Reflections in the Rear View Mirror

If there is one constant in a fulltime RVer’s life, it has to be the D on the transmission indicator on our dashboards as we head out in the morning. The only time we put it in R to back up seems to be when we are parking our rigs at the end of the day. A scene from the movie Gumball Rally pops into my head where an Italian race car driver named Franco looks at the guy in the passenger seat and says “First rule of Italian driving…” as he reaches up and snaps off the rear view mirror and tosses it out of the car “…what’s behind you isn’t important”.  

And while Diana and I like to examine the history of the locations we visit, there is still that forward movement of wondering what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. Shift to D, turn on the radio and step on the gas. It’s right about that time when life taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that Franco’s statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Part of our preparations to leave Florida and head west have been to take care of authenticating our mortality, so to speak.  In other words, preparing wills and similar paperwork.  Our home base is the Sunshine State, so this is the place to take care of that business.  Traipsing our caravan across the country in two separate vehicles places a greater need for such documentation, especially when one of us has 14,000 pounds following in close proximity.  Snapping that rear view mirror off would be ill-advised!  So we plowed through the perpetual paperwork (pardon the pun), moving forward with our feet on the gas…just wanting to get it completed.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we had a noon appointment to sign our wills and have them witnessed and notarized, so we went about our morning routine in preparation for the meeting.  That’s when I sat down in my recliner and checked my phone.  There was a text from my former coworker Barb that read, quite simply “Hey. Just wanted to make sure you heard about Richie.”  Well, considering Richie was one of the two people I kept in somewhat regular touch with from work (Kenny being the other) and it wasn’t him telling me what happened to himself, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. So I casually replied “No, what’s up?”, hoping to hear he won the lottery or something.  It was not to be.  A flurry of texts came in from Jeff, Stephen and Barb to tell me he had passed. From what has been told to me since, he had kissed his beloved wife Connie goodnight, took a few steps towards the bedroom and collapsed from a massive heart attack.  62 years old, planning on retiring and looking forward to having more time for golf.  Now don’t get me wrong…Dickey-boy had a lot of fun in his life.  In addition to golf, he loved NFL football and his Detroit Lions, along with classic rock music.  He knew several people in the music industry, played a little guitar, and was close friends with the members of Foghat.

Our VP, Joel, took this tongue-in-cheek photo of us, poking a little fun of the long-standing brothership we shared.  I proudly own that, as we worked side by side for 30 years and had each other’s backs.  He thought the world of Diana, and we indeed are both going to miss him.  The irony of finding out as we were about to sign our wills wasn’t lost on us, nor was the fact that the beach bar we toasted him at was playing classic rock instead of the usual trop-rock.

It dawned on me later that one of the songs playing was The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Nice song selection, Richie…looks like you just picked up a DJ gig upstairs. 😉

Suddenly, I noticed I had eased off the gas and had slipped the shifter to N.   Instead of thinking about our upcoming trip, I found myself pondering the past.  We were fortunate enough to meet up for dinner with Bob and Pat from Michigan Traveler, and Bonnie and Fred from HappiLEE RVing this last weekend.  Bob and I both grew up in Allen Park, Michigan, and we spent a week together at Wild Cherry, so we have a lot of past in common.  Fred and Bonnie and us met at the RV-Dreams Rally and we’ve seen each a couple times other since, so we have a fair amount of history. Bob and Fred are both retired military, and the couples spend a fair amount of time at the US military FamCamps, so we thought it would be fun for them to meet.

It was good to pause and reflect a bit and catch up on everybody’s lives.  🙂

Just after that, we had some business we needed to take care of up in Green Cove Springs.  We saw that Linda and Steven, our friends we met at Amazon, were very close by.  We contacted them, and they invited us to join in on a lunch date in Jacksonville they had with Howard and Linda, founders of RV-Dreams.  It was those two who’s seminars at a Grand Rapids RV show in January of 2014 provided the final nudge to get us on the road.  With no firm plans to leave our jobs at that point, their presentations caused us to go home and crunch some numbers.  By March 21 of that year, I was retired, and Diana was done at work by July 1.

Our lunch turned into a wonderful two hour conversation on what this journey we are on means to all of us.  Not only was the future discussed, but the past was reflected upon.  I detected a few misty eyes on a couple of heartfelt points that were made.  We were so engrossed in what everyone was saying, we didn’t notice that the servers had turned up all the chairs at the surrounding tables and the restaurant had closed over a half hour earlier.  Yeah, it was that good.  What finally caught our attention was the silence during a pause in the dialogue. The music had stopped playing.  Oops…time to head down the road!

We spent the night in St Augustine and toured there with Steven and Linda the next day.  

They had not been there before, and they wanted to see Castillo de San Marcos, among other things.  

It was fun to experience St Augustine with them and look forward to all the plans we have for the future!

I called Kenny last night.  We reminisced and had some laughs, along with sharing what we are currently doing in our lives.  It was really good to hear his voice again. So while everyone I’ve interacted with over the past week are ready to shift into D to see what’s around the next bend in their lives, life itself provided us with a bit of a lesson that we ought not forget the images in the rear view mirror. 

Even though there is sadness mixed into the joy in our memories, we need to listen to the music of our youth and laugh at the silly pictures in our minds. As George Harrison sang “I look at the world and I notice it’s turning. Still my guitar gently weeps…”

Rock on, Richie…Rock on.

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Exploring in Florida 

One thing we’ve discovered about being in the town of Melbourne Beach for the winter is the fact it is somewhat isolated from the rest of the state.  That is a good thing, in the sense that it doesn’t experience the crowds that other areas of Florida see.  The downside is State Route A1A is the only way in and out, so we don’t see a lot of new scenery.  That is just fine for many folks, but when your identity is exploRVistas a little break is called for every once in a while.  And when we are able to look for adventure with other explorers, it’s even more fun!

At the end of our last post, we left you with our just having a new suspension installed on our rig.  Taking a tour of Florida would allow us to test out our modifications before we headed west in April. My sister Judy and her husband Dale had recently arrived at Lovers Key near Ft Myers Beach, so we made plans to head that way to see them.  Diana had also contacted her cousin Tom, as we wanted to see him and his wife Lisa.  They live just southwest of Orlando.  Tom suggested that we meet at Disney, as he works for them and could get us all passes for the day. We jumped on this opportunity!

We decided on Epcot, as it is one of our favorite parks.  Diana’s dad actually worked on the construction of one of the Communicore buildings near Spaceship Earth back in the early 1980’s, when Michigan’s economy was in the doldrums.

We sure had a great time with Tom and Lisa!

Disney sure knows how to provide a pleasant atmosphere at their facilities.  If you choose the right day when the crowds are down, they are very enjoyable places to be!

Next up, we visited with Judy and Dale.  We were able to grab four days at Marco Naples RV Resort. It was less than OK, but served its purpose.  The four of us checked out some of the area’s dining establishments, the pool at Lovers Key, and Barefoot Beach.

It’s always fun hanging out with my big sis and her hubby!

From Naples, we decided to take Alligator Alley across to the east coast and head north from there.  That was the first time we had been on that stretch of road since we were kids, so it was interesting to see.  We were impressed with the rest areas that came complete with boat launches. There was one family that had just put in a pontoon boat, and another gentleman was fishing off the dock.  Peering into the water, we could see it was teeming with fish.

And that’s not all it was teeming with.  I guess that’s why it’s called Alligator Alley!

One thing I mentioned earlier was our suspension.  We are happy to report that everything is working tremendously well!  On the way to Orlando, we had our rig weighed by Bob and Sherry Frizzell of RVSEF.  They weighed each individual wheel of the entire rig when it was hitched together, and of just the truck disconnected from the trailer.  Armed with this information, I transferred some weight from the truck to the trailer to balance everything out.  We also now know the proper inflation level for our tires, given the weight of our rig when loaded. Throughout the trip, I monitored the tire temperatures using our infrared thermometer.  Everything checked out great!

This is the second time we have went through this weighing process with RVSEF. The first time was before we hit the road in 2014. It is very important for our safety and the safety of those we share the road with. Just because there is room in a cabinet or drawer, doesn’t mean you are allowed to fill it and haul it down the road. We are constantly aware of our cargo carrying capacity, pin weight, tire pressures, etc. Most fulltime RVers practice the rule that if you bring something new in, something of equal weight has to go. The last thing we want is to blow out a tire at highway speed.

Back in Melbourne, we met up with our friends Fred and Bonnie for dinner.

We had met them at the RV-Dreams rally in 2014, and we caught up with them in Fruitland Park, Florida in 2015. They are in Melbourne for the month of March, so we will be spending more time with them while they are here. It sure is great to see them!

While we were at Disney, Lisa mentioned that she had recently retired from Universal Studios Orlando.  Diana said that we wanted to go there sometime, as she really wanted to see the Harry Potter areas of the park. These books came out while she was teaching and made it cool to read big thick books. Diana read the J.K. Rowling series as a way to stay current with what the kids were excited about, and fell in love with them too. Lisa said she still had tickets available to her, and she offered two of them to us. That was extremely generous, Lisa…thank you!  We ended up going this past Friday and had a fabulous time!

The attention to detail in Hogsmeade was amazing!

Here we are outside Hogwarts Castle.  We must admit, we didn’t do so well on the ride through the castle, as it was an all-out assault on our senses…but we survived!

We rode the Hogwarts Express between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, which was also very much like the Harry Potter movies.

Diagon Alley itself was also well done, complete with the shops that were featured in the books and movies.

It was fun to watch the children (and several adults) in their capes wave their interactive wands to set the displays in motion.  

In other parts of Universal, we met up with other famous people.

There was Jimmy Fallon…

Popeye and Olive Oyl…

 

…and Diego and Dora the Explorer!  Hey…let’s explore that vista!  We had a tremendous day at Universal.  😃. Thanks again, Lisa and Tom!

In less than a month, we will be headed west. Be sure to stay tuned to see what our next adventure might be!

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!