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You’re doing what?

How does someone decide to sell their house, most of their possessions to live in an RV and travel?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.  Helen Keller

This wasn’t a rash decision or one made impulsively.  Actually, it evolved over a few years.

In 2011, we invested $30,000 in an embroidery business, thinking it would help to support us in retirement. I had always wanted to own a business, be in charge of my life, destiny. Guess, I got the entrepreneur spirit from my father.

We worked very hard for three years, tried several marketing techniques,  different niches, but in the end it was one big epic fail!   Despite losing so much money, it was a blessing because we found out what we really wanted to do. Did we really want to work 24/7 supporting a business? Not really.

When Jeff was forced into early retirement in 2013, we started talking about our life and what we wanted to do. Since,  I had only been working three days a week, devoting my time to the business we had accumulated mountains of debt.   We had discussions about our priorities, our passions, and what we enjoyed.

Obviously, family was the first priority.  However, the family connection we had always envisioned wasn’t happening.  We had moved to Arizona from our hometown in Illinois where most of our family was.  One daughter was in New Jersey with our three grandsons and our other daughter in Arizona was busy with her life.  After ten years of praying and hoping they would move back to Arizona, I finally had to give up the idyllic version of the Grandmother I wanted to be.  There would be no weekly sleepovers, attending school events, or holiday celebrations. It is what it is and I had to accept that.  We love our daughters and grandsons with all our hearts but we don’t see them very often, two times a year at best.

So, if we can’t have a life where we see our family on a regular basis, then what?

We started having more discussions on what else would we like to do, see, experience. And how could we financially support that?

What about retiring to a foreign country, perhaps Belize or Panama?  I love to research, so that’s what I did.  Retiring overseas…being an expat.  At first look, it was appealing!  Financially, it was doable.  But, my research revealed the downsides to being an expat, crime, humidity, bugs.  We had been in the southwest for almost 20 years and the thought of humidity and bugs was a downside.

One day Jeff brought up the idea of living in an RV and traveling,  OK, so do we sell the house?  Our stuff? How do we figure all this out?  I needed to do more research!  I read books, blogs, joined FB pages.  Google became my new BFF.

I found so much information of people living in their RV.  This is really a lifestyle and many people do it, not just old retired folks like us, but young couples, families with children.  People who want to explore, have a simpler life, not be tied down to their preconceived notions of a successful life.  They want an authentic life, simpler, not tied to possessions

The decision was made.  That’s  what we want.   A life with experiences, instead of possessions.

It wasn’t easy.  We had to sell our stuff, our house, buy an RV, change our address   The logistics were overwhelming, daunting at times.

The first step was to get out of debt.  Fortunately, I found a wonderful job at a new company in Scottsdale, called Accolade.  It is a healthcare concierge  system, helping people with their healthcare decisions.  It was a new nursing experience, not being “hands-on” with patients, but the work was rewarding and the pay was really, really good!  We got out of debt and started saving.  Did I say the money was really good?

The reactions to our plan were mostly positive, but there were some people who thought we were foolish, even irresponsible!  It didn’t sway us.  We have always been risk takers.

Thanks for stopping by….

Acadia-the crowded but still spectacular Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island is the largest island off the coast of Maine and the second largest on the eastern seaboard of the United States.   Known as the home of Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor, it draws millions of visitors each year.

After leaving the solitude of Schoodic, we stayed at Bar Harbor Campground, the closest one to the entrance of Acadia.  This is a nice, family owned campground….the only cavaet is they do not accept reservations or credit cards!  Since it was after Labor Day, we took a chance and were able to find a nice site.  They open at 8 AM and suggest to come as early as you can.  Once you enter the park, you are allowed to drive around to find a suitable site.  We chose one with W/E only vs FHU because they were larger with more separation.

 

 

An awesome convenience was the free shuttle (Island Explorer) which picks you up at the campground, takes you to Bar Harbor and several stops within the park.  Parking can be hard to find, especially after 10 AM, so the shuttle service is almost mandatory.

 

We did drive the 27 mile Park Loop Road once so we could reach Cadillac Mountain.  We try to do some easy trails with Rick and the Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop was perfect.

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It’s an easy, paved path that wraps around the summit and provides 360 degree views.  By the time we reached the other view points, like Jordan Pond, there was no parking left.

 

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Stone Bridges of Acadia

We hiked several of the carriage roads to find the iconic stone bridges.  The construction of the elaborate system of carriage roads was financed by John D. Rockefeller, from 1913 until the completion in 1940.  He also financed, designed, and supervised the construction of 16 majestic stone bridges that were built at stream and gorge crossings throughout the carriage road system.

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The Cobblestone Bridge is the oldest, constructed completely of cobblestones in 1917.

 

 

Jordan Pond

Another easy hike we did with Rick was the 3.5 mile path that follows the shores of Jordan Pond.  Overlooking the pond is Jordan Pond House, the only full service restaurant within Acadia.

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Ocean Path to Thunder Hole

The Ocean Path follows along the coast approximately 1.5 miles to Otter Cliff.  Part way in between is the famous Thunder Hole where, when the tide and waves are just right, you can hear a sound like thunder as the waves crash into a small underwater cave.   We hit it at just the right time!

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Bubble Rock

Bubble Rock is the best known boulder in Maine.  Perched precariously on the eastern edge of the summit of South Bubble, it can be reached via the Bubbles Divide Trail.

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the spectacular view atop Bubble Mountain

Kayaking Trip

Of course, I wanted to kayak.  Jeff encouraged me to go with a tour company for safety concerns instead of taking my own out.  After talking with the two main companies, I decided to go with National Park Sea Kayak Tours which tour the remote western side of Acadia which results in less boat traffic, no motels, no cruise ships, and more wildlife sightings.  The guide transported our group in a passenger van, we paddled around 6 miles in Western Bay, Blue Hill Bay, and Somes Sound.

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Since all the kayaks are tandem, I was concerned about being paired with an inexperienced paddler.  There were 3 couples who had never paddled before and a group of 5 40 something guys.  Fortunately, I was paired with one of the guys who had experience.  This group of guys from Chicago take a boys adventure trip every year.  They were so much fun, I loved hearing their funny stories and they were impressed with our RV nomadic life.   We were laughing so much that we got into trouble with the guide!  He thought we were scaring away the wildlife!    However, we still managed to see several eagles, osprey, porpoises, and seals.  I didn’t manage to get many pics,  by the time I retrieved my camera from the dry bag, the photo op was gone.

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If you’re looking for beauty, solitude, and a few hikes than stay at Schoodic.  But, if you don’t mind the crowds and want tons more hiking go to Mount Desert Island.   Or my suggestion-go after Labor Day and spend time in both!  Totally worth it.  We could have easily stayed a month, which has been the common theme all summer.  Learning we need to slow down next year!

Thanks for stopping by…..

Acadia National Park: Schoodic Peninsula

The Unspoiled, Uncrowded Side of Acadia

In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks-John Muir

Schoodic Woods Campground

This campground & site exceeded all expectations, unlike the last one! We were in the B loop, many sites are parallel or pull-through, and are large and private and beautiful.  This had to be my favorite one of all year.

The park opened in 2015 after a decade long effort to protect the 3,200 acre tract that abuts Acadia.  Development of a resort, hotel, golf course, and luxury villas was thwarted by an anonymous buyer (operating as Schoodic Woods, LLC).  They purchased the land and spent two years constructing the campground along with 8.5 miles of bike paths and 4 miles of hiking trails, then generously donating the 1,400 acres of easement to the United States to be managed by the National Park Service as part of Acadia National Park.  Wow…there are good people in the world who want to preserve beautiful lands and not just make a profit!

We have visited many beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous, jaw dropping places this year, but I think Acadia has to be at the top of the list.  Or at least in the top five.  At every turn, or around each curve was another awesome sight.  I was awestruck.    P1000549

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We biked the six mile one way loop and the network of eight mile 16 ft. wide bike trails.  There is a network of 7.5 miles of hiking trails that lead across the Peninsula, from Winter Harbor terminating on the southern end of Blueberry Hill.  After a challenging steep climb from the East Trail, you are rewarded great views from Schoodic Head.  Compared to the busy MDI, we hardly saw anyone on our hikes and bike rides.

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Peninsula Loop

Hike to Schoodic Head

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we took the ferry to Bar Harbor

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Pickled Wrinkle

It’s always fun meeting & connecting with fellow FTimers.   No matter what the age difference is, you have so much in common.  That certainly was true with Heather & Paul, a young couple who travel and work remotely we met in the campground.  Heather and I went on a short hike and they invited us to join them for dinner on our last night.  Locals had recommended the Pickled Wrinkle in Birch Harbor.   Pickled Wrinkles are actually an old Down-east Maine delicacy.  They are large carnivorous sea snails which are pickled.  Paul had to try them!  It was a fun evening with great food, conversation, and laughs.

next up….Acadia in Bar Harbor

3 weeks in Maine-Lobstah & Wild Blueberries

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Sagadahoc Bay Campground

Last winter when we started planning our New England trip, we knew that Acadia National Park would be the main destination in Maine, but I also wanted to stay a few days at a park that had waterfront sites with easy access to launch my kayak.

I really try not to have any expectations of a campground or particular site that we’ve never been to.  Websites and reviews can be deceiving or misleading.  Nevertheless, I had high hopes for this one on the coast of Maine.  img_2172

Leaving Boston a day early due to the oppressive heat and humidity, I was very pleased that the owner of Sagadahoc Bay could accommodate us.

Then we arrived…..we had reserved one of eight FHU “waterfront” sites.  Jeff could tell immediately I was disappointed.  He said, ” well there is water in front of our site”.   Did I detect a hint of sarcasm?  I replied, “Yea, but over 150 ft. away?   This is a water view site not waterfront.  It’s false advertising.”  He doesn’t get what the big deal is….”you have a dolly to carry your kayak down to the beach”.  He doesn’t share my love of the ocean or enthusiasm for kayaking.  He’ll occasionally go out with me, if the conditions are right-a small lake, no wind and smooth as glass.   Guess a near drowning experience in Hawaii in your 20’s can do that to a person!!

My argument-I splurged for this site so I could launch easily and a campground shouldn’t say waterfront when it’s only water view.   It’s the principle, right??

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see what I mean?  clearly, water view!!  our rig is the 2nd from the left with the clamshell

After we got set-up, I calmed down and started getting excited for our friend Al’s visit.  She shares my love and enthusiasm for the ocean and kayaking!  We actually met on the water over 10 years ago, at Tempe Town Lake, AZ at our first Dragon-boat practice and have been friends ever since.  Despite over 20 yrs. age difference, we just click!  We enjoy the same things,  paddling, hiking, & adventures.  Rick just adores her.  She always has time to talk with him, really converses and listens.  It means a lot to me.

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She even does puzzles with him!

We did enjoy our stay here.  Went on a couple of hikes in search of wild blueberries, but only found a handful.  Fortunately, you can find them at roadside stands.  They are smaller than store bought, but so much sweeter.

We took the kayaks out when the tide was high.

when the tide is low, you could walk out on the mud flats

We looked for lighthouses and lobster rolls.   P1000518

We checked out Five Islands Lobster Co. but it had ridiculous  tourist prices.

Found cheap ones at the local grocery store….not the best but satisfying! img_2049

Spent an afternoon at Reid State Park.

And the best deal……………….lobsters, cooked and delivered to our campsite!  less than $8 per lb.

What day is it?

Since retiring, I don’t always know what the date is or even what day it is, but I do pay attention to our departure dates……usually.  I recall the first text I received from Al regarding her visit: I can come on the first and leave on the fifth.  Perfect, I replied.  We leave on the fifth as well.  Later, she wrote that she could come on the 31st and would leave the day after Labor Day.  I had it in my head that still was the fifth, Jeff’s birthday.

Al gets up early and leaves, we continue to pack up.  As we are doing the last check-antenna down, awnings in, windows closed and just before Jeff is going to back up the truck to hook-up the rig, I remember it’s his birthday.  Oh, so sorry.  I forgot to wish you a Happy Birthday.  What? he says.  It’s not till tomorrow.  What do you mean, today is the fifth, right?  Wrong.  Are you kidding???   Rick and the pups are in the truck….waiting.

So, what do we do now?  Can’t get into Acadia till the next day, this place is already paid for.  We unpack, the bare minimum.   The dogs are actually pissed, they refuse to even look at us.  They love to travel to new places, well they like to SMELL new places & pee on things! The neighbors think we’re nuts!

 Would I recommend this campground?  Absolutely.

  • The owners are extremely accommodating
  • no extra charge for another adult or vehicle
  • small, quiet campground on a bay
  • cheap lobster delivered to your campsite
  • Jeff got to fly his drone

A great, relaxing stay on your way to the more popular destinations.   Just remember, it’s WATER VIEW!!

next up….Acadia National Park

Visit to Boston: heat, humidity, and GPS disasters!

Ever since we started on our Full-Time journey, I have done my due diligence with trip planning, not depending on just one resource for checking travel routes.  We have an RV Garmin, the truck has Navigation software, my IPad has Google Maps, and we also use an atlas as well as paper state maps.  Should be fool-proof, right?  Nope!  Sometimes the last 10 miles to the campground can give us grief.

We left the Finger Lakes area headed to Wompatuck State Park so we could visit Boston.  The last 10 miles, we started getting conflicting directions from the RV Garmin, trucks GPS, and my IPad.   Because the RV’s GPS has our rig’s height it made sense to listen to her (we call her Bitchin’ Betty) to avoid low overpasses.  Well, Bitchin’ Betty was wrong!  We ended up in a neighborhood with a dead end and no place to turn around.  Guess who was bitchin’???

Fortunately, a man working in his yard saw our dilemma and came to our rescue.  With the coolest Boston accent, he guided Jeff back down a hill and around the corner, while I played cop and attempted to  direct traffic.  It was NOT fun!  This kind man told us that we weren’t the first ones to end up there.  Apparently, there is another entrance to the park but its closed to motor vehicles!

I realize that parks in the East were built way before these big rigs.  And just because a park has 40 ft sites that could accommodate your rig, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  First you have to reach the site and then be able to get into it!  Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, MA is a lovely park located about 35 minutes south of Boston.   But, the roads in the park are very narrow, curvy,  with tons of trees with low hanging branches.   After the fiasco in the neighborhood, we did manage to get to our site and Jeff was able to back-in without hitting any trees.

The Park Rangers were helpful in advising the best way to reach Boston, certainly not driving Bart (big ass red truck) our dually.  There are two choices, the MBTA Boston’s transit system called the T or taking the commuter ferry.  Due to all of the construction, we opted for the ferry.  A little more expensive but a lot faster and more fun.

We got off at Long Wharf which is in the heart of Boston, close to the Freedom Trail. The ferry trip was cool, but when we landed in Boston it was very warm and humid.  It was actually a record setting day, reaching 98 degrees with over 100 degrees heat index.

Our plan was to walk as much of the Freedom Trail as we could, hoping to see most of the 16 sites, but it was just too hot and miserable.  So we decided to take the HopOn/HopOff Trolley, first to get an overview and then hop off to see some of the historical sites.  Once we got on the trolley, we didn’t want to get off!   It was just too damn hot.  And the trolley driver was very entertaining and knowledgeable.  We did get off at the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship that’s still afloat.

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It was very cool to be on a ship that’s over 200 years old and still floats!

Our only other hop off was to Cheers, just so we could get a cold beer!  The downstairs is the original bar that the show was about, and upstairs is the actual set where it was filmed.

So our trip to Boston was not what we had hoped or expected.  But, hey it’s all an adventure!  It’s a cool city with tons of history….we will defiantly come back!

Letchworth State Park-The Grand Canyon of the East

Letchworth State Park comprises 14,350 acres, approximately 1 1/2 miles wide and 17 miles long, following the course of the Genesee River. The walls of the gorge are layers of shale, limestone, and sand that rise up to 600 ft. in height.

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can you imagine this in the fall?

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There are three waterfalls at the south end of the park.  The Upper Falls, a 50 ft. drop over a horseshoe bend, making them a little hard to see, but can be seen from the Portage Bridge.

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P1000301 (3)The Middle Falls are within easy walking distance from the Upper, and they are the tallest (107 ft.) and the most picturesque.

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The Lower Falls are a bit further downstream and have the shortest drop (70 ft.)

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You have to climb down 127 steps to get the best view, but it’s totally worth it. There’s a stone footbridge just below the falls.

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The best overlooks are Tea Table, Great Bend, Archery Field, and Inspiration Point.  And of course, the Falls.

There is also a nice visitor’s center/gift shop and a cool, interactive nature center with a butterfly garden.

732acf45-de19-46d8-a261-ef16cbccd9a6-5911-0000039bbf617240The huge campground with 8 loops is at the north end of the park, about 14 miles from the waterfalls and overlooks.  Sites are mostly shaded back-in with either 30A or 50A, no water or sewer.  Most sites are a good size with decent separation and privacy.  Feels like you are camping in a beautiful forest.  Just be aware that dogs are only allowed in Loops 100, 200, and 700.  The campground also offers camp store, rec building, several playgrounds, and on-site laundromat.

Finger Lakes, NY

We stayed at Sampson State Park, a lovely, huge park on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region, north central New York.  The location was perfect for day trips to the other state parks in the area, including Watkins Glen and Taughannok Falls.   As in the other NY parks, the sites are electric only but camping in one, allows free access to the others.  The Finger Lakes area is beautiful and there is no end of wineries and breweries.

Watkins Glen: a magical place with steps, steps, and more steps, but a big payoff-19 waterfalls

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This State Park is the most famous of all of the Finger Lakes Parks.  The most popular trail, the Gorge Trail, runs over, under, and along the park’s 19 waterfalls by way of bridges and more than 800 stone steps.  We were disappointed that part of the trail was closed due to recent flooding and only were able to hike about half way.  However, it was still such a magical place, where you imagine seeing fairies or elves!

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Playing around with aperture settings!

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Taughannok Falls

Another day trip to Taughannok Falls, the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi.  With a drop of 215 ft. drop, it’s 33 ft. taller than Niagara, but a much smaller volume of water.   It’s an easy hike to the base of the falls, so Rick was able to join us!

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We treated ourselves to delicious homemade ice-cream at Cayuga Lake Creamery.  They also make their own waffle cones.  Yum!

About a year before we headed out on our FT journey, I started following blogs of RVer’s travels.  That’s where I discovered so many beautiful places I had never heard of….like the Finger Lakes Area.

I’m learning photography so my photos are not as good as some and my writing style does not have the wit and humor of others, but hope my post will be helpful and inspire you to visit this wonderful place!

Until next time……

The Power of Nature: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the border between United States and Canada.   Horseshoe Falls, the largest lies on the border of U.S. and Ontario.  The American and Bridal Veil Falls lie entirely on the American side.

So what is the attraction of this place, that millions of people come each year, including tourists, honeymooners, and daredevils?

Perhaps it’s not only the beauty, but the power.  There are 500 falls in the world that are taller than Niagara, but what makes Niagara so impressive is the amount of water flowing over.  It has more than 6 million cubic ft. of water flowing over the crest line  every minute.

It is one of those tourist attractions that have tons of people that can be hard to deal with.  But, I still recommend it.  The roar of the falls,  the expanse of the flow, and the beautiful blue/green water is something to experience firsthand.

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We spent 5 days at Four Mile Creek State Park, located only 15 miles north of Niagara Falls State Park.  By camping in a NY State Park, it allows free parking in any other parks which saves you $10 per day.  Sites are large, nicely spaced with shade trees, picnic table, and fire pit.  There are 10 50 amp sites, 129 30 amp sites & 136 nonelectric.  10 waterfront sites are located on the shores of Lake Ontario.

In order to experience the Falls close up and personal, we purchased the Discovery Pass.  For $46 it includes 5 attractions: Maid of the Mist Boat Tour, Cave of the Winds, Aquarium of Niagara, Adventure Theater, Discovery Center, and unlimited trolley rides  for one day.

 

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It’s worth walking across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side, a different view and perspective.

Moochdocking in Canada: Nice, EH?

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After leaving Niagara Falls, we went to Canada to visit our friends Judy and Doug .  We met them in Arizona, when we hosted together at Cave Creek Regional Park.

They live in a valley below the Niagara Escarpment on 20 acres with hiking trails outside their back door!

Despite being in their 70’s, Judy and Doug are avid hikers.  They even maintain part of the Bruce Trail that’s on their property.  At the top, we could see their house!  We had such a good time;  hiking, visiting local attractions, just hanging out on the deck enjoying happy hours and good conservation.

We checked out Blue Mountain Ski resort and rode the gondola.  Rick enjoyed the wildlife exhibit with a bald eagle.

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Hike to a waterfall

Their Monarch nursery!  It was soooo cool!  We left before the birth, but Doug shared his photos.  Amazing, EH?

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Thanks Doug and Judy for a wonderful time!

Next up, Finger Lakes, NY

A Step Back in Time: Visiting Gettysburg & Amish Country

I have to admit I wasn’t as excited about visiting Gettysburg as Jeff was.   Why be reminded of such an awful time in our history, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War where more than 50,000 soldiers lost their lives?  Then I remembered the saying at the Holocaust Museum in D.C., “Think about what you saw”.

As with most National Parks, this one is done very well.  We started with the Visitor’s Center and Civil War Museum.   I regret not seeing the Cyclorama, a massive, oil on canvas painting depicting the “Battle of Gettysburg” on July 3, 1863, providing the viewer of what occurred at the battle.   But, the line was too long and we wanted to tour the 25 miles of battlefield.

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The monuments are presented with incredible detail and some even had volunteers that gave talks and answered questions.  You can’t help but be moved by the historical significance of the battles and Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.

 

 

We really could have easily spent several days here, but Mother Nature did not agree and our visit was shortened by rain.

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We spent a day in Lancaster County, visiting an Amish farm.  Rick enjoyed the buggy ride and seeing the animals.

 

Jeff was very impressed with this farm that does not use electricity, only a diesel fueled generator and mules.  He worked on a dairy farm when he was in high school and said it was a lot of work, even with electricity and tractors.  We found the Amish very friendly and engaging.

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School transportation!

I wanted to spend more time touring the countryside, especially finding the iconic covered bridges of the area.  But, again the weather did not cooperate.  Now, if I was more of a spontaneous RVer and did not have the month already booked, we could have adjusted our plans and perhaps stayed longer.   But, I have not found the balance between booking our sites ahead of time and just winging it.  Admittedly, I am too anal.  The other reason is since we prefer National and State Parks, you must have advance reservations, sometimes several months prior.  At this point in our travels, I’m not ready to take a chance of where we will end up!

Another disappointing issue with this post is my pictures.  I recently purchased a new camera, Panasonic Lumix FZ300.  It’s a great camera, I’m just learning all the functions & settings, trying to jump out of the Auto mode!!  I often drool over my blogger friends pics and have been motivated to improve.  And I think it’s always good to learn and develop new skills!  I’ve been frantically watching YouTube videos and reading photography guides because our next stop is Niagara Falls!

Until next time…….