The Things You Hear!

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 202019

I’m an eavesdropper. Some might say it’s because I’m nosy, but I justify it by saying that as an author, some of the best story ideas you get are based upon some overheard snippet of conversation. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! But sometimes you hear things that make it very hard to bite your tongue and not laugh out loud, give yourself away. Here’s an example.

I had to go to two different labs yesterday to get blood draws, one for my civilian doctor and one for my VA primary care doctor, both of whom I have appointments with in the next week or so. It would be nice if they would share information so I only had to get stuck once, but they don’t do that. We started the day with a trip to LabCorp here in Edgewater. Since we had already made the appointment online, it was a simple case of checking in and going right in back for a visit with their resident vampire. We were in and in out less than 15 minutes. Then, after a quick stop at the chiropractor for adjustments, we drove to Daytona Beach to the VA medical clinic there.

The lab there has about six stations side-by-side so you’re sitting next to other vets who are also getting blood drawn. Next to me was a woman that looked to be in her late 30s. Apparently she had been in earlier in the day and they tried several times and were not able to hit a vein, so they had her come back when another tech who is their go to person for difficult cases was available. That tech got it right the first time, much to the woman’s relief. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud when she said, “I’m glad you know what you’re doing. I got poked more times this morning than I did on my honeymoon.” Yeah, that’s got to go in a book someday!

Since I had to fast before the lab work, once we were done at the VA we stopped at Leanh’s Chinese Restaurant for lunch, one of our favorite places. It was as delicious as always. Soon after we got back home it started raining, and we had a pretty strong thunderstorm that lasted a couple of hours. I had not slept well the night before, so I spent most of that time in my recliner dozing on and off.

A couple of readers have asked me how my fire ant bites are doing. Except for the big blistered one that was on my toes, the rest have cleared up nicely. That one is now an open sore that seems to be healing, although I have been having an incredible amount of pain in my foot the last two or three nights. Terry is watching it closely and there’s no sign of infection, but if it continues I’m going to have to go see a doctor.

Meanwhile, today is going to be another writing day. Monday and Tuesday were marathon days at the keyboard for me, knocking out 5,500 words one day and 6,500 the next. I really want to get this new book done by the end of the month, and if I keep up that pace I will. And since the temperatures are in the 90s with lots of humidity, staying inside and writing is going to be a lot more fun than doing much of anything outside. I will keep you updated on my progress.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – A happy marriage is when one half snores and the other one does not hear it.

Jun 192019

Just a few miles from busy State Route 99 in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley is a reminder of the hopes and dreams that helped build our nation, and of a man whose life story is one of perseverance and proof that where we start out in life has nothing to do with where we end up.

Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Louisville, Kentucky in 1842, the youngest of thirteen children. As a boy he lost track of many of his siblings. At least one escaped to freedom in Canada, and others were “sold downriver” to plantations and farms throughout the South.

Young Allensworth had a thirst for knowledge, and though it was illegal for slaves to attend school, he took every opportunity to educate himself and to learn from anyone who would teach him. This raised the ire of his owner, who sold him to a plantation owner in the Deep South. But neither whippings or other punishments could stop the young boy from trying to better himself. He escaped at least twice by the time he was thirteen, and eventually was sold on the auction block and found himself in Louisiana.

His new owner, a man named Fred Scruggs, loved to race horses and taught the young boy to be a jockey. But whether he was working the fields or riding a horse, he was still a slave, and a soul like Allensworth’s could never live that way.

When the Civil War broke out he escaped and attached himself to the Union Army as a civilian medical aid to a surgeon. Later, in 1863, Allensworth enlisted in the Navy, where he was soon promoted to Captain’s steward and clerk. He served on the gunboats Queen City and Tawah for two years and impressed his officers and fellow sailors with his knowledge and devotion to duty.

After the war Allensworth, now a free man, entered into several business ventures, and also taught at schools for the newly freed slaves and their children. He became involved with the Baptist church in Louisville, studied theology, and was ordained as a minister. He served at churches in Kentucky and Tennessee, became an accomplished public speaker, and in 1880 and 1884, he was selected as Kentucky’s only black delegate to the Republican National Conventions.

In 1886, at age 44, Allensworth received an appointment as a chaplain in the US Army. One of the few black chaplains in the Army, he was assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers. He served at a number of posts in the New Mexico Territory, to Fort Supply, Indian Territory, and in Montana. By the time he retired in 1906, Allensworth had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, the highest rank attained by any African American at the time.

But retirement did not mean Allensworth was ready to sit in his rocking chair and reflect on his accomplishments. There was still too much to do! He helped establish several churches, and in 1908, he founded the town of Allensworth, California. It was the only town in the state to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans.

The community thrived, and by 1914 boasted a population of over 200 people living on 900 acres of deeded land. The streets were named after famous African Americans and white abolitionists, including Sojourner Truth, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. There was a school, church, library, stores, and shops. A debate club, brass band, an orchestra, a glee club, and other social and educational activities were available for children and adults alike.

Unfortunately, Allensworth’s dream of a community where African Americans could isolate themselves from much of the oppression and prejudice that existed at the time would be short lived. In 1914 the Santa Fe Railroad moved its depot from Allensworth to Alpaugh, which was a serious economic blow to the town. At the same time, water levels fell for irrigation and the drinking water became polluted by toxins. But the biggest setback came in September of that year when Colonel Allensworth was killed when he was hit by a motorcycle while on a visit to Monrovia, California.

Over time most of the residents moved away, seeking employment opportunities elsewhere, and Allensworth was fast becoming a ghost town. But the spirit of Allen Allensworth seems never to have left, and in spite of all of the hard times, the town refuses to die.

In 1974, California State Parks purchased land within the historical townsite of Allensworth, and created Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

Today a collection of restored and reconstructed early 20th century buildings greet visitors, including the Colonel’s house (below), the schoolhouse, Baptist church, and library. Colonel Allensworth’s home is furnished in the 1912 period and displays items from his life in the Army and the ministry. The schoolhouse, which was in use until 1972, is furnished as it would have been on a typical school day in 1915.

The park’s visitor center features a video, “Allensworth: A Piece of the World,” which is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily. Tours are available by making arrangements with the park in advance. Thousands of visitors come every year to see the old town and participate in the numerous special events held at the park. And once again farms surround the old community.

The park includes fifteen campsites that can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long and are open year around. There are also facilities for disabled visitors.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is located at 4011 Grant Dr, Earlimart, California and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (661) 849-3433 or visit the park’s website at

Thought For The Day – I’m great at multitasking. I can listen, ignore, and forget all at the same time!

Hunting Peanuts

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 182019

On our recent trip to Alabama, we spent some time hunting peanuts. Don’t worry, Charlie Brown and Lucy are still alive and well, I’m talking about real peanuts. Well, they were not exactly “real” either.

Dothan, Alabama and the surrounding area produce over one-fourth of the U.S. peanut crop, and much of it is processed in the city, earning Dothan the title of “Peanut Capital of the World” though there are some cities in Georgia that dispute that title. Either way, every year in November Dothan hosts the National Peanut Festival at the fairgrounds on the south side of town.

To honor the peanut and all it has brought to Dothan’s economy, in 2001 a local civic group started a project called “Peanuts on Parade” and soon afterward a series of peanut shaped statues about four feet tall and dressed in all kinds of costumes began appearing around town. These days there are over 60 of them, and it’s become a popular activity to find them all. Kind of like birdwatching, except that they don’t fly. Maybe more like geocaching, except they’re not hidden. Whatever you compare it to, it’s a fun way to see the city and get to know some of the local business, many of whom sponsor the peanuts.

Your first stop on your peanut hunting expedition should be the Dothan Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau at 3311 Ross Clark Circle, where you can pick up a map of where to find most of the peanut statues. But be aware that the map has not been updated in a while and it doesn’t tell you whether or not you have to go inside a location to see its peanut. That’s also where you will find this golden peanut.

They are whimsical characters, and the detail put into many of them is amazing. This patriotic one stands in front of automotive shop and looks like a couple of retired Marine drill instructors I’ve met over the years.

Lights, camera, action! Hang around this fellow too long and you might find yourself on TV or in the movies!

And if you’re a book lover like I am, both as an author and reader, be sure to go across the street to the library and visit this guy.

Is your house starting to look shabby and in need of a paint job? This peanut man is ready to get to work right now!

And how can an old newspaperman like me not feel a kinship with this one?

Did somebody say Hooters? I only go there for the wings, I swear!

Who could resist stopping to give this friendly puppy at the Dothan Fire Department, a pat on the head?

And these are just a few of the peanut statutes around Dothan. There’s also an Elvis peanut, state trooper peanut, and a cowboy peanut, to name just a few. The next time you’re in southern Alabama, stop in Dothan and see how many of them you can find.

Thought For The Day – Water solves so many problems in life. Want to lose weight? Drink water. Want clear skin? Drink water. Want your obnoxious neighbor to stop playing his music so loud? Drown him.

Homeward Bound

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 172019

We spent five days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with my son Travis and his wife Geli, touring the area for blog fodder and introducing people at libraries and stores to my books. But all good things must come to an end, and before we knew it was time to head home to Florida.

We left Wednesday morning after lots of hugs and promises to get together again soon, then retraced our route down US Highway 82 to Montgomery. But instead of turning south toward Dothan, the way we had come to Tuscaloosa, we continued east to Tuskegee, a place I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.

There isn’t much to Tuskegee, even as small towns go, but it has two very important attractions. One is the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. He attracted the best and brightest instructors, including George Washington Carver, who gained fame for his many inventions and methods to use common plants to improve everyday life. The college has grown to become Tuskegee University, a private, historically black university that is world renowned for the quality of education it provides.

Today the college is part of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, and since it was summertime, the campus was not very busy. We spent some time touring the fascinating George Washington Carver Museum, which should be a must stop for anybody traveling through this part of the country. It’s amazing to see how much this man who began life as a slave accomplished, and I will post a blog about the museum in the next few days.

After touring the museum, we paused at the Lifting the Veil of Ignorance Monument nearby, which honors Booker T. Washington. Dedicated on April 15, 1922, the bronze monument shows him symbolically lifting the veil of ignorance off his people, represented by a terrified slave, and pointing him toward a new and better life obtained through education and industry.

Just outside the main campus is The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home. Built in 1900, the beautiful house was the university’s center of social activity and an important meeting place for faculty, students, and visiting dignitaries.

A few miles outside of town, we stopped at Moton Field, where the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen were trained for service in World War II. Today it is home to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and two hangers hold displays on the airmen and the challenges they faced here at home and at war, and their many accomplishments in combat. I will have a blog about our visit to the museum soon.

We had planned to stop at Columbus, Georgia to tour a couple of interesting museums there, but there were several things going on in town and no hotel rooms available, so we decided to do that another time. Instead we traveled southeast through Albany to Tifton. Along the way we ran into a terrible rainstorm that got so bad that we actually had to pull off the highway into a Walmart parking lot for a while because visibility was down to nothing. We eventually made it to Tifton, where we spent the night at the Country Inn and Suites, which was a very nice hotel at a very reasonable price.

By the next morning the sky was clear and the storms were gone. We took I-75 south to Florida. When we spotted a sign for Webb’s Antique Mall just south of Lake City, we decided to stop and check it out, and were glad we did. This place is huge and it would take most of the day to see it all. I am always looking for badges to add to my collection, and I hit the motherlode there. They had one showcase filled with everything from police and fire department badges to security guard badges, and I managed to come away with some goodies.

A few miles further down the road we ran into a massive traffic jam and crept along at about two miles per hour for over an hour. When we finally got past that there was no evidence of a problem except for an accident on the other side of the highway. I guess everybody was just rubbernecking, hoping to see someone else’s misfortune.

We got off the interstate and went to Inverness to visit an antique shop there, where I managed to score two more badges. Elvis Presley spent some time in Inverness in 1961 while filming the movie Follow That Dream, and it was the childhood home of John Lee’s grandmother, Mama Nell, who saw Elvis there as a young girl and has been obsessed with him ever since, in my John Lee Quarrels book series.

From Inverness, we went east on State Route 44 a few miles, passing the Three Flags RV Campground where we used to stay quite often during our fulltime RVing days. We stopped at a couple of antique shops in Wildwood, where Terry found a nice old glass butter churn with the original wooden paddles and a pretty brass kerosene lamp that begged to come home with us.

We continued eastbound, stopping for dinner in Sanford, and arrived home about 9 PM with 320 miles under our belt for the day. It’s always nice to get away, but nothing beats coming home to your own bed. And we were tired enough that it didn’t take us long to get there once we had the van unloaded and things put away.

In the next few days I will be posting blogs about some of the other interesting places we saw on our trip, including visits to an old country church and burial ground far off the beaten path, and a movie set we didn’t know existed. Stay tuned!

Thought For The Day – I am so broke, I can’t even afford to fill up my bicycle’s tires.

Touring Tuscaloosa

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 162019

If you live in Alabama you have to be a football fan. In fact, I think a requirement to graduate from middle school is to be able to recite from memory the names of all of the great Alabama football players and coaches, starting back in the days of Adam and Eve, assuming they played football back then. And if the Garden of Eden was anywhere near Alabama, they did.

The epicenter of Alabama football seems to be Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama. You can’t drive or walk for a block anywhere in Tuscaloosa without seeing a sign or bumper sticker saying Roll Tide. Here the Crimson Tide is more important than food, water, or oxygen. So, it should be no surprise that the Paul W. Bryant Museum, honoring legendary coach Bear Bryant and Alabama football is located on the University campus.

It’s a major attraction in Tuscaloosa, but my son Travis and his wife Geli wanted to show us some other sites around town that might not be on tourist brochures put out by the Chamber of Commerce.

One stop on the University campus was at the former Alabama State Hospital for the Insane, which opened in 1861. In its early days the hospital’s patients were treated with dignity and allowed to become part of the community. But as time went on, funding was cut and conditions deteriorated terribly. Originally built to accommodate 250 patients, by the 1970s the number had swelled to 5,200. There were so many stories of abuse and neglect at the hospital that the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper compared it to a concentration camp. Renamed Bryce Hospital, in 2010 the University of Alabama purchased the hospital, much of which lay in ruins by then. Today a restoration project is underway and the handsome building is no comparison to what it once was.

A few blocks away, Greenwood Cemetery is the oldest surviving cemetery in Tuscaloosa and has been in continuous use since before 1820. Some of the ornate marble monuments in the cemetery were carved in New Orleans. Greenwood is the final resting place of five veterans of the American Revolution, Confederate General Philip Dale Roddy, Civil War nurse Sallie Ann Swope, and Jack and Jerry Winn, slaves who worked to buy their freedom.

Among the more than 2,500 graves in the cemetery, many of them unmarked, are Native Americans, former slaves, and white settlers, along with a number of graves marked simply Unknown Confederate Soldier.

While we were visiting the cemetery, Terry spotted this tombstone that’s been there so long a tree grew up around it.

Also not far away is Capitol Park, the site of the Alabama Capitol from 1826-1846. The capitol was moved to Montgomery in 1847 and the facility became the home of the Alabama Central Female College. The old capitol building burned in 1923 and today only a few ruins remain. Travis is an amazing photographer and the ruins are among his many favorite subjects.

A few miles from town they took us to the creepy ruins of the Jemison Building that also once housed the mentally ill, and today seems to be something right out of a slasher movie. Based upon the graffiti covered walls and trash lying around, it seems to be a popular place to party for the younger set. Travis has also taken many interesting pictures there. Where a person might look and see a trashy place that looks like it should be bulldozed under, he sees art.

Besides Tuscaloosa, we also made a couple of day trips. One of them was to Birmingham, where they showed us some more beautiful architecture, and where we visited a few antique shops, coming away with a treasure or two.

Tomorrow I will tell you about our trip home from Tuscaloosa, hitting on a couple of highlights that I will also do full blogs about in the coming days.

Thought For The Day – Lawyers hope you get sued, doctors hope you get sick, cops hope you’re criminal, mechanics hope you have car trouble, but only a thief wishes prosperity for you.

Jun 152019

It had been way too long since we had seen my son Travis and his pretty wife Geli, so we decided a road trip was in order to remedy that situation. What the heck, any road trip anywhere is always fun, right?

On Thursday, the 6th, I had an appointment with the doctor in Deland, about 25 miles east of us, to get a couple more SI injections in my lower back. I had the same procedure done back in December and Dr. Kent said I could expect it to work from 4 to 6 months before he needed to repeat the shots, and he was right on the money. They made a significant difference for that time period, but I was beginning to feel a lot more pain again.

We left the doctor’s office and drove north to Palatka, then picked up State Road 100 and took it northwest to Lake City. It was a good two lane road and I wouldn’t have any hesitation to drive a large motorhome down it. At Lake City we picked up Interstate 75 and went north a few short miles to Interstate 10 and followed it west 165 miles, where we got off on US Highway 231. From there it was another half hour or so to Dothan, Alabama, where we got a room at the Hampton Inn for the night.

I like Dothan. It’s a friendly community that is big enough to have just about anything you could want or need, but still retains its small town feel. And the folks there go out of their way to help others in need. A couple of years ago when Hurricane Irma hit us and everybody fled north and inland to get out of the storm’s path, several RVers we knew were dry camping at Walmarts and places like that in Dothan. The police came by and told them to move to the nearby fairgrounds, where they were provided with free hookups, and local churches and civic groups fed everybody breakfast and dinner. All of it for no charge, just people helping people!

Dothan has some interesting claims to fame, including the self-imposed title of Peanut Capital of the World. Peanuts contribute a lot to the local economy, and the folks in Dothan honor them. I’ll have more about that in a future blog post. Besides peanuts, Dothan also is home to the World’s Smallest City Block, a triangle of land downtown that isn’t big enough to park a motorhome on, or even a small travel trailer. It contains a couple of street signs and a monument attesting to its uniqueness. I guess it’s true. I’ve been to a lot of places and I’ve never seen a city block smaller than that. And the Guinness Book of World Records backs up the city’s claim to fame.

While the World’s Smallest City Block wasn’t all that impressive, what certainly was are the many murals painted on the sides of buildings downtown. One honors Sherman Rose, who was among the first African-Americans selected to receive pilot training as part of the government’s Civilian Pilot Training Program, which led directly to the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame. After completing his own training, Rose became a flight instructor for other Tuskegee pilots. Following the war, he became a flight instructor at nearby Fort Rucker, both for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. Many Vietnam War helicopter pilots credited Rose with giving them the skills they needed to stay alive in combat. Other murals cover important events in the region’s history from settlement days and the Indian wars, to the turpentine industry.

Before leaving Dothan the next morning we drove around town for a little bit and stopped at a couple of antique shops. Then we headed north on US Highway 231 toward Montgomery. It’s an excellent road, mostly divided four lane and suitable for any size RV.

Along the way, we ran into a very heavy rainstorm that had a lot of traffic getting into the right lane and slowing down to 30 miles an hour because of the lack of visibility. Of course, that didn’t stop fools from blowing past in the left lane at 65 miles an hour, including a couple of motorhomes and trucks towing fifth wheels. Where does an RVer have to get to in such a hurry that he would risk his life and the lives of everybody else on the highway to drive like that in those kind of conditions?

By the time we reached Montgomery the rain had stopped and we picked up State Highway 82 for the 95 mile run into Tuscaloosa. We’ve been up and down this road several times in our motorhome, and it’s a very hilly two lane road that carries a lot of traffic, including logging trucks. It is much more comfortable to drive it in our Chrysler Pacifica than a big RV. There isn’t much in the way of scenery along the way, a couple of convenience stores and some old abandoned houses and gas stations. The nostalgia value is great, and if you’re a photographer there are some outstanding opportunities to take pictures along the way.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about our time in Tuscaloosa, and some of the interesting places Travis and Geli introduced us to there and in Birmingham and a couple of other interesting places.

Thought For The Day – I flirted with disaster last night. Now disaster won’t stop texting me.

Jun 142019

Right now I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, clicking my heels together and saying “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” We just got home from a week-long trip to see my son Travis and his pretty wife Geli in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

It was a fun and busy week, we shared a lot of laughs and an adventure or two, saw some interesting places, learned a little bit more about Alabama history, and ate some great food.

But as always, as much fun as it is to go away for a while and spend time with people you love, it’s also great to get back home and sleep in your own bed. And that’s what we plan to do very shortly, because it was a long day on the road getting here. So there won’t be much to today’s blog. But I promise I’ll be back tomorrow with lots to tell you about over the next few days.

Meanwhile, I have to be careful clicking my heels together, because while Dorothy had to deal with the Wicked Witch of the West on her sojourn to Oz, I got to deal with fire ants. These are just a few of the bites on my feet and legs. No fun. No fun at all. But at least we are home now, and there’s no place like home.

Thought For The Day – There is nothing sweeter than the sound of a baby laughing. Unless it’s the middle of the night and you are home alone. And you don’t have a baby.

10 Great RV Routes

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 122019

We may not be fulltime RVers anymore, but we still get hitch itch and like to travel. Since we’re sitting still right now, I’ve been looking over past issues of the Gypsy Journal and thinking about some of our favorite routes from past travels. Here are my ten favorite RV routes.

Natchez Trace Parkway – They called it the Devil’s Backbone back in the days when Indians, outlaws, and renegades prowled this historic route, preying on unwary travelers. Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway is pure heaven for RVers! Picture 450 miles of good two lane road that meanders through hardwood forests and past charming small towns, with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour, and no commercial traffic allowed, with frequent pullouts large enough for any size RV, and you can see why we love this historic highway that winds from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. If you haven’t put this trip on your travel itinerary, do it now. You’ll be glad you did!

US Highway 101 – Further south in California, this scenic route loses much of its charm, but from Eureka, California to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, US 101 will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll find anywhere in the country. Take your time, because you’ll be treated to dramatic ocean views, charming small towns, lighthouses, fishing villages, and if you’re really lucky, even whales passing by, just offshore!

LoLo Pass Trail – If I had to choose my very favorite route in America, in terms of scenery, it would be US Highway 12 between Missoula, Montana and Lewiston, Idaho, which locals call the Lolo Pass Trail. The excellent two lane highway follows the route explorers Lewis and Clark took on their epic trek west, with towering mountains on one side and the beautiful Clearwater River on the other. Keep your camera handy for an opportunity to photograph deer, elk, moose, and whitewater rafters.

US Highway 2 – If you love unspoiled forests, friendly small towns, scenic views of deep water, and a slower travel pace, you should take some time to travel US Highway 2 across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For most of the 140 miles between Escanaba on the west, and St. Ignace on the east, you’ll be passing within spitting distance of beautiful Lake Michigan. It’s a good highway, and you can make good time if you want to, but with scenery like this, why would you hurry?

Great River Road – The Great River Road is one of America’s national treasures, and a route every RVer should take at least once. From the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, this series of local, state, and federal roads follow the course of the river south through ten states, to where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, introducing you to beautiful views, wonderful small towns, river barges, and history every mile of the way.

Route 66 – Much of this historic route has been swallowed up or paved over by interstate highways, but there are still many sections of the Mother Road to be explored between its origin in Chicago, Illinois and its terminus in Santa Monica, California. You could spend an entire season tracing the many alignments of this nostalgic highway by RV and with your dinghy, and still not see it all.

Overseas Highway – The Overseas Highway, the southernmost leg of US Highway 1, carries you from Miami, Florida to Key West, affording views of the sparkling blue water of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Along the way, you’ll pass funky tourist towns, a dolphin sanctuary, beautiful beaches, cross over the impressive Seven Mile Bridge, and back into history. One note here, while this is a great trip, you’ll have to park your RV somewhere else at the end of your journey because the streets in Key West, at the southern end of your route, are not suited for large vehicles.

Old Spanish Trail – Incorporating US Highway 90 in the east and US Highway 80 in the west, the route known to old time travelers as the Old Spanish Trail, is an interesting and memorable journey that will carry you from Jacksonville Beach, Florida all the way west to San Diego, California, as you trace America’s history from coast to coast.

Lincoln Highway – The Lincoln Highway was America’s first transcontinental highway, stretching from New York to San Francisco, and though the old route has been replaced by Interstate 80, you can still drive much of the original route, especially in the east and Midwest. It’s a slow paced trip to remember.

US Highway 60 – Beginning at an intersection with Interstate 10 in Quartzsite, Arizona, and stretching all the way to Virginia Beach, Virginia, we love to take this slow, scenic highway when we travel east from our old hometown in Show Low, Arizona. Sure, we could go north a few miles and jump on Interstate 40, but what fun would that be? We prefer to take our time, stop for lunch in small town cafes, and experience the real America that the superslab bypasses.

So there you have it, my ten favorite great RV routes. Tell us about some of yours.

Thought For The Day – The goal is to die young as late as possible.

Jun 112019

With winter behind us and the busy travel season here, I know a lot of RVers are starting to think about where they are going to go this summer. So today I thought I would talk a little bit about RV trip planning.

There are many ways to plan your RV travels. Some people I know spend days going over routes, making lists of attractions they want to see on the way, creating schedules, making reservations, even planning where they are going to stop for fuel along the way. It works for them, but I don’t need that much organization my life.

There are people who take that to an extreme. We’ve known at least two fulltiming couples who always had a year’s worth of reservations made in advance. They both said they just needed the security of knowing there would be a place for them to stay wherever they were. The husband of one of those couples went so far as to have two-week reservations made and paid for in advance for the next 52 weeks at all times. Once they arrived at a destination for their two week stay, he immediately made another reservation to tack onto the end of their schedule. Twice that we know of they ran into unexpected delays because of mechanical breakdowns and didn’t get to the next stop when expected. So instead of just staying 12 days instead of the planned 14 to make up for the time they were in the shop, he would go through their schedule and start canceling and changing reservations until he was back on his two week stay schedule everywhere they went. Seriously, what fun could that be? Apparently not much, because they lasted less than a year and got off the road. His stress level was so high worrying about every little thing that could possibly happen to mess up their schedule that he was having chest pains, his blood pressure had skyrocketed, and his stomach was constantly knotted up.

Just as bad are the people who are in what I call “get there” mode. They leave wherever they are and head for their destination, never slowing down along the way. No stops to sightsee, no leisurely evenings or mornings, they get up, they drive 300 or 400, or even more miles per day, stop and sleep, and get up and do it all over again the next day until they get where they are going. That can be a real grind. I know because when we were teaching at Life on Wheels and working RV rallies and all of that, or when we had to get to a printer to get a new issue of the Gypsy Journal ready to go, back when we had the printed edition, we did that far too many times. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable if you are working RVers. More than once we’ve wrapped up an RV rally on a Sunday, packed our vendor booth and seminar equipment, and were setting up at another rally 700 miles away on Wednesday. I’m sure glad those days are behind us!

And then there are others who are more laid-back about things. They know where they are going to go, they know which route they are going to take, when they are going to leave, and they know when they plan to arrive, and that’s about it. They build a little buffer room into their schedule for unexpected delays, or unanticipated opportunities to check out something new along the way. I would say this is probably close to a majority of the RVers we have met, to one extent or another.

A great category to be in are those that know they are going to be someplace during the month of June, for example, and they may even have reservations if it’s a busy destination. But they are in no hurry to get there. If they see something interesting along the way they may stay a day or two, or a week. If they bump into friends and decide to hang out with them for a while, their schedule is flexible enough that they can do so. Once we stopped chasing the RV rallies and speaking gigs all over the country, we fell into that group.

And believe it or not, there are some free spirits who have no idea where the heck they are going or how they are going to get there. I envy them most of all. Early in our fulltime RV life, before we got too tied down with working rallies and teaching, we actually did that. You will never feel more free in your life than when you pull up to an intersection and flip a coin to decide if you’re going to go right or left, North or South, East or West.

There has been a lot of talk lately about how difficult it is becoming to travel spontaneously in an RV like that, because there are more and more RVs hitting the road and only so many campgrounds available. Which means that if you go to a busy area in the peak season and have not made reservations in advance, you may have some difficulty finding a campsite. I wrote about that in a blog titled No Room At The Inn. But those free spirits I mentioned above do not want to go to those places and be part of the herd, anyway. They would rather seek out the road less traveled and see where it takes them. Like I said, I envy them most of all.

How about you? How well do you plan your RV travels? Which category above do you fall into? Or you do you have your own style that’s a combination of the different ones above? I’d like to hear from you.

Thought For The Day – Don’t measure your life using someone else’s ruler.