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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….

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…….

 

Workin’ and Playin’ in Delaware

Part 11 The Playin’

Did you know that Delaware was the first state?  I must have missed that day in history class because I thought it was Virginia, but that was the first colony.  Tons of history here, the locals are very proud of their state and love to talk about it.

We were greeted by a very spry 80 yr. old at one museum and she went on and on for 45 min. (I’m not exaggerating!) I finally had to politely excuse myself to use the restroom (knowing there wasn’t one in the building) we were able to make a hasty retreat!

We spent several days visiting Lewes, noted for being the First Town in the First State.

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img_1731-e1532895283177.jpgWalking tour of downtown historic Lewes

The Cannonball House is so named due to the battle scars it bears from the War of 1812.  During the Bombardment of Lewes, the British attacked the town and kept the canal front under siege, but eventually were defeated.

img_1734-1The Ryves Holt House, oldest house in Delaware built in 1665.  Now is the home of the Lewes Historical Society Visitor’s Center.

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The Zwaanendael Museum was built by the State of Delaware in 1931 during the 300 year anniversary of the first Dutch Settlement in order to honor the memory of the original settlers who were massacred by a local tribe of the Lenni Lenape Indians.

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St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Graveyard which surrounds the church, has many interesting stones dating back to 1774.

There are many shops and restaurants along Second Street, the sidewalks are all paved in brick, with old fashioned street lights and baskets of flowers.

There was even a Puzzle Shop.  Rick was in Heaven!

We went on a Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruise at Fisherman’s Wharf, no whales, but did see many dolphins.  Hint:  we saw just as many on the Ferry from Lewes to Cape May at 1/3 the cost!

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Lewes/Cape May Ferry

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img_1374-1Looking for dolphins!

Ocean Boardwalks

We went to the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City, MD.  Ocean City is longer, but we preferred Rehoboth which was named one of the top ten boardwalks.   It has nicer shops and restaurants.

Lightship Overfalls

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The Lightship Overfalls is one of 17 remaining lightships out of a total of 179 built from 1820-1952.  A lightship is basically a lighthouse that floats and serves the same functions.

Assateague Island

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I’m sure many of you are familiar with the feral Chincoteague Ponies and Assateague Horses that live on Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia.  The breed was made famous by the children’s book series, Misty of Chincoteague.  There are several legends regarding the origins of the ponies, the most popular holds that they descended from survivors of a wrecked Spanish ship that swam to the shore.

Although the entire island is owned by the federal government, Assateague is split by a fence at the Maryland/Virginia state line, with a herd of about 150 ponies living on each side of the fence.  The herds are managed by two different federal agencies with different management styles.  Horses from the Maryland herd live within the Assateague National Seashore and are generally treated as wild animals, given no more or less assistance than other species on the island, other than contraceptive treatment to prevent overpopulation.  Conversely, the Chincoteague herd are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.  The Virginia ponies are treated to twice yearly veterinarian inspections, which prepare them for general equine population if they are auctioned at the Pony Penning Day. As many as 50,000 visitors gather on the last Wednesday in July to watch mounted riders bring the Virginia herd across the channel to the island.  The swim takes about 5-10 minutes, some foals are auctioned off to keep a healthy herd number, the rest are returned to the Island the next day.

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We checked out Assateague National Park first. The visitors center is really nice, but unfortunately we did not see any horses.  After doing more research, we decided that a tour would give us a better chance.  Salt Water Pony Tours had the best reviews, I just didn’t realize how far it was.  After booking the tour, I found out it was 74 miles.  Figured if we gave ourselves a 2 hr window it would be fine.  Nope.  It took almost 2 1/2 hrs, going through the little beach towns with all the lights and traffic.  We arrived late, but fortunately Captain Henry waited for us!  He was an awesome tour guide, knew the area well, where the ponies would be, and had fun, interesting stories.  Not only did we see many ponies, but also a large bald eagle.

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Symbiotic Relationship!

Even on our work days, we had plenty of time to enjoy the beach, fish in the bay, bike ride.  I even attempted bogie boarding and kite flying.  Notice the word, ATTEMPT!!

Meeting Friends

A perk of traveling cross country is meeting up with friends, either people we have met through RVing, blogging friends,  or old high school friends, like Kathi and David who live in Anapolis, MD.  We haven’t seen Kathi since high school, over 45 years ago!  They came to the park and we enjoyed catching up with our lives and news from our home town Pecatonica, IL.

Weather and Bugs

Growing up in the Midwest we were familiar with humidity, flies, and mosquitoes.  But, after living in Arizona we became spoiled.  We came to Delaware prepared with a Clam-shell screened enclosure (guaranteed to keep out the smallest noseeums) armed with several brands of bug spray, Permethin to treat clothes, Thermacell lanterns, candles, and even a fogger.  Well, the bugs were not that bad.  There were a few days in June with bothersome black flies, but the noseeums and mosquitoes were not an issue.  Must be due to the ever present ocean breeze.

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May was cool, a lot of rain in June, July was hot and humid.  But, the beach was always 10 degrees cooler with a refreshing breeze.  By the end of June, the water was warm enough to not need a wet suit.  The worst time was a week of rain in June, thought I’d go crazy in the RV!  Thank God for Netflix, FB, and my Kindle!

Our 3 months in Delaware were great with the exception of the last 2 weeks when I developed shingles.  The irony of the story is 2 weeks prior we were in Walgreens picking up Rick’s prescriptions and I saw a sign about the shingles vaccine.  I thought to myself, “hmmm, I should probably get that, I’ve heard shingles can be pretty painful.”  I asked the pharmacist what the cost was without insurance (I only have catastrophic since I’m preMedicare).  $136 he told me.  Decided to pass, didn’t want to spend that much.  Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t have the extra money, we had saved over $3000 not paying for a sight all summer.  I just didn’t want to spend that much on something not fun!!

2 weeks later I woke up with a painful, burning rash on my back.  I tried to ignore it hoping it was prickly heat!  By the 5th day, I sought medical advice…not from a doctor, but FB!!  Well, I do have nurse friends since I’m a retired one!  I received over 70 responses, telling me to go to a doctor or ER ASAP, one said they ended up in the hospital, one had a friend who committed suicide due to the unbearable pain.  Jeez!  I made a consultation appointment with my free Teledoc service, uploaded a pic of my rash, had a diagnosis of shingles in 10 minutes and a prescription for an antiviral.  The prescription cost $101,  Are you fricking kidding me??  I think I have a mild case, yes it’s painful, but not excruciating compared to some people’s descriptions.  But, if I could have avoided all this aggravation for a mere 35 dollars more….Lesson learned!

Moral of the story:  If you get a feeling about something, follow your intuition.  Listen to your gut.  God, the universe, or whatever higher power you believe in, may just be trying to help you out!

Next up….Gettysburg, PA

Workin’ & Playin’ in Delaware!

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Part 1 The Workin’

We volunteered at Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth Beach from May 1 thru July 31.  It’s a beautiful park situated on an inlet between the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River Bay and Rehoboth Bay.

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Our site was on the north side, 5 min walk to the beach, 2 min walk to the bay, and 10 min. walk to the Marina/Restaurant & Bar.  Not a bad place to be for the summer!

The commitment for a FHU site was for 24 hr, but we barely worked 15-18.  It simply didn’t take that much time to complete the required duties.  Jeff mowed & used the weed-eater, Rick and I distributed the reservation cards, made sure campers left on time, answered questions, picked up trash at the campsites and along the bay walkway where people fished.  We shared the duties with another couple and covered each other on days off.  Our loop only had 43 sites for us to maintain.  We also checked the bathhouse and kept it stocked (contracted crew did the daily cleaning.)

The South side is the older part, sites are closer together and it can flood with a lot of rain.  IMO the North side is nicer!

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Sites are paved, as you can see not much grass to mow and no fire pits to clean!  Basically we got a little exercise and talked to people. We felt guilty about not working the “required” hours, but the Rangers assured us as long as the park was maintained and clean, they were happy!  They constantly thanked us for a job well done.   So we stopped with the guilt and enjoyed ourselves!

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We also helped with the weekly beach bonfire and ghost crab hunt!

 

Indian River Marina and Hammerhead Dockside Restaurant/Bar.

 

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We enjoyed a few Friday Happy Hours at Hammerhead, listening to the live entertainment and watching the boats come in.

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The beautiful Indian River Inlet Bridge lit up at night.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and would highly recommend it, for both visiting or camphosting.  The out of state summer rate is $49 per night, that would have been $1470 for one month, so we saved a lot.  It’s a very popular park that is fully booked a year out.

Next up….the Playin’ Part 11

 

Two of our favorite fun purchases, E bikes and kayaks

img_1566I know what your thinking….what’s the point of an electric bike if you want exercise?  We love bike riding but, found that the older we got, the harder it was to go uphill and go for long rides.  I read a post about E bikes,  they were gaining in popularity for commuters biking to work and people who wanted/needed the assistance.

After researching several brands, we decided on  Rad Power Bikes.  The company is based in Seattle and offers direct to consumer pricing, reducing the large retail markup.  We compared them to the higher priced Pedago Electric Bikes

The Pedago is top of the line but more than twice the price of the Rad Power and I just couldn’t justify the cost.  Plus, I liked the philosophy behind Rad Power, eliminating the third party seller, keeping costs down, but still offering great customer service.  I never found one negative review about the company or the bikes.

Jeff got the RadRover and I got the smaller, folding RadMini.  At the time they didn’t have a Step-Thru and I was afraid I was too short for the Rover.  I see now they have a Step-Thru for the same price.  They both have 750W geared hub motors and 48V Lithium-ion battery that will last 25-45 miles on one charge.  There are two modes; pedal assist with 5 levels of assist and a twist grip throttle when you really need power.  It has an on/off button to prevent accidental activation and allows you to only use the throttle when you want to,  I tend to use pedal assist 1-2 , maybe 3-4 if going up a steep hill and feel like we are actually getting more exercise with these than our old bikes.  We’ve gone 10-15 miles, never would have lasted that long before.  There are so many locations that have beautiful, paved bike paths that go on for miles.

We’ve enjoyed many scenic rides, along 30 A Florida’s Emerald Coast, around the entire Mackinac Island,  the foothills in Tucson, AZ, and the Lake Between the Lakes in KY to name a few.

Prior to going full-time, we had hard shell kayaks that we transported on top of the truck pulling a travel trailer without any issues.
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But, they had to be positioned closer to the front of the truck with the fifth wheel.  On our first trip through New Mexico, we lost them to a huge gust of wind.  It ripped the kayaks and Thule racks right off, we just looked at each other and said WTH!!  There was no shoulder to pull off to try to recover them.  Fortunately, no one was behind us, no injuries or damage.  I was really bummed, not just about losing 3k, but not having a kayak for our first trip to Florida.

I started researching inflatable kayaks, thinking that would be the obvious solution.  But, I was really worried if they could track as well as the hard shell.   I discovered Sea Eagle kayaks and inflatable boats.  They have many price points, whether you are a beginner or experienced.  The company has awesome customer service and are very helpful.  I talked with them a few times before deciding on which one I wanted.  I ended up choosing the FastTrack due to their shape and NeedleKnife keel for improved performance and tracking.  They are extremely durable and have a 3 year warranty.  We got the tandem size to have enough room for gear and the pups. I absolutely love it!  Even considering getting the QuikSail attachment since we are currently in Delaware and there is great kayaking in the windy bay.

If you love to kayak and have limited options of transporting them, I recommend inflatable!

Camphosting….it works for us!

Camphosting/Workcamping are terms that are used to describe volunteering or working at campgrounds, private parks, forest service, theme parks, etc while living  in an RV.  I’m only going to write about our volunteer experience in State Parks and the advantages of doing so.

Why we love it!

  •  Since we are retired, we do have an income, albeit a fixed one.  We can live comfortably on that alone, if we watch our expenses, but it doesn’t give us much wiggle room.  Volunteering for a FHU site can save us anywhere from $900 to $1200 per month (we sometimes get free propane and laundry).  That’s a chunk of money that can be added to our savings-we have two, a short term one for emergencies and maintenance and a long term one (IRA) that I call our exit plan for when/if we ever stop traveling and want to settle down.  We will have options to purchase a condo or RV lot.  The extra money allows for major purchases that the fixed budget does not.  Last year we were able to buy electric bikes, kayaks, and do a solar install.  This year I upgraded to a new laptop, camera, and sewing machine.  We can splurge on spendy tourist attractions and tours, souvenirs, and meals out.
  • We have met life-long friends.  We first met Faye and Dave through Grand Design, but then had an opportunity to work with them in Arizona.  Hopefully, we will get a chance to work with them again in the future.

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We met Doug and Judy working two seasons in Cave Creek, AZ. and enjoyed many hikes.  This summer we are visiting them in Canada.img_1545

Rick really connected with Marv & Alice and may visit them in their home in Colorado.  All the hosts were great!

 

  • It gives us some structure and balance from the seemingly never-ending vacation.  Traveling 250-350 miles per day to get to the next destination and staying 4-10 days can be exhausting.  After being in travel mode for a few months, it’s actually nice to stay put for awhile.  We set up the screened enclosure so Rick can do his puzzles.  Jeff has time to do any maintenance on the rig and truck and I do whatever!  I have realized that not every day needs to have jaw-dropping landscapes or breath-taking thrill-seeking adventures!  It’s ok to have some down time to read a book or even take a nap.  Although, I am planning on a zip-lining tour over Niagara Falls and a whale/dolphin watching boat tour!  Working a few hours per week still gives us lots of time to explore.    img_1333
  • We enjoy giving back.  Since we prefer National, State, county, and COE parks vs private campgrounds, it’s the logical choice for us to work at.   They tend to have larger, more private sites and are in beautiful areas.  You are limited to a 14 day stay, so volunteering for one gives you an opportunity to have a much longer visit. The Rangers are so appreciative, they have told us that if it weren’t for the volunteers, many parks would be forced to close.  We’re happy to help maintain these beautiful parks for future generations.
  • Volunteering has also given Rick a sense of purpose and validation.  They have allowed him to help us or have even given him special projects to do  He loves meeting and talking with the Rangers, office staff, and campers.   img_1376

Jeff loves the zero turn lawnmower!  img_1324

What we have learned so far:

  • Ask questions and more questions-about the specific job duties, hours, time commitment,  host site.  We accepted a host position at a Wisconsin state park last summer.  Knowing that the sites were W/E only, I made the mistake assuming the host site would have full hook-ups.  I was WRONG!!!  Fortunately we have a portable blue boy and were only there 4 weeks.  Inconvenient, but doable.  Make sure the host site will accommodate your rig.
  • Check out the area before hand.  How close are grocery stores, Walmart, and laundry mats?  Another mistake we made-the park in WI was in the middle of farmland.  Closest town was 30 miles away which took 45 minutes to drive on two-lane winding country roads!  And of course the park did not have laundry facilities.
  • Is the area one you will want to explore on your days off?  While we enjoyed the lake in WI for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and the bike trails, there really wasn’t much else to do in the area.   I know, it sounds like we hated the position in WI.  It really was fine, but we were glad it was only for 1 month due to lack of sewer and location!  The Rangers were super nice and the park was beautiful. 

  • Consider how long you’re willing to stay in one location.  I have seen commitments for 1 month to the season, 5-6 months.  We have worked in AZ for 5 months, WI for 1 month, and now are in Delaware for 3.  We got a little antsy in AZ at the 4 month mark, but it’s probably due to the fact we lived there for 20 years!  We do love the desert and hiking trails, but want  to see new places.  Two or three months seem to be a perfect time frame to explore an area before getting bored.
  • Ask yourself what kind of work you are willing to do or not do, such as bathroom cleaning,  They are all different.  In AZ we stayed at Cave Creek Regional Park, but worked at Spur Cross Recreation Area.  We collected the entrance fees, sold merchandise, and gave out hiking recommendations.  It was a good fit for us, as we love to hike and talk to people.    img_1546
  • How many hours are you willing to work for your site?  The most we will agree to is 20-24 per week in exchange for a FHU site  Ask how many days and hours are required per person or per couple.
  • In WI, we maintained the campsites, cleaning the fire pits after the campers left.  Although, we liked the exercise, the fire pits can be nasty with people using them as garbage dumps.  We enjoy a campfire, but would probably think twice about working at a park that has them.
  • Now, in DE we maintain the sites, mow, weed eat, pick up trash along the bay, and hang up the reservation cards.  We don’t clean the bathhouse, only check them to make sure they are stocked.  The bathhouse is only 2 yrs old and pristine, so I don’think I would mind cleaning them. Our sites are all FHU with no tent sites, most of the campers are self-contained so the bathrooms hardly get used.  It would be different if there were a lot of tent sites.   And there are no fire pits to clean…score!!

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  •  Our friends have jobs in the office, taking reservations and checking campers in.  I’ve seen interpretative positions, tram drivers, and tour guides.  I’m looking at a lighthouse guide in Oregon for next summer.  How fun would that be?

Where do you find great jobs?

Most states have websites for their parks with links for volunteer information.  You usually can apply online.  It’s a good idea to follow-up with a phone call to the volunteer coordinator or ranger.  Here’s a couple of links, Delaware State Parks,  Florida State Parks.  Another resource is volunteer.gov. for National Parks.

Last winter we started making our summer travel plans.  We knew we wanted to visit Washington D.C., all the New England states, and go up to Ontario, Canada. I applied at a few parks and was offered a position at Delaware Seashore State Park, right on the coast.  It sounded ideal, but it was for a minimum of 3 months, May-July.   We ended up accepting the position and its worked out well.  After leaving AZ, we took 3 weeks to get to D.C, spending 1 week there.  Then we’ll have 3 months, Aug-Oct seeing New England.  Winter will be spent in Florida & Georgia-2 months at Grayton Beach State Park, 1 month at Topsail 2 at Skidaway Island, then finally John Pennekamp Coral Reef, in the Keys.  I hesitated at accepting so many positions in a row, but since they are for short times and in awesome places we thought why not!

We absolutely love our Full-Time lifestyle, balancing traveling with volunteering.  Our experiences working have mostly been positive, but I have heard some horror stories.  If that happens, you can always leave!

Until next time…….

Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC

Collectively called the Smithsonian Institution, this world renowned museum complex in the District consists of 17 museums, galleries, and a zoo.  And it’s free!

From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Institution are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world.

Our sightseeing time was cut down to 4 days due to rain, but we still managed to visit 4 museums, including the Natural History, American History, National Archives, and the Holocaust Memorial.  You could spend days in each of them.  Some require a timed ticket due to their popularity.  The newest National Museum of African American History & Culture was booked out until August.

Jeff and I were most impressed with the Holocaust Museum.  It’s still difficult to believe that Americans had access to reliable information about the Nazi regime’s persecution of Jews as it happened, but most could not imagine a mass murder campaign was possible.  Though most sympathized with their plight, assisting and recusing the victims never became a national priority.

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Visitors to the museum’s Permanent Exhibition receive ID cards chronicling the experiences of people who lived in Europe during the Holocaust.  The cards personalize the events of the time, providing a biographical sketch of the person, their personal experiences and events, and finally the fate of the individual, whether they died or survived.

One of the traveling exhibits this summer was Remember the Children: Daniels Story.  It represents the experiences of many Jewish children during the Nazi era, Daniel narrates through his diary the history of the Holocaust in ways that children can understand.  The exhibit portrays life in a middle-class German home, in a Jewish ghetto in occupied Poland, and finally at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  We all were in tears.

 

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The world’s largest Natural History Museum’s highlights include the 45.5 carat Hope Diamond, Ocean Hall, Mammals Hall, Hall of Human Origins, Insect Zoo, dinosaurs, and the magnificent African bush elephant in the rotunda.  Rick loved the dinosaurs!

We wish we would have had more time, other museums recommended to us were the Newseum and the International Spy Museum.  They do have an admission fee, but have been told it’s worth it.

One rainy day cleared up by early evening, so we were able to take advantage of the Night Bus Tour that leaves from the campground.  The tour guide was very informative and funny.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to our nation’s capital.  We found all Washingtonians, from the bus drivers, tour guides, to staff at the museums very friendly and helpful.  They truly love their city and are eager to show it off.

Everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t wait to return.

Next stop….Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth DE

Washington D.C., a humbling experience filled with mixed emotions

Visiting Washington D. C. for the first time at 63 years of age was an emotional experience, despite wishing there was a different POTUS!  Sorry; this is not meant to be a political post!

We stayed at Cherry Hill Park, the closest campground to D.C. for a week.  This is an expensive park, but considering the location and amenities, it’s worth every penny.  It has 2  swimming pools, splash pad, mini golf, cafe, laundry facilities,  tractor rides, camp store, and even dog walking services.

Probably the best convenience is the on-site Metro Bus depot that takes you to the Metro train station.  The DC Metro is one of the cleanest, safest transit systems in the U. S., much cleaner than the NYC subway.  Once you learn the train lines, we found it very easy to navigate.   When you reach National Mall, you can hop on the Circulator Bus for an inexpensive way to reach the monuments and museums.   We didn’t realize this on our first day and ended up walking over 9 miles.  Ok for Jeff and I, but poor Rick!  It was a little too much for him and needed the next day to rest.  Bad Sister!

 

Day 1:  A Monumental Experience

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool

  all I kept thinking of was Forest Gump!

The Washington Monument built to commemorate George Washington is made of marble, granite, and blue stone gneiss, and is the tallest stone structure in the world.  Construction began in 1848, but it was not completed until 1885 due to a lack of funds and the Civil War.  It officially opened October  9, 1888.

Lincoln Memorial

  • It took more than 50 years to get a memorial for Lincoln built and opened to the public.
  • It includes 39 columns of Colorado marble, one column represents a state in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death in 1865.
  • There are 87 steps from the Reflecting pool to Lincoln’s statue in side the Memorial.  The number 87 is for ‘four scores and 7’ per what Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address.
  • Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on the steps of the Memorial August 28, 1963.
  • Observers who are literate in American Sign Language have taken note of the positioning of the sculpted fingers, recognizing in their arrangement the signification of the letters A and L.  Lincoln was particularly invested in the cause of furthering the study of sign language, he authorized the creation and signed the Charter of Gallaudet University, the school for the deaf whose founder French had also sculpted.  The National Park service has dismissed this as an urban legend.
  • Rick’s favorite memorial!

National World War ll Memorial

The World War II Memorial creation was authorized be President Bill Clinton in 1993 and constructed between 2001 and 2004.  It was dedicated to the hundreds of millions of people who served, the hundreds of thousands of people who died and also those who helped support soldiers in battle.

All 48 states, 7 federal territories and District of Columbia are represented on the memorial with its own granite pillar and wreath.  A wall of 4,048 gold stars, each one represents 100 American military deaths.  That is more than 400.000 soldiers.

Korean War Memorial

This Memorial had special meaning for Rick and I since our father fought in the Korean War.  He never mentioned his experience, however years after our mother passed, I found a newspaper article about his experience during the Navy Battle of Casablanca.  He was part of an invasion task force of 102 American ships carrying 35,000 soldiers who approached the coast of Morocco undetected.  I would have liked to have had an adult conservation with him about it, but never got the chance.  He survived the Korean War, but was killed in a car accident in 1969 at the age of 42.  I was just 15.  Perhaps some memories are best left alone.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This also stirred up emotions.  In our small town of 1200 people, we lost 4 young men to the Vietnam War.  Considering graduating classes typically were less than 60 students, 4 was a high number.

The Memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982 and honors the men and women who answered the call to service during the most divisive war in the U.S. history.  More than 58,000 names of soldiers who gave their lives or are missing are inscribed on the black granite wall.

The staff are very helpful in locating the names of your loved ones and making an etching.

Jefferson Memorial

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Martin Luther King Memorial

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

 

Arlington Cemetery: a somber sight

The thousands of white grave markers against the green grass makes a dramatic visual and visceral impact.

 

Visiting all the memorials brought up memories of my childhood.  Growing up in the 60’s wasn’t as idyllic some would think.  It was often a confusing time of social unrest.  We may not have had the school shootings that students of today face, but there were race riots and Vietnam War protests, sometimes ending in violence (Kent State).  I remember the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.  Young men were either drafted or enlisted.  Some chose to flee the country to Canada.  Those who were fortunate to survive, returned home to a nation of hostility.  There were no “Thank yous” or “Welcome home”.  They were met with hate filled protesters, screaming obscenities, calling them baby killers, even spitting on them.  Many could not bear the hurt and humiliation and would end up having problems with addiction to cope or even committing suicide.

Visiting these Monuments and Memorials is a moving experience.  They link the past to the present and enable people to remember and respect the sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  George Santayana

Up next…museums