Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Roaming Free–2017 Recap

2017 marked 5 years on the road for us, and once again it was a busy fulfilling year of travel, adventure, and fun times with family and friends.

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It was our first full year as empty-nesters, but the boys are still a very integral part of our lives, and our travel plans centered around them still, keeping us in the eastern area of the country.  We stayed in 32 campgrounds in 2017, including 2 state parks, 1 county fairground, 1 military campground, and 28 private RV parks.

We began the year in sunny Florida, with (3) 1-month stays in three different locations.

Big Cypress RV Resort, Seminole Indian Reservation

Moon rising over the RV

In the spring, we travelled one last time to Charleston, SC,

Set up at Foster Creek

Foster Creek FamCamp – we’ve spent lots of time here!

to help Nicolas get moved out of his apartment and prepared for his move to Norfolk, Virginia, where he’ll be stationed for the next 4 years on the USS Eisenhower.


We left him in Charleston to finish tying up loose ends, and we travelled to Indiana to attend the Holiday Rambler/Monaco Maintenance Rally at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN.

Our site at the fairgrounds


We picked up a new co-pilot when we left Charleston – Casey was back travelling with us again, since she wasn’t going to be able to live with Nick in Virginia.  She’s adapted pretty well to motorhome life!

Despite the cold temperatures and rainy weather in Goshen, we enjoyed the rally – we reconnected with lots of friends and made some great new friends . . . and took care of several large maintenance items on the motorhome (oil change, generator maintenance and Aquahot maintenance), as well as a couple of unexpected repairs (slide relays and exhaust manifold).

From the rally, we headed back to Michigan where we met up with Bryce for the summer.  Tom helped him shop for a car,

Bryces shiny new wheels!

we spent some time catching up with family, and Bryce got to experience a high school prom.


In June, we moved the motorhome down to Sandusky, OH, so that Bryce would be closer to his summer job at Cedar Point, and Tom picked up a work camping job in a nearby campground, Camp Sandusky.

Site PT-22

It was a very nice summer – we visited with old friends, made some great new friends, and Nicolas joined us for a month, too, and was able to reconnect with family and some of his childhood friends.  He also finally purchased his dream vehicle – a 2016 Ford F-150!

Happy boy

With the end of summer, it was time for us to get back into travel mode.  We’ve never done much fall travel in our first five years – that was typically the time we spent back at “home” with family, so this year we were looking forward to doing some fall travel, and hoping to see some fall colors.

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We started out by going back into Michigan, where we had a week of “vacation time” before moving Bryce back into the dorms at Michigan State.

All moved in!

With him settled back at school, we ventured into Canada for the first time in many years.  Crossing the international border was a little nerve-wracking for us, but for no reason . . . it was very easy, and we had no issues at all!

We only spent a week in Canada this time, but now I think we’ll be more confident about spending some extended time travelling in Canada in the future.

Quinte’s Isle Camp Park, overlooking Lake Ontario

Nice view!

We returned to the US via New York, and spent two weeks thoroughly enjoying the Finger Lakes Region.  From there, we continued east with the goal of filling in the east coast portion of our map.

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With a couple of 50-mile moves, it was a little annoying to Tom, but we successfully picked up 6 new states on our map – NY, MA, RI. CT, DE, MD.

New Map_2

We only have 5 states left to complete the continental 48, and when we get to Alaska one of these years, we will have visited all 50 states (49 by RV, Hawaii on our honeymoon).

Fall weather this year was beautiful and warm, which meant a delay in fall colors . . . but we weren’t complaining, it was great for travelling!  We thoroughly enjoyed our New England travels and had a nice visit with Tom’s aunts, uncles and cousins in New Jersey, before making our way to Nicolas’ new home in Norfolk.  He found a nice, family-run campground in Suffolk to live in, and that was where we spent the latter part of the year, through Thanksgiving.

Davis Lakes Campground

Our site in the daily area

We explored the area with Nicolas, helped him prepare his camper for the winter, and celebrated Thanksgiving with him.  He’s really acclimated quickly to his new area, and I think he really loves having his own home!

Skirting and big propane tank installed

As the colder weather moved in, it was time for us to head south.  We made our way to Florida for the winter, and got settled at Willow Lakes RV and Golf for December and January.


Both of the boys, along with the Dygert family, joined us after Christmas, and we had a great time enjoying warmer weather (it’s all relative – not that warm by Florida standards, but a LOT warmer than they were getting back in Michigan and Virginia!) and rang in 2018 together.

Happy 2018!!

In 2017, our travels took us to 11 new National Parks, Historic Sites and Wildlife Refuges --

in Georgia,

Fort Pulaski -- Savannah, GA


Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge -- Ohio

Perry's Victory International Peace Memorial


Cape Cod National Seashore - Massachusetts

Old North Church


Independence Hall -- Pennsylvania


Assateague Island -- Maryland


Great Dismal Swamp -- Virginia

Cannons at sunset

and Florida.


Roseate Spoonbill

Whew – we’ve had a pretty busy year!

Financially, it’s been a good year for us, too.  I changed jobs (still at Ford) in January, to a position that works really well with our remote lifestyle, and we still do a little bit of volunteering and work camping when it fits into our schedule . . . primarily with the goal of giving Tom something to do while I’m working. 

Last year, we just had about 3 months of work camping, but even that helped to keep our campsite expenses under control – for a total of $8733 for the year, and an average of about $725/month.

Camping fees are clearly the largest category in our budget, but that’s to be expected and doesn’t come anywhere close to the cost of maintaining a house.

Our Total Expenses for 2017


Groceries and Eating Out are another large category, and although our expenses are lower when the boys aren’t with us, we did have several months when they were with us, and we visited lots of new areas which resulted in more eating out than normal.  We do spend noticeably less when it’s just the 2 of us!

RV and Jeep Maintenance was another big category  – but we accomplished a lot this year – the work we had done on the motorhome at the rally, and new tires, wheels and a lift on the Jeep. 

It was expensive, but it looks good!

The Jeep looks good

One category that you would expect to be a major one is fuel, but surprisingly it’s not too bad for us.  In 2017, we travelled 4990 miles in the motorhome and used 746 gallons of diesel, for a total cost of $2098, or 42 cents/mile (that’s up quite a bit from the 31 cents/mile we averaged in 2016).  Our average fuel economy was 6.68 mpg, down slightly this year – Tom thinks that’s due to the fact that our engine is running cooler now after our maintenance was completed.  We’ve also had some chillier temperatures in the spring and fall, which required us to run the Aquahot for furnace, which uses diesel.  Our total miles travelled and fuel consumed was down from 2016, but our total cost for diesel was up – due to a noticeable increase in diesel cost.  In 2016, we paid an average price of $2.30/gallon, whereas in 2017, we paid an average price of $2.81/gallon, including one fill-up in Canada at $3.49/gallon.  Still better than our first 2 years on the road when diesel was close to $4.00/gallon!

We spent just $1345 or slightly over $100/month on gas for the Jeep, so even though it’s not the most fuel efficient vehicle, it’s not much of a hit on the budget.

Our total expenses averaged about $3500/month this year, which we’re still pretty comfortable with, especially given the security of my being able to continue working (until I’m eligible for retirement, that is!) 

We’re still happy on the road, and glad that our lifestyle gives us the flexibility to spend time with each of the boys as much as we’ve been able to do.  We don’t see any big changes in the near future – we’ve looked at other RVs, but haven’t found anything to tempt us away from our current motorhome.  Tom thinks we might change the toad in a couple years, to get something a little more comfortable (and Bryce is looking forward to taking over Jeep ownership!), but we still want to get out west with it first, and do a little off-roading.  We occasionally check out future housing options and locations (although we can’t imagine needing all the space that comes with a house!), but haven’t found that sweet spot yet . . . still exploring and researching.

So for the time being, we’ll keep ROAMING FREE!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A couple visits to New Smyrna Beach, and visiting with friends

New Smyrna Beach

I had gotten a facebook message from our friends from home, Nancy and Andy, that they were going to be in Daytona Beach for a week and wanted to get together.  We made plans to meet at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, and then go to dinner somewhere in New Smyrna Beach.

On our way the Ponce Inlet, Tom and I took a side trip through New Smyrna Beach to check it out. 

New Smyrna Beach Causeway

At the south end of the island is the continuation of Canaveral National Seashore – more beautiful beach.

Port Canaveral National Seashore

Ponce Inlet LighthouseWe continued up the coast, and soon arrived at Ponce Inlet.  We met up with Andy and Nancy and walked around the park at the lighthouse.

Nobody was interested in climbing to the top or going in any of the museums, so we just took a few pictures outside.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Tom and Andy were more interested in the boats!

Tom and Andy checking out some big boats

The guys were getting hungry, so we returned to New Smyrna Beach for some dinner at Breakers on the beach.


It was a nice day at the beach, and the sun was just started to set as we were eating dinner.

Beach at low tide


We had an amazing view of the sunset as we crossed the causeway from the beach.

Sunset_Jan 23rd

We had a nice dinner and enjoyed catching up.  They are in town for the Rolex 24 race at Daytona, and Nancy wasn’t really excited about spending three days at the track.  She suggested that Tom might want to go one of the days to enjoy the action and keep Andy company.  Anything car related will interest Tom, so he made plans to meet Andy in Daytona on Thursday for the qualifying day.

He was up bright and early on Thursday, and met Andy at Daytona Speedway before 9am.

24 Hours of Daytona

On the track

They had infield passes and garage passes, and Tom really enjoyed walking around the garages.  They got to see the cars up close – Ford and GM were well represented

Nice Corvette


Nicolas would love those!

as well as the European race cars.

Purple - I like that one!


They got to see the race teams in action,

Ford Team in action

In the garage

and even sit in the driver’s seat – real and virtual!


Andy taking a test drive

Tom said they both had a good time, and he was glad he went.

Tom liked walking through the garages

I wasn't there, so he had to find somebody else to pose with!

So while he was off having fun, I was working, but I got my payback . . . on Saturday, I made him go back to New Smyrna Beach for the Art Fair.

We didn’t think it would be too big (not that big of a town!), but it was a pretty good show.

Art Fair

Art to display

We didn’t find anything we needed to buy, but enjoyed walking through the booths and several of the downtown shops.

Spotted this little guy waiting for his owners – too cute!


After the Art Fair, we had an early dinner in a treehouse – that was interesting!

Treehouse Restaurant

Lunch in the treehouse

After dinner, we took a drive back down to the beach.  It was a totally different beach on this windy overcast day . . . also high tide!



New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach is a cute little town – with the typical beach shops, bars and restaurants . . . and a pretty nice beach.

Telephone Booth

Lifeguard Station

There was a “Wine Walk” going on, so there were lots of people in town – Wine Walk

many of them walking from one bar/restaurant/wine shop to another with their wine glasses in hand!  It was a pretty interesting concept – $20 per person, and it looked like they had a good 10-12 places to stop for wine.

We did not participate, but several of the shops were getting in on the act by offering complimentary wine samples and snacks . . . for free! 

Another enjoyable afternoon!

Getting back to the Jeep, I couldn’t resist taking a picture – it looks good!

The Jeep looks good