End of the Epic Road Trip

Well, we finally came to the end of our Epic Road Trip.  It was a combination of joy and sorrow.  We were sorry to leave our home on the road and all the adventures we had, but happy to return home to our family and friends.

We were on the road for six months and five days, 16,860 miles (a lot on gravel roads).  We saw 38 states, three Canadian Provinces and one Canadian Territory. On the maps below, the red lines show our planned route and the black line shows where we really went. Our RV map shows all the states we managed to visit.ERTMAP

We traveled from the redwoods of our rugged northwest coast, to the spectacular glaciers in Alaska, to the beauty of Alberta, Canada, to the magnificent Mount Rushmore, to the splendid Niagara Falls, to the beauty of the Maine coast, to the hills of Tennessee, to the windswept Outer Banks of South Carolina, to the Blue Water of the Florida Keys, and a lot of places in-between.

We lost one camera, broke another (me), dropped a cell phone in the water (Lennard), had several repairs on the road, lost the keys to the tow car and had a fabulous time doing it.  We saw bears, moose, elk, deer, caribou, went fishing, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, tried to catch crabs, ate lobster, attended a Tiffin Ralley, kayaked, went sightseeing in every place we stopped, and met so many wonderful people. We stopped in several places to see relatives and long lost friends and went to Casey and Brian’s wedding.

I did laundry along the way, Lennard cleaned the RV and tow car (who would have guessed?) and we got our mail through a virtual mail box.  We found places to get hair cuts, groom the dogs and get minor medial care.  We ate in the RV, cooked on the grill and ate outside, ate in nice restaurants once in a while, and great little hole-in-the-walls a lot.

Six months is a lot of time out of your life, but I can tell you it was more than worth it.  We really weren’t sure how long we would last or how far we would get when we started, or even if we might kill each other. In the end, we were lucky to have so many memories and to have gained such lovely new friends along the way.  Its a trip not many people could or would make, but we are so grateful we were able to. Were glad to be home and don’t have plans for another trip yet, but I am sure we will be making another one. P1000346




Elvis was born in Tupelo Mississippi on January 8th 1935 in a two room house his father, uncle and grandfather built. He lived there until he was 13 years old, when his family moved to Memphis. Tupelo did a fabulous job of designing a monument to his birthplace and child hood.  You can see memorabilia in the museum, visit the house he was born in and even sit in the church where he first heard gospel singing.  There is a bigger than life-size statue of Elvis as an adult and in front of that, a statue of him as a child. Tupelo is also home to the hardware store where his mother, Gladys bought him his first guitar for his tenth birthday.

You can really get a feel for how poor his family was when you visit Graceland after seeing his childhood home. The comparison is incredible.  Elvis really was a rags to riches story and he never forgot that as evidenced by his generosity to his family, friends and many charities.

We were finally finished with our repairs in Red Bay and took off for home, grateful for all the hard work the mechanics in Red Bay did for us.  We decided to stop in Memphis to see Graceland.  Why not? We were going through anyway. That night we ate dinner at Marlowe’s, which is a famous BBQ and Rib place near Graceland.  Apparently, Elvis ate there and they have a lot of Elvis memorabilia. And…they even have a pink Cadillac, which will pick you up from either the Graceland RV Park or Heartbreak Hotel, both on Graceland grounds. By the way, the food was bad for you, but delicious.

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Graceland was beautiful and the I-pad tour was extremely informative and easy to use.  It not only took you on a self-guided tour of the mansion, but gave you details about Elvis, his family, friends, the art and furnishings. Most of what you see is original, just the way he left it.  We also saw archives of photographs, his automobile collection, his costumes and his two planes.  His favorite was the Lisa Marie, named after his daughter. The tour took about three and a half hors and was well worth the admission price.



The next day we headed out on the long trek across the country, doing about 400 miles per day.  That’s a lot in an RV.  We did stop to get some minor repairs and one day we ended up in a traffic jam for over two hours, adding to our day as road warriors.  We even parked in a Walmart parking lot in Amarillo, Texas because we were so late getting that far.  When we got to Grants, New Mexico, the temperature the next morning was 15 degrees.  Wow! From 80 in Florida to 15 in New Mexico.

Our last stop was a short detour to the North Ranch Escapee RV Park to see our friends from Homer, Tom and Linda and their new dog Swiffer.  Swiffer was sooo darling and loved Gypsy playing with her.  Bella just sat and watched. Tom and Linda took us to dinner at Nichols, a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere, run by a Brit of all things.  The food was absolutely delicious, so we took them to breakfast there the next morning, before leaving great friends.

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We finally arrived home on Sunday, November 15, 2015, six months and five days, and 16,860 miles after we left.  We were happy to be home. During the entire trip we didn’t think much about our house, but did miss our family and friends.  I think we will be home for a while!

Friends in St Petersburg


After Fort Meyers, we ambled up the coast line to St Petersburg to meet up with Todd and Terry.  They were nice enough to share an evening with us in downtown St Petersburg. We first met them through our dear friends, Jim and Joanne in the Dominican Republic.  We had a great evening just walking around town and then sharing dinner at a local restaurant. They are true city dwellers as they work from home, ride bikes downtown and rarely drive their car.  An enviable life for sure.

The next day we started out to see St. Pete’s beach, and after that decided to drive up the coast to Clearwater.  Clearwater has a great pier and promenade which was nice for walking with the dogs.

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Heading out to Red Bay, Alabama next to get some repairs on the coach before the warranty wears out, or we wear out, one of the two!


With heavy hearts we left Key West and our new friends there.


But… every day is a new adventure and we had one on the way to Fort Meyers Area. As we were driving we found The Buffalo Tiger Air Boat Rides and took the opportunity to see the Florida Everglades and it’s wildlife. What’s Up Alligators?

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We parked in Naples / Marco Island KOA so we could take a memory trip to Fort Meyers and Sanibel Island, where Lennard used to spend so much time with his Dad, Henry.  Fort Meyers has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Florida and Sanibel Island is world renown for shelling. It was a great day remembering all the times shared with Henry there.


The Tiffin Service area in Red Bay Alabama is simply amazing.  We had heard about it, but you can’t really imagine the enormity of it until you are here.


First of all, they provide RV parking for 93 RV’s just outside the repair bays.  It isn’t fancy, but all hookups are included.  The cost is $20.00 per night and if your RV is under warranty, it is free.  How much better could that be?  There are no reservations, and it is on a first come, first served basis.  When we arrived on Friday afternoon after spending the night in Tallahassee, there were no spots available, so we went to the “overflow” lot just down the street.  Again, only $20.00 per night.  Secondly, there are about 49 service bays, some of which are doubles.  There is a steel frame area and a woodshop area. There are also two lounges, a service lounge and an Allegro Club outdoor area.  Pets are allowed in certain areas of both lounges.

It rained over the weekend, so we spent most of our time hanging around in the RV and cleaning dirty paws after walks outside.


Lennard digging a moat around our RV

IMG_3091We did venture out to the famous Rattlesnake Saloon on Saturday night.  It’s about 25 miles away and literally located under a huge flat rock, giving the resemblance of a big cave.  They have good bar food and excellent music.  Only beer is served…hey it’s a saloon! You cannot drive directly to it.  You park in a lot up the hill and a “taxi” carries you down the hill to the saloon.  The taxi is a pickup truck with benches in the bed.  It’s a really interesting and different experience.

There are a number of other attractions in the area: The Coon Dog Cemetery, The Red Bay Museum, Fame Recording Studio, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Helen Keller Home, and of course the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket.  We will probably visit all of them while we are waiting for repairs.

It is raining again today, but supposed to be sunny tomorrow.  We are waiting for our first service evaluation and can’t leave today anyway.  I’ll keep you updated on our progress.


The Florida Keys are definitely “laid back”. We began our journey after breakfast with my dear friend, Shagg, in Melbourne Beach. It always gives you a great feeling to connect with friends you haven’t seen in ages. The A1 is the road in and out of the Keys. It is one long two way highway with lots of bridges including the famous seven mile bridge, particularly when it is raining.


We arrived at Blue Water Lake RV Resort to find a stunning site with our own palapa, outdoor furniture, refrigerator and TV. We had a view of the beautiful blue water bay. It was the most expensive place we have stayed, but worth it for our one week in the Keys. We were just ten miles from Key West and the southernmost tip of the US. That evening we took a quick trip into town to scout out the area and had a cup of Cuban coffee on the wharf. We were buzzing all night after that delicious concoction. It helped us walk about three miles to take a photo at the southernmost buoy. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a sunset that day, but hey we were there! Couldn’t miss a photo op.

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A lot of the restaurants in Key West with patios are dog friendly, so we took the girls with us to have lunch at the Schooner Bar and Grill and listen to Michael McCloud. He was recommended by new friends we met in the RV Park. Wayne and Brenda and Roy and Becky, all from Jacksonville, Florida.


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Wayne and Brenda

We have met a lot of great people along our journey and the four of them were some of the best and wildest. With their suggestions and letting us tag along on some of their adventures, it made our trip. That night we met them on Duval Street at Sloppy Joe’s to see the Doerfel Family Band. They were a terrific and very talented family group.


The next day we toured the island and I got to visit Ernest Hemmingway’s home. He lived in the home for almost ten years and wrote the majority of his books there. The home and his studio were filled with art, books, paintings, furniture and photographs collected by him and his first wife, Pauline. There were also about 40 cats, some of which were six toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s cats when he resided there. It is a beautiful home and I could just picture him writing in his studio on the second floor of the studio annex with the breeze blowing through the windows. He wrote there religiously every morning from 6 AM to noon, after which he often partook of the restaurants and bars in town, particularly Sloppy Joe’s.

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That night we joined our friends at LaTeDa for a female impersonator show with Randy Roberts. Of course they arranged for him to pick on Lennard.

Nancy and Craig, from Marathon Key, met us at the Square Grouper Restaurant one evening and we resumed our friendship from Hilton Head where we met them. It was a lovely dinner and great conversation. We found out that square grouper refers to the bales of marijuana found in the ocean, dropped by smugglers. Never a dull moment in the Keys.

Key West was built on the resurrection of ships which sank off the shores. Mel Fisher is probably the most famous of the treasure hunters. After brunch at Hogfish, we walked down the marina to his two boats and had a chat with one of the divers. It was really interesting. They have investors who get a share IF, and I mean IF, they find any treasure. This year they found a 450 year old ring with a black diamond. Then we visited Truman’s Little White House where several presidents have stayed, Zachary Park and Fort, and the famous Mallory Square for the sunset show. We watched fire jugglers, balancing acts and a tightrope walker before taking in the breathtaking sunset. Red and orange skies silhouetted sail boats across the ocean. From there we joined our wild friends back at LaTeDa for the Christopher Peterson show. He was terrific too. We ended up at Irish Kelly’s bar for late night entertainment.

Great food and laid back atmosphere is the signature for Mango Mama’s, where we had brunch the next morning. Did I mention, I haven’t cooked at all? Yea. IMG_2977Then we had an early happy hour for appetizers at The Boat House, and a sunset cruise on a Seabago catamaran. There wasn’t much of a sunset, but the cruise was fun. A little wind, a little rain and a little champagne. We headed back to Irish Kelly’s after the cruise. Lennard pooped out on us, and after leaving, he had a bratwurst at Pete’s Meats’ street cart. The rest of the group stayed on for the show.

On our last day in the Keys we went with the wild ones for lunch at Geiger Key Fish Camp and then spent the afternoon at our beautiful site watching Roy watch Alabama beat Tennessee. He never sits down. Wayne just puts up with him. He swears if he sits down the team will lose. He stood the whole game and Alabama won. Wayne and Brenda’s beautiful puppy, Misa, joined us. Dinner was a combined effort of the ladies and we so much enjoyed our conversation beside the river, watching the moon rise over the ocean with fabulous food and new friends.

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We headed to the Naples area the next day and knew we would be missing them and the beautiful Keys.

Cocoa Beach Wedding


One of the reasons we chose Orlando as one of our stops was because my daughter, Casey was getting married on the sand at beautiful Cocoa Beach. She is not really my daughter, but just like a daughter to me.  Her fiancé, Brian and she had most of the arrangements made, but we wanted to participate as much as possible.

We arrived at the KOA on Whippoorwill Lake and parked facing the lake.  It turned out to be a great RV park and in a convenient place for our needs.  My grandson, Kody, arrive a day before the wedding and we were thrilled to get to see him too.  It also gave us the opportunity to try out having company in the RV.  Fortunately, that worked out okay in spite of the fact Kody is a tall young man.  He slept sorta sideways on the dining room bed.  It probably gave him character!

We were afraid of rain on the day of the wedding, but Brian and Casey received the gift of an hour of perfect weather and a rainbow over the ocean behind them during the ceremony. In Florida it can be raining one minute and sunshine the next. After the ceremony, we all threw promise stones in the ocean.

The wedding diner was at the Sunset Seafood Restaurant and the manager, Susan, did a wonderful job making everything perfect for the wedding party. She even provided flowers she bought herself.  The restaurant is on the canal facing the sunset and provided a special place for the dinner.  It could not have turned out any better.  We were grateful it was such a lovely evening.


After the wedding festivities were over, we did not visit any of the usual tourist places like Disneyland, Universal Studios, Lego Land, Epcot Center or even Gatorland, but we did see the Kennedy Space Center.  It was named after President Kennedy to celebrate his dedication to the space program and his vision of landing on the moon.


The  center is a spectacular facility with rockets, space capsules, movies, space shuttles and everything to do with space for you to see and touch.  You can even touch a piece of the moon. We saw Launchpad 39 A and B, which has been used to launch every human space flight for NASA.  We also saw the Saturn V Rocket  and the Atlantis shuttle along with tons of items from the Apollo program.  What a thrill!

The area is also a nature preserve and is home to thousands of birds, rattlesnakes, panthers, manatees, alligators and all manner of wildlife.  If there is one thing you should see in the Orlando area, the Kennedy Space Center should be it.  We will just have to return to see the other Orlando attractions.



We met Michael and Gini on our Antarctica trip just over five years ago.  Of course, like most people you find an affinity with on vacation, they invite you to come by if you are ever in the neighborhood. Well, we eventually got to Hilton Head, South Carolina on our trip around the U.S, and gave them a call.  Unfortunately, Michael was away on an elk hunt, but Gini was home and welcomed us to their beautiful home on Spring Island near Hilton Head.

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We were parked at Hilton Head RV Park and Marina on the marina and it was hot. We toured the island after getting set up and went to Sea Pines Resort and Harbor Town for lunch.

When we got home, we got ready to barbeque dinner and one of our neighbors came by and said, “Put that away. We are having a Low Country Boil and you guys are invited.”   We didn’t know what a Low Country Boil was, but we weren’t going to miss it!  And we are so glad we didn’t.  Jerry, Billy and Theresa, along with her son and his girlfriend made us comfortable while they put sausage, potatoes, corn, shrimp and crab in a huge pot. When it was done, they used a broom stick to pull the inside pot out and threw the whole thing on a table.  It was beautiful!  Then everyone piled their plate high with the food.  What a feast.  It was a wonderful night with great food and new friends.

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The second day we drove to Savannah Georgia, where I had lived for a year or so as a child on an Army Base. It only took about 45 minutes to get there and we availed ourselves of a trolley car historical tour of the city and then took a walk along the river. Savannah is a beautiful city with lots of history and also has been the setting for several books, the most famous of which being Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, written by John Berendt.  It was a New York Times best seller for 216 weeks.  Savannah is also the home of song writer / singer, Johnny Mercer.  The founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born in Savannah.  With its cobblestone streets, historical buildings, and 24 city squares it is a lovely city to visit.

The next day we drove to Spring Island to visit our friend, Gini. Spring Island is a gated area and a preserve. It has about 5,000 acres and only 120 residents.  If you like nature and privacy, this is the place.  Gini took us to lunch and showed us around and it was a lovely day spent with a friend.  We were only sorry we missed Michael.  She even took us to see her doctor as Lennard had a very sore back.  (Too much bending and driving)

The rest of our time was spent at the RV site with Lennard in recovery, but we did have a lovely dinner with our neighbors, Craig and Nancy at the restaurant on site.  They live in Key West and gave us some great information for when we are there in October.

Tomorrow we will be on our way to St. Cloud Florida and are happy to be going to my daughter, (Like a daughter anyway) Casey’s wedding to Brian the weekend after next!  I can hardly wait.

The Biltmore Hotel: Can You Imagine Living Here?

If you have been to Europe, you have certainly seen some beautiful castles and estates.  There are few castles or estates in America, and the Biltmore is probably the largest private estate in our country.  It was built by George Vanderbilt and opened on Christmas Eve 1985. Its 178,926 square feet of floor space now sits on 8,000 acres and is still owned by the Biltmore family, but open to the public.  Mr. Vanderbilt was fond of French Renaissance chateaus and commissioned Mr. Richard Hunt to design one for him in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He also commissioned Mr. Frederick Olmstead to design the grounds and gardens. He included a village on the estate. Biltmore Village was designed by Hunt and Olmstead on the property with a church, farms, shops and a dairy.  The village is just below the home, but sold in 1921.

George Vanderbilt loved the Blue Ridge Mountains and wanted to make his retreat there.  The home took five years to complete and employed over a thousand workers. He was an avid traveler, mostly in Europe, and he furnished the home with art and furnishings from all over the world. He was a bachelor when he first began the task and later married Edith. They had one daughter, Cornelia and her ancestors currently oversee the estate.  George Vanderbilt had an untimely death from complications of an appendectomy when he was only 51 and Edith was left to handle the estate.  During the depression, the estate was first opened in 1930 by Cornelia to the public to help pay for the upkeep and to stimulate tourism in Ashville.  Thankfully, it is still a living, historical museum, giving pleasure to the thousands of people who visit it each year.

This amazing home has four acres of floor space, 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, banquet hall, billiard room, music room, tapestry gallery, gymnasium, and library among the 250 rooms. There are paintings and etchings, most of which were personally chosen by George and Edith.


The estate still has several gardens, a farm, and now a winery.  The gardens and grounds were designed by Frederick Olmsted.  Mr. Olmstead established the first forestry education program in the U.S on the estate.  There is a three mile driveway approach and a pond with a waterfall, as well as hiking trails, and a river running through the property.

Currently, the estate has a farm yard, several restaurants, and a hotel on the property at Antler Hill Village. You can access both the home all of the estate for one entrance fee.  At first glance the fee seems extravagant, however the value is well worth it.  We could have spent a week there.  I just think of what it must have been like to live or visit there during its heyday.


The crack of thunder woke me up at 2:30 AM, rolling across the Pamlico Sound on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, growling, rumbling and sizzling.  With thoughts of hurricanes and nor’easters entering our head, along with the high humidity, we decided to leave the Outer Banks of North Carolina a day early and head for the high ground of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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Skyline Drive Road


The Blue Ridge Parkway is a magnificent road 469 miles long running through Virginia and North Carolina.  We were able to drive 400 miles of it from Rockfish Gap, VA to Ashville, NC.  The last portion of it contains tunnels that are too low for our RV to get through.

We stayed in Waynesboro, VA the first two nights, which allowed us to take the tow car over the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley the first day.  This drive travels through Shenandoah National Park for 109 miles.  It is a concert in forest and mountains, giving those who traverse it a beautiful drive through the length of the park.  Driving back we took Highway 11 through small historical towns where civil war battles were fought.  We did make one stop at an Urgent Care, as Lennard had gotten stung the night before and his arm was alarmingly warm, red and swollen by the afternoon from wrist to elbow.  The Lovely Physician’s Assistant took good care of him and started him on antibiotics in case it was becoming infected.  I won’t post a photo…too ugly.

The second day we began our journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We were awestruck by the beauty and variety of scenery along the way.  There were forests, views of Blue Mountains across valleys, rocks and flowers, along with the beginning of the changing of the leaves for fall.  We would miss the brilliant fall colors, but there were few vehicles of any type on the road, so that was a plus.  That night we stopped in Lynchburg KOA and took the evening to see Popular Forrest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat, built in 1806.  It was the first octagonal home built in America and designed by him.  In the evening we hiked to the Natural Bridge, a huge bridge carved out of limestone.  At nightfall we were lucky to see the stunning light and music show at the bridge.

The third day, while traveling to Fancy Gap  we stopped at an overlook to find about fifteen hawk watchers counting the hawks migrating through the area to the south.  We also found a crossing of the Appalachian Trail and took the time to hike a mile on it. Further down the road, we stopped at a National Park living display of early life at Mabry Mill.

Independence was only about 45 minutes from Fancy Gap, where we were camping for the evening, so we took the time to attend a Bluegrass Music jam in a historical 1908 Courthouse there.  They played “Old Time” music which is the music of Southern Appalachians, handed down from generation to generation. There were about 10 musicians there playing, fiddles, banjos, a dulcimer, and a bass fiddle. The next day was mostly traveled over the plateau portion of the Parkway.  Each day we took at least a one to two mile hike.

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Our last day on the parkway was just as beautiful, but much more challenging, as the road over the highest point was comprised of twists and turns on a narrow road with branches hanging over the road so low they hit the top and sides of the RV.  We saved the day with a two mile hike to beautiful Linville Falls and ending up at a street festival in Ashville that night.  And… to finish off the night we ate dinner at Bouchon, a lovely French Bistro, sitting in the evening light on their patio.  One of the few nights in the last few weeks we had eaten out.  We needed a break after the day’s drive.

We had one more day in Ashville before we headed to Sevierville, Tennessee for the Tiffin Ralley.  (Our RV’s manufacturer ralley.) We would take that day to spend at the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.  The dogs got taken to a doggie daycare and we were off for the day.  It was so spectacular, I had to put it in a separate post!