricey and it adds up quickly. With our setup, we can wash and dry in our own RV, without concern, and we save a ton of money: we paid less than $300 for both units, combined they weight less than 35 pounds, and convenience just goes without saying.

Another modification we made to June is the spare-tire location. By default the spare-tire carrier was located on the back bumper of the RV. However, we use the bumper for carrying our family’s bicycles. On our previous rig (the Coach) we had installed a spare-tire carrier that attaches to the frame of the rig and is located under the belly. A few months ago we finally installed this on June. Up until then, we kept the spare tire in the huge pass-through of June, but that took up so much space that could have otherwise been used for tools, camping supplies, and items for the boys. Now we have more space in our pass-through and the spare tire is conveniently located under the rig. We’ve also put our portable waste tank on the carrier as well.

Overall, the best interior modification we’ve made to the rig is extending the depth of the boys’ top bunk. Most bunk beds in RVs are narrower than twin beds. The bottom bunk is twin size, but the top bunk is narrower. The top is narrower than the bottom so the person on the bottom bunk doesn’t risk bumping his head on the top bunk. However, that was not a concern for us. Rather, we needed two twin-size bunks for the comfort of our boys. So Papa built an extension on the top bunk and then built a small ladder to the top bunk and a short railing along the edge. Now both boys have comfortable twin beds…and neither are stuck with a bed too narrow to sleep well.

Once we sell our house and move in to June, we know there will be other things we’ll do. However, June is and has been the perfect full-time fit for us. We can live, play, work, sleep, eat, and entertain very comfortably inside, but it’s not so big and comfortable that we don’t spend ample time outdoors. We now experience more quality family time as well.

And that’s the goal for us.

What If “One Day” Never Comes

Mama and Papa aren’t what-if people and never have been. We don’t want to get to an advanced age only to look back and wish we could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve done something differently.

We also see no benefit in putting off for tomorrow what can be done today.

Or putting off for next month.

Or putting off for next year.

Or putting off until retirement.

We believe planning has its place and we do so when and where appropriate.

There are things we’ve said we’ll do “when we retire” or “when the boys have grown.”

Then in January we had a rude wakeup call when Mama went to the ER and almost didn’t come home.

Now we see no point in waiting, namely for one thing in particular.

And we have decided to finally make the announcement public, after talking about this for years and putting our plan into action for months.

Folks, we’re in the process of purging and downsizing…in preparation for selling our house.

Until now only Mama and Papa’s parents and very few friends and family knew of our plans and that we’d been working on making it happen.

But today — May 1st — we’re ready to let everybody know that we will soon be listing our house on the market after we get some work done on the front and back yards. We’ve already started on the inside.

Oh, and we’re not buying another house for one to two years.

Yup, we’ve decided to go for it and get a little crazy. We’re going to live in our beloved fifth wheel June and our address will be that of whatever campground we’re parked at.

When we went on that three-month road trip last year, no one in our family wanted to come home. We can honestly say we only missed our friends and family, but we didn’t really miss our home.

Yes, there’s stability, familiarity, and monotony in living in a house. Yes, living out of our RV is risky, unusual, and unexpected.

That’s exactly why we all want to do this, and that includes our boys.

They loved not knowing what our new yard and their new playground would be like every time we parked at another campground.

They loved the small quarters of our RV and how close we all became, after we didn’t before know we could grow any closer than we already were.

They loved that they were outside more frequently and that we all went on more adventures.

They loved making new friends in each state and that age and education barriers pretty much vanished.

And since they’re already being homeschooled, the transition will be that much easier and smoother.

Yes, Papa will continue working and for the very company he’s been with and loved for more than 10 years now. We have no intentions to leave the area anytime soon, and we have plenty of camping options throughout this county and those counties nearby. Besides, as much as we travel on weekends anyway, why not simply bring our house along every time?

Our sticks-and-bricks (or S&B) home holds countless memories, and ours was the first family to live in it. This is the first house our boys ever knew, and it was also the location of the only school they’ve ever been to. It will be emotional when we do drive out of our driveway for the last time, and it’s been somewhat emotional as we box up stuff and sell and donate things that helped make our house a home.

But it is just “stuff.” They’re material things, most of which can be replaced down the road. Things that hold sentimental value and that we feel are irreplaceable will be in storage until we decide to settle down once again.

Then there are our amazing neighbors, which are also our friends. We love them dearly and we know we could never again find neighbors as wonderful as they are. Fortunately, we also know that we’ll remain in touch and friends, regardless of where we live.

And whoever moves into our house next will be extremely blessed to have them.

In addition to this being another adventure for us, this is also an opportunity to pay off everything and free ourself from debts. We will be able to save money and could potentially pay cash when we do buy or build a house down the road.

Mama loves poetry and one of her favorites is by Robert Frost, in which he concluded:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

And then there’s a quote by Mark Twain, popular especially among RVers:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Those by Frost and Twain are excellent advice and have guided Mama and Papa well for more than 15 years.

All four of us want to do this, and Mama and Papa used to say we would do this one day, perhaps in about 15 years or so.

Then we realized “one day” may never come.

Must Come To An End

On the evening of Friday, August 26, we set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Well, it was a cross-country trip.

Okay, it was a three-month work-related field assignment for Papa ‘Skiy and everbody tagged along.

But it’s something none of us were ready to return home from and something we’d all jump at the chance to do again.

We returned home late on November 18, which was also Papa ‘Skiy’s 43rd birthday, but not before spending a couple of days with his parents in Fort Myers to celebrate with them as well.

Once we’d returned home, we looked at the final numbers that we put on both our truck and our fifth wheel: 12,100 miles and 8,079 miles, respectively. Our truck was our mode of transportation for work, sight-seeing, to and from airports, and errands, in addition to pulling our home across the country.

Our only problem was discovered as we were heading home after visiting Papa ‘Skiy’s parents, which were the final 200 miles of our journey. Before our trip we upgraded the tires and rims of our fifth wheel, and apparently the company that sold us the rims inadvertently suggested rims that were too weak for our RV. As a result, every single rim was cracking, two of them to the point the cracks went completely through the rims.

We limped home slowly but safely.

Other than that, we never had a tire blowout, mechanical or structural problem, or disappointing campground experience. Not one. Surprisingly enough, we were never tardy to one of Papa ‘Skiy’s assignments either. Even when we had to drive from Colorado to Virginia in only two days! Papa and M ‘Skiy did end up with a cold after our flight to and from Washington, and Mama and M ‘Skiy did have an ER visit each (Mama fell on her shoulder bike riding in Indiana and we were concerned she tore something, and M ‘Skiy cracked his head open sledding on snow in Alaska and required staples) but untimately everyone is fine and in excellent health.

If someone would have told us those three months were going to go nearly flawlessly, we wouldn’t have believed them.

Now it’s back to everyday life again.

We thought we’d be homesick. We thought we’d be anxious to return home. After all, our house is more than 2,100 square feet and our rig isn’t even 285 square feet.

But we weren’t.

It will be great to catch up with friends, stretch out a little, and use a larger and faster washer and dryer again.

However, we’d be lying if we said we’re not already longing for another extended road trip again.

Nearing the End of a Journey

We’re now Florida-bound, wrapping up our 12-week adventure. For the most part, the map above was our route. There may have been unexpected changes, such as moving across the state of Georgia due to Hurricane Matthew and flying to Alaska out of Kansas City instead of Denver, but the main idea is there…and a picture speaks a thousand words.

In that short time period we camped in 12 campgrounds in 9 different states, drove through 20 states (not including our home state of Florida), flew to and stayed a week in each Washington state and Alaska, and created countless new memories with our sons.

We wore bathing suits and shorts in Illinois and Georgia, and we donned multiple layers to protect us from below-freezing temperatures in Alaska and Virginia.

We admired the views from atop the Space Needle, hiked paths within miles from the peak of Mount Rainier, slowed waaaaay down for the horse-drawn Amish carriages in Ohio, rode in a horse-drawn carriage in Indiana, and explored the depths of the Luray Caverns.

We watched families of elk explore a Washington village, two bull moose spar for the affection of a female in Alaska, bald eagles soar the Alaskan sky, and antelop graze in Colorado prairies.

We were in Illinois for Labor Day and Grandparent’s Day, Ohio for Columbus Day, Colorado for Halloween, and Virginia for the history-making presidential election and Veteran’s Day.

We attended a Rennaisance Festival in Wisconsin, went to the theater of a childhood idol of the boys AND Mama ‘Skiy in Washington, partied alongside other goers at an American Red Cross street party in Indiana, and took the boys on an educational tour of Civil War points of interest in Virginia.

We even had to make an emergency drive back home to prepare and protect our house from the looming Hurricane Matthew…which turned away last-minute and just enough so our house and neighbors were safe.

We still have more than 1,000 miles before we’re back at our house, not including a couple of stops to visit the boys’ grandparents first, and we’ll still have two more states to add to the number that we’ve driven this trip. When all is said and done, we’ll have driven more than 8,000 miles towing our 5th wheel and 12,000 miles for our truck alone.

Wow. Those are some figures!

Given the opportunity, we’d do it all again.
Could we? Please?!

Historic Virginia

The final three-month field-assignment stop landed us in Virginia, just outside Maryland and less than an hour from Washington, D.C.

This state is the location of Arlington Cemetary, many battlefields and monuments, and the famous Luray Caverns. Virginia is also where Mama and Papa honeymooned 15 years ago!

For one week we stayed at the beautiful Bull Run Regional Park, and we witnessed staff erecting and testing the annual holiday lights displays. Mama and the boys frequented the large playground, and the boys took part in a nature scavenger hunt that the park ranger had arranged.

Being so close to battlefields and monuments, we took a few drives and some walks to these historic areas. We crossed over and walked under Bull Run Bridge, along the river, and down paths that led us to not only battlefields but also locations of homes that no longer remain. We found a Civil War cemetary and a location with retired cannons and Bull Run memorials and monuments.

While at the park’s campground, we were also glued to the television as a historic presidential election took place, resulting in the surprising win of Donal Trump over Hillary Clinton.

At the end of that final week, we decided to stay a few more days in Virginia, while Papa enjoyed a much-needed vacation and break from working days and nights. We moved from Bull Run to Outlander’s River Camp, only a few miles down the road from Luray Caverns.

And we went to the caverns too!

It had been 15 years since Mama and Papa honeymooned in Shenandoah Valley, and in 2001 they had also went to Luray Caverns. Imagine how surreal it was to now be taking the boys there!

Not only did we take the tour of the caverns, but we also completed the garden maze and the boys took on the multi-story ropes course. We browsed the Toy Town Junction and Car & Carriage museums located on the premises as well.

Papa had read about an isolated road that went into the mountains and led to an overlook of Shenandoah Valley, so we packed a lunch and drove up there one day. The boys had a blast climbing the rock formations and the view from the top was breathtaking.

Finally, it was time to head south. We plan to stop by Mama’s parents on Florida’s west coast to briefly visit, having been gone for so long, on the way down to Papa’s parents even further south, where we’ll celebrate Papa’s birthday.

We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again.

But we can’t say we’re ready for this adventure to come to an end.