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.

Phew! Now We Can Breathe!

How on Earth we managed to drive more than 1,700 miles in 2 days, we’ll never know!

We left Denver late-afternoon on Friday, November 4th. In 24 hours we drove more than 1,000 miles, and it was Mama behind the wheel for more than 90% of that, giving Papa a break and a chance to sleep, seeing how he’d worked days and nights that week and would be doing it again the following week.

It was best that we put so many miles behind us in one day though. It allowed us to have a little wiggle room, in the event we ran into any issues along the way.

The drive was beautiful, though. We saw antelope and deer, and the desert hills through Nebraska were unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

On Saturday we wasted no time, and late Sunday we pulled into our destination in Virginia: Bull Run Regional Park.

Again, we have no idea how we pulled it off, but we did. In that short time we drove through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

We had no problems at all. We were very fortunate!

And the boys? They were just looking forward to the next park!

The Last Frontier

Up until now, Washington was our favorite stop on this journey.

Then we touched down in Alaska!

Washington has some steep competition here!

We couldn’t have gone in a better week either. The day before our plane landed Alaska had their first snow storm of the season. And during the entire week, it never snowed again and the temperature never rose above freezing.

It.Was.Perfect!

And you can tell we’re Floridians when we admire and get excited over something like the amazing details of the snowflakes!

Mama wanted to see one thing especially though: moose. We were informed they’re shy and there’s a good chance we wouldn’t see any…and for most of the week, we didn’t.

Although the first day Papa reported for work, there was a young bull on the property!

Mama was jealous.

But, oh, the snow! The weather was clear, cold, and crisp, and we planned ahead, bringing snow suits for the boys and multiple layers for everyone.

And just how cold was it? Well, one morning Papa got a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby before driving to work. When he tried to set it in the cup holder of the car, some of the coffee spilled. He grabbed a napkin to clean up the mess, but when he turned to wipe it up the hot coffee had already frozen! In just a matter of seconds!

Yup. Cold.

This was the boys’ second time seeing snow, their first happening earlier just this year in February. And that’s all they wanted to do all week: play in the snow! Fortunately, the around around the hotel had plenty of the white stuff, and they played in it until Mama was numb from the cold and demanded breaks.

When Papa wasn’t working we drove to the mountains, looking for wildlife, letting the boys sled down snowy hills, and walking on nature trails. One took us to a popular location for beavers, but the lake was frozen over and we saw no signs of the buck-toothed critters.

Then we found out about a park near the airport back in Anchorage where moose tended to live. We drove there one night…and saw several moose, including one mother with her calf. But it was dark, and it was difficult to see them well.

So the day before we were set to fly out of the Pacific Northwest, we decided to spend the day at the same park. At first we didn’t see any moose. Then we went for a walk on a trail…when a young male crossed the path directly in front of us! He was knock-kneed yet graceful, and he wasn’t at all bothered by our presence.

He was pretty photogenic too!

After the walk and letting the boys sled a little more, we climbed back into our rental car and started to leave the park. On the way out, we noticed several cars ahead that had stopped and people standing outside their cars, looking through a chain-link fence.

There in the field was a female moose…and two bull moose, with their massive antlers locked in battle! It was like a National Geographic special on TV, only it was live and happening a few dozen yards from us!

We were in absolute awe!

We watched the display for about half an hour, and then we called our Alaskan adventure a successful one and headed back to the hotel to pack our belongings.

At the airport the next day Mama started talking to a woman working at one of the shops there. She had asked how our trip was, at which time Mama went on and on about the bull moose we had seen fighting. The woman was amazed, informing Mama that she’d lived there for more than twenty years and had never seen bull moose fight!

We got lucky.

As much as we loved Alaska, we were ready to get back to the continental US, where we didn’t need to don two or three layers of clothes just to go to a grocery store and it didn’t take half an hour for our vehicle to warm up.

We can’t wait to go back though.

Oh, and did we mention that our cat Luna joined us here too, flying with us on four more planes?!

When we touched down in Kansas, we found out the weather in Alaska finally rose above 32 degrees and the snow was melting away.

We definitely got to see Alaska during a beautiful time.

And let’s not forget about the moose!

Amish Country

Having safely escaped the southeast and the looming Hurricane Matthew — which happened to be less damaging and dangerous than anticipated — we ventured into Amish Country, first in Ohio and then Indiana.

Oberlin, Ohio, was beautiful and rolling. The vast countrysides were picturesque, and it was entertaining watching the folks on horse-drawn carriages.

The same folks we’d also seen donned in the stereotypical zipper- and button-free clothing, shopping in Walmart.

It was a quiet and slower area, nothing like we’d picture the area around Cleveland to be. Even the campground we stayed at was beautiful, with a great playground, walking and bike-riding trails, and even a catch-and-release fishing pond.

Sadly, try as we might, we couldn’t find the Amish villages and shops we’d heard so much about. We saw the people, the horses, the carriages, and the signs, but we couldn’t find what drew the tourists.

We had similar luck in Indiana, although we were in a busier — and not so scenic — area just outside Indianapolis. With that said, though, there was more to see and do.

Being close to Halloween, there were many fall festivals taking place. We found one that was a petting and pick-a-pumpkin farm, with a corn maze and children’s play area that our sons certainly didn’t want to leave, amazing food, and tons to see and do. If you’re ever in the Indianapolis area, no matter the time of year, you must look up the Waterman’s farm!

That night we drove to Indiapolis, where the city was holding a celebration for the American Red Cross, celebrating 100 years. There were live bands, firetrucks, food trucks, activities, and more on display and taking place. We even wrapped up the evening with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic city.

The campground we were at had a nice creek that ran through it, a couple of playgrounds (one that our site backed up to, so it was like having our very own jungle gym), an activity room, and a stable with two horses: a mother and her colt! Although we couldn’t ride them, we were informed we could feed them, so whenever we went to the grocery store we made sure to buy carrots for the large friendly residents.

Now we’re on the way to Kansas City, to park our rig at the Jellystone campground there and hop on a plane bound for the Northwestern-most point of the country.

Alaska, here we come!

Georgia On Our Minds…and Hurricane Matthew’s Radar

Following our Tennessee assignment — and Mississippi stay, seeing how we were not going to stay in Memphis, thank you — we headed to Kingsland, Georgia. Papa ‘Skiy was due in Jacksonville, Florida, and Kingsland is a brief drive from where he needed to report.

The campground we chose was amazing and we’d highly recommend the North Jacksonville/St. Mary’s KOA in Kingsland anytime. From the fun things for kids to do (small farm, playground, pool, jumping pillow…), to the teepees you can sleep in, to the free breakfast and delicious BBQ… We met some of the nicest people there, and this is one of those rare KOAs that offers large shaded sites and beautiful canopies throughout.

However, it wasn’t all fun for Mama and the boys or work for Papa.

Hurricane Matthew was in the Atlantic, and he had his sights set on the coasts of Florida and Georgia.

And is it just us, or did the satellite image of Hurricane Matthew — seen above — look like the face of something evil?!

A couple of days into our stay, the campground had to get into hurricane-preparation mode. Chairs and umbrellas were collected from each campsite. Light fixtures and plants had to be taken down and moved indoors. The Halloween decorations had to be removed from throughout the park. Even the teepees had to be uncovered.

We’re proud of our sons for helping the park owners in their efforts to prepare for the hurricane. The boys even got a free pizza and drink for being so helpful and working so hard.

Those who work at the campground went around and advised everybody it would be in their best interest to pack up and relocate across state or elsewhere. Most of the campers chose to evacuate.

But we still had our home in Florida to think about too.

We were very fortunate. If a hurricane was going to hit, the timing couldn’t have been better, seeing how we were staying less than four hours north of our house, and the company Papa works for cut short the assignment in Jacksonville and allowed everyone to fly or drive home to their houses to get it ready for Matthew.

And we did just that.

We’ve lived in the house for ten years now. This was the first time we’d had to use the storm shutters that came with the house!

In a matter of hours we were home and running around like crazy, putting up shutters, cleaning up the yard, clearing the porches…

Once we were done, we drove back to the campground and packed up our own belongings and RV. The next day we set off for the western part of Georgia, far west of the path of Matthew.

We found an amazing state park in Adel, Georgia, called Reed Bingham State Park, just off of Interstate 75, that had a campground. Although the campground was filled to capacity with those that had evacuated due to the hurricane, they were still accepting campers and allowing them to park anyplace we could, and they allowed evacuees to stay throughout the weekend. (If you’re ever looking for a wonderful park or campground in this area, Reed Bingham is huge and beautiful, with places to fish, playgrounds, and a dam you can drive across.)

We checked in and settled in for the night, holding our breath and praying for the safety of our neighbors and friends back home that were in Matthew’s path. And yes, we were extremely nervous for our house and Mama’s car as well.

Most of the night we watched the weather reports and listened to updates about Hurricane Matthew. He decided to make his presence known in the dark early-morning hours. Fortunately prayers were answered and the storm turned northward just enough to only skirt along the coast, as opposed to directly hitting Brevard County and other counties north, as previously forecasted.

Our amazing neighbors checked on our house for us once the hurricane had passed and the winds died down. There were some limbs down and debris in our yard, and a tree that we’ve been trying to get rid of for years had split down the center due to the winds, but there was absolutely no damage whatsoever.

With the all-clear sign, we packed up our stuff and left Adel, heading north to our next assignment in Ohio.

The hurricane caused a lot of damage, but everyone we knew — including those at the KOA in Kingsland — was unharmed and safe.

Thank goodness.

The Memphis Pyramid

We’re no fans of Memphis. It’s a city with so much history, yet it’s neglected terribly.

So when our next assignment took us there, we opted to stay outside Memphis — and Tennessee, for that matter — at the Jellystone campground in Horn Lake, Mississippi.

We didn’t plan to do much while in the area. Fortunately the campground had many kids that our sons played with, and it was fun hosting their new-found friends at our site’s picnic table.

However, we did manage a trip into Memphis one day. We drove by Graceland and the Presley museum and mansion, and we drove along the shores of the Mississippi River.

What surprised us most — aside from how run-down the city has become — was the pyramid that towered the buildings in the distance.

Yes, the pyramid.

The Memphis Pyramid, formerly known as the Great American Pyramid and the Pyramid Arena, used to be a sports arena, and at 321 feet tall it’s the tenth tallest pyramid in the world.

It was originally opened in 1991. After sales and changes of hands over the years, in 2015 it was reopened as a Bass Pro Shops megastore location. More than a store for outdoorsmen and hunting enthusiasts, this location boasts a hotel, a bowling alley, restaurants, and more.

We love Bass Pro, and the architecture was certainly unusual for what the chain is known for, but what caught our attention was the glass-floor observation deck at the peak of the pyramid. To get there you had to ride the slow-moving free-standing elevator, which is the tallest in America (to date).

Once at the top, you arrive at a bar with a huge aquarium. There are doors past the bar that take you to the open-air observation deck, with views from three sides of the pyramid, one overlooking the Mississippi River.

If ever in Memphis, this is a neat landmark to visit. It costs nothing to park or go inside, the ride up the elevator is cheap, and there’s so much to see and do inside Bass Pro, from a free arcade-style shooting gallery to simply looking at the impressive taxidermy collection.

Besides, it’s not every day you get to see a pyramid in the United States.