Just a dandy day…

We are in Naples, Florida enjoying our first full day here in two years.  We’ve always loved this part of Florida, as it is ‘far enough south’ to escape winter.  We are staying at Club Naples RV Resort.  We still need to check out the entire park before giving a full review, but I will say that it is tight.

 

They pack ’em in here.  I’m not sure how they even got those rigs turned into those spaces!

 

As you can see, we are sort of wedged in.

 

But the pool and hot tub are amazing!  The laundry is beautiful, and the community room is very nice.  All of the landscaping is well done, and the park is clean.  We really want to look farther back into the park at some of the other sites, but we remember them to be tight from our last visit here when we toured the place.  First time visitors receive a 10% discount.

Late this morning, we headed to the beach!  This has always been one of our favorite activities.  When we were deciding what we were going to carry in our rig for full time RVing, our beach gear was right up their with our kayaks and bikes.

 

Tommy Bahama beach chairs, cart and umbrellas, and this nifty sun canopy we found at Costco.

 

I bought this beach cart online.  It hauls everything…coolers, umbrellas, chairs, towels…everything but the canopy.  If you get one, get the wide beach wheels.  They really make a difference in the sand.

 

I noticed that our Tommy chairs are perfect for the west coast of Florida, as the water bottle pouch ends up on the north side of the chair, and is out of the sun.  🙂

Because of the cart, we were able to park three blocks from the beach and walk with all of our stuff…no problem whatsoever.

This evening, we went to Collier Seminole State Park to see my cousin John and his wife Karen.  They are camping there with Karen’s sister Gail and heading back to Michigan tomorrow.  It was good to see them again!

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  Today is the final day of the challenge!

  

For my photo today, I chose a picture I took in 2012 on our way out to Yellowstone.  This photo is at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and was taken on the Presidential Trail at the base of the mountain.  I liked how the trees framed the sculpture of  George Washington.

The challenge is simple:

For five consecutive days, you need to post a different black and white photo you have taken.

On each post, you need to challenge another blogger to carry on the fun!

Today I nominate Peter at Life Unscripted.  Peter writes a daily blog that takes the readers on his and his wife’s journey through their lives.  I start my day with his blog each morning and have come to love it.  He also takes great photos!  I hope he accepts the challenge!

 

 

 

 

A move farther south for a few days

We finished up our stay at Recreation Plantation in Lady Lake, Florida today.  We thoroughly enjoyed the resort, along with the people who both work and reside there.  We wish it were farther south, but it would be worth considering for a winter location.  And it was clean. The nightly rate was a bit pricey at $50, but first time visitors get the first night free.  That made the 3 night stay more reasonable.  Seasonals rates are competitive with other parks we’ve seen in Florida.

We then drove down I-75 to Naples.  We are staying at Club Naples RV Resort.  It is right on the edge of the Everglades…as in, next stop past the unit to the east of us is Fort Lauderdale … 81 miles away.  :). We will give our review of the park after we have been here a bit.

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  Today is Day 4.

 

This is a photo taken through a catwalk support on the pier at Grand Haven, Michigan a few summers ago.  We would go out for the evening with our dog Jenny and walk out to the end of the pier and watch the sunset.  In this photo, it is setting approxametely over Sheboygan, Wisconsin…a good 90 miles across Lake Michigan.

Today, I nominate Ingrid at Live Laugh RV.  Ingrid and her husband Al are fulltime RVers, and have visited many beautiful locations in North America.  Be sure to check out their blog to see her amazing photography!

The rules of the challenge are simple:

Post a different black and white photo of yours each day for five consecutive days.

Nominate a fellow blogger on each day to continue the challenge.

Hopefully, Ingrid accepts the challenge!


RV-Dreamers get together and an Upcoming Rally

Today was a marvelous day!  Last September, we met Fred and Bonnie Lee at the RV-Dreams Fall Rally.  Fred has followed our blog ever since we published our first post, and we got in touch this week after he noticed we were headed their way in Florida.  They stopped by our place today, and we went to a place in The Villages for lunch.

  

Man, it was great to see them!  Bonnie recently retired, and Fred has been retired for a number of years now.  They just purchased a beautiful motorhome, sold their home and are doing what we are doing.  They are yet another couple that went to one of Howard and Linda’s rallys and ended up hitting the road!  And they are loving every minute of it.  :).  Be sure to check out their blog HappiLEE RVing.

Speaking of RV-Dreams, Howard and Linda are holding their fall rally this year in Lake Leelanau, Michigan.  The Leelanau Penninsula is near and dear to our hearts, and we highly recommend both the rally and the location it is being held in.  If you are thinking about possibly pursuing this lifestyle, this rally is for you.  Leelanau County is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and was voted as the most beautiful place in America on Good Morning America a few years back.  It really is a special place, and the rally is being held in peak color season.  Go to RV-Dreams and click on the 2015 Fall Rally on the sidebar.  Our work camping job will be very close to the rally location, so we will be sure to stop in at some point and say ‘hi’. 🙂

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  This is Day 3 of the challenge.

 


Today, I chose a photo I took in 2005 in Yosemite National Park in California.  We tease (tongue in cheek) about Ansel Adam’s photos, as how could anyone not get an amazing photo of this natural magnificence! 

The rules of the challenge are simple:  

Post a different black and white photo you have taken for five consecutive days.

Invite a new blogger each day into the challenge.

So today, I challenge Fred and Bonnie to join in the fun on HappiLEE RVing.  🙂 


Al Kaline Delivered and Day With Family

This morning, we drove to Diana’s brothers house and delivered the Al Kaline photo.

  

That was many years coming, and we are glad it is back where it belongs.  🙂

Later in the day, we had the family over to our place for a cookout, some horseshoes, shuffleboard and time at the pool.  

 

Here is Diana’s brother Dan enjoying the  offerings.  

  

Our niece taking a selfie with her daughter.

  

A true Detroit Tigers fan is never without his Olde English D.

  

Chillin’ with Great-aunt Diana.  🙂

 

Our great-nephews taking over the pool! 

 We all had a great day!

Recently, I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.

  

 

For my Day 2 photo, I chose a photo that I took in 2012 in the Tetons in Wyoming.  There is something that draws us to that magical mountain range.

As part of the challenge I am to nominate a fellow blogger each of the five days to join in and take part. So today I nominate Gin from Darwin On The Rocks And Around The World.

The only rules of the challenge are:

1. On five consecutive days, create a post using a recent or past photograph in black and white.

2. Invite another blogging friend each day to join in the challenge.

I hope you enjoy my photos, and hopefully Gin will accept the challenge!

 

Made it to Florida, and a Challenge Accepted

“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.”

Jerry Seinfeld 

We rolled into Florida 10 minutes after we left our campsite in Alabama.  Six hours later, we pulled into Recreation Plantation in Lady Lake.  That’s one of the strange things about entering the state on the western end of the panhandle:  it is hundreds of miles of driving east before even getting to I-75 to begin the southern descent down the Florida penninsula.  We will be here for three days visiting with family and friends.  More on that tomorrow.

About the challenge:

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.

  

 

So for day 1 of the challenge I’ve chosen a photo I took a few summers ago of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, Michigan.  What makes this lighthouse special to me is that my great-grandfather, John Peter Schmitt, built it in 1892.  I was on a State of Michigan fundraising committee a decade ago to get it reopened to the public.  We succeeded!

As part of the challenge I am to nominate a fellow blogger each of the five days to join in and take part. So today I nominate Debbie from Down The Road.  Debbie and Steve visit amazing places in their travels as fulltime RVers, and they know how to find the best each location has to offer.

The only rules of the challenge are:

1. On five consecutive days, create a post using a recent or past photograph in black and white.

2. Invite another blogging friend each day to join in the challenge.

I hope you enjoy my photos, and hopefully Debbie will accept the challenge!

Keep it in the Middle of the Road, Honey

“…there’s a wreeeck on 75 near Cumberland, and a wreeeck over on 675 in Ellenwood….”

An amusing Atlanta traffic copter report we heard one time on a trip through town. In Michigan we are used to them being called accidents 🙂


If only we could have gotten a picture.  We were headed south on I-65 in southern Tennessee, when I spotted something that didn’t look quite right on the service drive to the right of the freeway.  As we approached, we could see the back of a semi trailer sticking out of the trees at an angle.  When we got to the scene, there was the trucker outside of the truck on his cellphone, and the rig was jacknifed into the trees.  The scary part was, he had been on the freeway and not the service drive.  His skid marks went completely across our traffic lanes, down the embankment, through the fence, across the service drive and into the trees.  It had just happened, by the looks of things.  Thank goodness no one else was involved, the truck stayed upright, and the driver appeared to be ok.

The further south we went, the more the leaves appeared on the trees.  Once we turned onto US Route 231 south out of Montgomery, AL, we noticed the wisteria was in bloom along the roadside.

  

©2015 ecoterralandscape.com

Oh my…it smelled wonderful!  We also noticed the Rhododendron bushes in bloom.  Springtime in southern Alabama is a special time.

One thing RVers should always have is a check list.  On that list should be items like ‘Make sure your antenna is down’ and ‘make sure the step is up’.  We are pretty good at doing walk arounds before leaving, but we’ve yet to put a list together.  We came upon a situation today that needs to be on an ‘arrival’ checklist.  We pulled in, set the jacks, put in the wheel chocks and went to open the slide rooms.

  

Oops.  The power pole was interfering with one of the slides.  We got it as close as we could and called it good.  It is only for one night.  It is one inch from being fully open.  Next time, I will check that over more carefully.  🙂

The park we are at, Cherry Blossom RV Park, is right on Alabama Route 1, just south of Dothan.

  

And I do mean right on Alabama Route 1.  We will be serenaded by a flurry of trucks throughout the night.

Let’s hope the drivers keep them on the road.  🙂

Forsythia and Other Observations

“Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Rolling south into Tennessee, we noticed the forsythia is in bloom.  That was always my sign to put down crabgrass preventitave on our lawn.  Those days are over, as we don’t have a lawn anymore!  It is odd little observations that remind us that life as fulltime RVers is an entirely different life.  My first such observation was driving down the road on a Thursday and seeing trash cans by the road.  First thing in my head was ‘I need to take out the trash!’  Nope.  No house, no curb to haul the trash to.  🙂

We have been RVing for years, taking two week vacations and long weekends when we could.  We’ve known about ‘same house, different view out the windows’ aspect of RVing, but the point was really driven home today.  We were planted in Michigan for 6 months with the same view, and we weren’t able to open the windows, as it was too cold.  Today, we are in Nashville, TN with the windows open and a completely different vista to explore!  It is a liberating feeling, for sure.

  

Saw this beauty in a rest area in Kentucky.  This is a mid 1970’s GMC motorhome.  There are a lot of folks out there who buy these and restore them, as they are unique.  We love seeing them out on the road again.

 

We are at the Yogi Bear campground in Nashville, not far from the Grand Ole Opry.  They need to do a little spring cleaning, but the air is fresh and the trees are starting to bloom!  It is 75 degrees outside right now and we are loving it. We used our Passport America and saved 50% on our camping.  🙂

Part of this trip is a baseball memorabilia delivery mission.  This is a doozey.  Back in the 1970’s when Diana’s brother, Dan, was a 5th grader he won a letter writing contest, making him the World’s Greatest Al Kaline Fan.  For those of you unfamiliar, Al Kaline was a teenage baseball phenomenon out of Baltimore who started with the Detroit Tigers right out of high school.  He played his entire career in Detroit, and stayed on with the team after he retired as a player.  At 80 years old, he still is with the team.  That , my friends, is loyalty at its finest.

Anyway, the family got box seats to the game on Al Kaline Day, and Dan was able to go to the clubhouse and meet Al.   Part of the prize was a 4 foot by 6 foot framed photo of Al that was to hang in Dan’s elementary school….which it did for years.  Finally, the principal contacted Dan to have him take it home, as he was concerned it would get damaged in the hall of the school.  Dan moved to Florida out of high school, and the photo remained in Michigan with his mom and dad.  Dad passed away in 2008, and Mom has been storing the photo.

  

We wrapped up the photo of Al in a shipping blanket and are hauling him in the fifth wheel!  I hope he likes camping!

One other thing I wanted to mention:  March is Passport America savings time, for all of you campers out there.

 

For just $44 a year, you can save 50% on campsites at a LOT of campgrounds around North America.  We joined last year and it paid for itself on our third night camping.  What is unique about March is the Refer A Buddy program.  Use my name and number and you get an extra 4 months free (and so do we).

James Belisle

C-643950

Just go to Passport America and sign up.  Enter my information in the ‘referral’ section of the application.  It’s a nice little bonus for both of us!

Well, that’s it for today!  The forsythia is calling to us!

Hitch Itch

“Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.”

Ogden Nash


It all started on Friday morning with my statement to Diana:  “I have a bad case of hitch itch.”  For those of you outside the RV circles, that is when an RVer has had enough of the location they are in.  The urge comes over you to hitch up and head out.  After a little discussion, I was going all out at removing the skirting.  We had decided to make a run to Florida for a couple of weeks to get a change of scenery!

 

Kayaks on the truck, fresh tires on the trailer and we set a target of Tuesday morning for launch.  With a half hour to spare, we made it!  It was a good thing, as the temperatures had begun to dip back down. Tuesday morning, the thermometer read 22 degrees.  We really noticed the difference in the rig without the skirting, both in floor comfort and in propane usage. 

As you can see in the photo above, the snow piles in Grand Rapids had dwindled to hardly anything.  As we drove south, we encountered the remnants of the storm that dumped 6 inches of snow on Chicago the other day.  While the roads were dry, we didn’t escape the white landscape until Indianapolis.

 

Tonight, we are at Woods and Waters campground in Columbus, Indiana.  This campground is open year round. It’s somewhat cloudy, and it is supposed to warm up and rain overnight.  Rain: what a concept.  I believe we saw something they called rain back in October.  We will take it!  🙂

So, exploRVistas is on the road…even if it is just for a short getaway.  Stay tuned for updates as we move along.

Itch is officially scratched!  🙂

Laughing our way into Spring!

“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.”

Doug Larson

No better way to welcome Spring than with a whistle and a laugh!

As stated in a previous post, we are volunteering this week at Gilda’s LaughFest in Grand Rapids.  Last Saturday night was our first show.  We are part of the ‘Front of House’ team, which entails either ticket taking or ushering.  For Saturday’s show, we ushered on the main floor of Fountain Street Church.



This photo shows the venue at a previous LaughFest event.  The main act for our show was Billy Gardell, of Mike and Molly fame.  As ushers, we did get to listen to some of the show.  That was fun!

I’m sure some folks are asking “Blue collar comedy in a church?”  Well, Fountain Street Church (FSC) is quite unique.  Founded in mid 1800’s as a liberal Baptist church in a very conservitave town, FSC has always pushed the envelope to the left.  The congregation has become non-denominational, centering itself with spirituality over any affiliation with a set religion.  Over the years, they have hosted speakers such as Clarence Darrow, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Frost and Malcolm X.  They have had performers such as Duke Ellington, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead and U2 take to the sanctuary.  So to host LaughFest shows for a good cause is not a stretch at all for FSC.  



And the gigantic neo-Romanesque building is a spectacular setting.  If you ever have the opportunity to tour Fountain Street Churchdo so.  The stained glass is outstanding, and quite unique.



The opening act was Dale Jones. We were still fairly busy seating latecomers during his show, so we weren’t able to concentrate much on his act.   From what we did see, he was extremely funny and was quite physical in his comedy.  We definitely would like to see him again sometime.  Near the end of his performance we were told to fan out, as that is when the cameras would come out for Billy Gardell. Per his wishes, no photography was allowed.



Billy hit the stage and the first word out of his mouth was the ultimate expletive.  He then looked up into the rafters, grinned and said “Just checking”. The irony of doing his act in a church wasn’t lost on him.  🙂  We had about 15 minutes of people trying to take photos before they settled in and enjoyed the show.  While still doing our jobs, we did get to catch most of Billy’s act and he was hilarious!

On Sunday, the weather decided that it would get in sync with the time change. We had our first temperatures in the 40’s since January!  The sun was out, the sky was blue, and we headed out to Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids for a stroll.



The birds were singing like crazy.  Check out this Downy Woodpecker working away on a branch.



Mr. Squirrel was having a blast hopping from tree to tree.



And the buckets were hanging from the taps on the maple trees, gathering sap in preparation for the spring maple syrup production that Blandford hosts.  A sure sign of Spring!

Our temperatures are forecast to be in the 40’s and 50’s for the next 10 days, so that should take care of most of our snow.  That ice we have been showing you on Lake Michigan will take a long time to melt, so our temps inland will be better than those at the lakeshore.  Our propane usage has gone way down…thank goodness…and it won’t be too long before we shed the trailer skirting and the plastic on our windows.  Michigan has a way of surprising us with late season snow, so we will hold off on those projects for a bit.  In the meantime, we will be whistling away, totally oblivious to our soggy sneakers!

Winter Wonderland

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter”

Robert Frost

 

On Sunday, March rolled into West Michigan just as February had departed…clear and frosty cold.  It was a perfect day to head back to Lake Michigan and one of the unique attractions we have here; the Muskegon luge track!

The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is located in Muskegon State Park.  It is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Muskegon Sports Council, the Muskegon Luge Club and the West Michigan Speed Skating Association.

The first thing you encounter at the complex is a large skating rink.

Next to the concession and warming building is a fire ring with benches surrounding it.  It was bone-chilling cold on Sunday, so the fire rings were well used!

There were several folks in the concession building, and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Off the back side of the building is the start of the skating trail through the woods.  This is a lighted trail that is very well maintained and smooth.  The trail to the right is the ski, snowshoe and hiking trail.  It is also the path to the luge track.

At the bottom of the track is another large fire ring, and the meeting place for the lugers.  The Muskegon luge course was designed by Olympian Frank Masley and is where the most decorated American luger, Mark Grimmette, got his start.  He grew up just up the road from here.  This course is not as massive as the courses in Lake Placid and Salt Lake, but it is challenging nonetheless.

And it is open to the public!

Public sliders start about 3/4 of the way up the hill.

 

The run goes quite a ways up!

The top of the hill bears the champion’s name.

Here is the next group getting ready to head up the hill.

Hmmmmm…..should I give it a shot?  Not this trip!

While we were there, several snowshoers trekked by.

This woman and a boy who appeared to be her grandson were out Nordic skiing.

Once we finished checking out the sports complex, we crossed the road and checked out the campground.  Muskegon State Park has several campsites plowed and ready for campers.  No one was taking them up on it, but it certainly would be a beautiful place to stay in the winter.

There are also a few camping cabins available.

At the center of the campground is the trail to Lake Michigan.

Wow!  Perched up on the dune, you can see a long way! About 80 miles across that ice is where Peter and Peg from Life Unscripted used to live in Milwaukee.

Like we saw in Saugatuck, the ice piles were huge.  West Michigan just endured the coldest February ever recorded, and that is a major contributor to these formations.  Grand Rapids averaged 13.3 degrees!

There were several ice caves a ways out.

There even was some open water in the distance.  Could spring be far away?

Or perhaps the dog days of summer?

Our forecast is calling for temperatures in the 40’s next week.  It is going to feel like a heat wave, for sure.  This winter has been tough, but we have really enjoyed it.  During our working years, we never had a chance to really experience winter like we were able to this year.  It sure has been a lot of fun!

 

With that said…bring on Spring!  🙂