Monday, February 12, 2018

Waco, Texas

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This is the fourth year in a row we find ourselves starting off our new year travels by saying goodbye to my family. It does not get any easier with the passing of time. And yet, my folks are eager to get back to their regular schedules and we're chomping at the bit to hit the road and explore new places. As we leave, we're usually chatting away about our upcoming plans for the year. Except this time, we didn't have much of it planned.

Although we sleep in Scoopy while we are at the ranch, we spend many hours of our day at the house, where we also typically eat meals. I don't think we prepared a single meal in Scoopy in the five weeks we were there. As such, she gets a little dusty and messy as we tend to just throw things down wherever there is room. Getting her ready to travel was a 2-day long process and we still had tons to do when we arrived at Lake Waco. We were so happy to be back in our home that we didn't leave for three days.

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“Death of an Armoire”. We had to purge some things from our storage container during our stay at the ranch.

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Steven spent the day reorganizing the bays for our upcoming travels.

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All ready to go the morning of our departure at the ranch.

One thing we really haven't done much of as we head out is explore Texas. We are usually ready to get waaaay down the road. I lived here for years, heck, I was born here! I've seen a bunch of it already! But things change, right? So we decided to stick around for a bit longer and planned our first stop in Waco. 

Our travel day was gorgeous! Blue skies, no wind, little traffic. We had booked a site right on the water at the COE park at Lake Waco and we were looking forward to just taking it easy. Then, about 30 minutes before we arrived, the park called. "We're closed," they said. Whaaaaaaaat? "Government shutdown." Time for Plan B.

We didn't have a Plan B, but deciding on what that would be was kind of automatic and in this case, quite practical. We left the ranch with an empty fridge and freezer so grocery shopping was already at the top of our To Do list. We headed to Walmart for a shop and stay.

After we got all our stuff, we settled in at the Walmart parking lot to enjoy our evening. The following morning we headed to the Airport Park COE, since the shutdown had come to an end. We were able to arrive and settle in way before the 3 p.m. check-in time since our site was obviously empty. We were overjoyed with our campsite right on the lake. We had beautiful views in nearly every direction.

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Whaaaaaat?? We weren’t expecting to spend a night Wallydocking but at least we got some shopping done!

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Our fantastic site in Airport Park COE. Despite the big slope, it was pretty level at the top.

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Peaceful nights helped us recharge our batteries.

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The only place we visited during our stay in Waco was the famed Magnolia Market at the Silos store.

We did finally emerge on the forth day long enough to extend our stay for two more days. Then we hunkered down again. We cleaned, got caught up on laundry, food prep, the news, administrative tasks and so on. Once that was done we spent time planning our 2018 travels, which we shared with you in our last post. Planning was a lot of fun since we ended up going in a completely different direction than we first anticipated. All-in-all, we’re pretty excited and after a good recharge in Waco, we’re ready to get going!

NEXT UP: More Texas travels!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hello 2018!

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I love to map our travels on Travellerspoint.com. It always makes our yearlong travels look so sweeping and epic with it's loopty-loop lines. 2018, however, was to be the year of the big Slow Down. We had picked seven or eight stops where we were going to stay for several weeks at a time. I entered our travel destinations and our map was anything but sweeping and epic, in fact, it looked like a, well . . . Steven called it the Organ Trail.

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Not sweeping and epic so we scrapped this plan.

It wasn't the shape of the map that made us change our minds, it just sort of simultaneously dawned on us that we're not ready to slow down. So 2018 has once again become swoopy and loopy and epic and all is right with our world.  

We began our 2018 travels on January 22nd when we left Live Oak Ranch. Since then, we've stayed in the Lone Star State and will soon head to Big Bend National Park.This stop is for Steven, as he's craving some new photographic opportunities.

We'll then make our way across New Mexico into Arizona where we will land at the RV-Dreams Boondocking Rally in early March at Quartzsite, AZ. Two weeks later we'll attend a second rally before heading off to explore Utah for a few weeks.

Then it's on to Oregon and Washington where we will catch up with two of our kiddos and our PNW peeps. Hopefully we’ll find a new sofa for Scoopy and perhaps get some tiling done.

By mid-June we'll start heading east as we plan to take U.S. Highway 2 through North Dakota all the way to Duluth. From there, it's on to Wisconsin and with that, we will have earned our stickers for 49 states having spent at least one night in each. Hawaii is not in our plans.

We'll head south for a fun week in Chicago (where I will visit one of my favorite places ever - Eataly's!) before heading back west to meet up with Bill and Kelly for a tour of the Teton Valley. If everything works out as we hope, my parents may join us as well.

From the TV we'll mosey back to the ranch in Texas. Our plan is to then fly to Seattle to spend the Christmas holiday with our kids. Since Zoe works in retail, she never gets to take time off for the holidays, so this year we're going to her!

And there you have it, 2018 in a nutshell!

NEXT UP: Waco!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

It Was A Very Good Year

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Hi everyone, Steven here. The title of this blog post refers to one of my favorite songs of all time by Frank Sinatra whereby he documents all the significant moments of a single life. Most of us have memorable experiences in our lives but, for me, this fulltiming life has afforded more experiences and adventures than I ever thought possible.

In the three short years of our fulltiming adventures, it seems like I've done and seen more than I have in the preceding 50 years. We have gone up and down the west coast, I've sat on the precipice of the Grand Canyon for a magnificent sunrise with only 4 other people, camped on a cliff edge by Goosenecks State Park in Utah, boondocked in the Southern California desert, took on the vast state of Alaska, woke up to a glorious view of the Sierras in Lone Pine, the list goes on and on.

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Sunrise over the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

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Boondocking at Goosenecks State Park in Utah.

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Boondocking in the Anza Borrego desert in California.

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Glamping by Muncho Lake in British Columbia on the way to Alaska.

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Home is where you pitch your tent. In this case with a gorgeous view of Denali.

Every year, it seems, gets better and harder to beat. Maybe they are all spectacular in their own way but I have to say that this past year has been my personal favorite, hands down. I honestly thought we'd never top the Alaska experience but there just seems to be no limit to the magic of this life.

The year kicked off with a bang for a month-long stay in Europe. I'm sure all of you know, by now, that I'm from Ireland and my parents and siblings live there. I try to get back to see them every other year. But, holy cow, is it expensive and usually I either go solo or with one or two of the kids. Since we met back in 1997, Linda had only been back there once, so her visit this time was significant. My parents, of course, have visited the States many times so that helps us all stay in touch.

We had a lovely time with my family in Dublin and then headed over to London for five days, followed by a week-long stay in Paris. It was the first time I had been there and I fell in love with the city (you can read about it here). I tried to tear up my plane ticket but Linda stopped me. After a return trip to Dublin, we headed back to Texas to retrieve Scoopy from Live Oak Ranch.

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Paris from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

What followed still makes my head spin and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be able to do what I do. Listing everything would make this post unwieldy but I'll mention just some of the highlights.

We were never fans of Florida, much to the chagrin of many of our fultiming friends, and I guess a lot of that is our aversion to hot places. If there's one thing we've learned traveling down the road, it's that there is no state in America that could be described in a singular way. Each has its own charm and many of them are hidden away waiting to be found. We absolutely loved our brief stay in Pensacola, particularly the beach. We also spent a lovely day in St. Augustine with our friends Jim and Diana. So much sun and color!. It made us want to spend more time exploring Florida and we will.

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Vibrant colors and warm weather in St. Augustine, Florida.

Savannah in Georgia had the same charm I found in New Orleans. Probably more so, in fact. We spent a day walking through all the park squares and then took a tour and learned about the special history of the place. There is only one word to sum up the city: charm. It would take much longer than the time we had to fully appreciate everything there.

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Alligators and the beautiful streets and houses of Savannah make Georgia a big favorite of ours.

The Outer Banks (OBX) is another place dense with things to see and do and, again, we really just got to see a fraction of what the area has to offer.

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Rodanthe Pier in the Outer Banks, North Carolina.

I lived in New York City for a decade and never thought we'd be back there in our motorhome but we found a fantastic campground in Jersey City and I took the 20-minute ferry into the city every day for a week. We had lots of fun in the Big Apple and caught up with old friends. We even got to sit in behind the scenes of a Fox Business TV show. It's nice to have friends in high places :)

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A foggy morning on the way to New York City on the ferry.

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One World Trade Memorial in downtown Manhattan.

Pennsylvania is a stunningly beautiful state. It rivals Washington in many ways. During our stay, Gettysburg was a big highlight and it helped me learn all about the Civil War. Honestly, I really had no clue about it because it wasn't anything i learned about in Ireland.

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Living History reenactment in Gettysburg.

We spent a relatively long time (for us) sitting in one campground (Wild Cherry) in Michigan and totally loved the peace it brought us. It slowed things down and we had a nice rhythm of rest and adventure. Another memorable part of Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula. The Elks Lodge where we stayed was right on the water and we had a lovely view of the Canadian and July 4th fireworks right from our front seat.

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A steam train at Greenfield Village, Michigan.

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Point Iroquois lighthouse in Michigan.

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Canada Day fireworks as seen from our front window!

A place that totally lived up to its hype was Niagara Falls in New York. Wow, the majesty of those waters puts things into perspective. Like the mountains of Alaska, the scale of this place makes you ponder the absolute power of Mother Nature.

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Niagara Falls in all her glory.

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A boat carrying hundreds of tourists approaches the falls.

Yet another surprise was Rhode Island. When I look back on our original plans, it makes me laugh to think we figured we'd spend one night there so we could put a sticker on our map. The state may be the smallest in the US but it packs a huge punch. It's like Dr. Who's Tardis. You step inside and it is orders of magnitude larger than you expected. The scenery was breathtaking just a few steps from our campground in Fisherman's Memorial Park. The nearby town of Newport with its famed mansions was a treat to see. We'll be back!!

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Judith Point Lighthouse was just minutes from our campground in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

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The wind and the moon. Judith Point Lighthouse.

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A fishing boat sets out as the sun sets in Galilee.

We were only halfway through year by now and there was still a lot of traveling to do. We spent a significant amount of time exploring Salem in Massachusetts and the surrounding towns. I had only an inkling of knowledge about the infamous witch trials and I came away with a much broader understanding of those primitive times. Although there was a lot of tacky touristy stuff in Salem, it's possible to dig just a little deeper to find its authentic historical identity.

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One of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials.

While in Salem, I was eager to visit the nearby fishing town of Gloucester, the center of the movie and disastrous events of the Perfect Storm. I was expecting a run down little village but what we found was a vibrant community of artists and restaurants and a still very active fishing industry. It was a profound experience to learn about the hardship and loss of life over the decades. Overall, Cape Ann (the name given this entire area) was a big highlight of the year.

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Two memorials along the Gloucester waterfront in Massachusetts.

But we still weren't done. Back in February while we were in Ireland, Linda somehow persuaded my parents to come visit us for our planned stay in Maine. To my surprise, they agreed. Ireland is a tiny country so the concept of fultiming in a motorhome is outside most people's experience. Although my parents read our blog and saw our posts on Facebook, they really didn't have any idea about our lifestyle. It was kind of a missing piece of the puzzle for me so I was beyond excited for them to come and travel with us.

Their visit was flawless and some of the highlights included a stay in Boothbay Harbor and Winter Harbor where they had a wonderful little cabin overlooking the water. What a great time we had and I know they'll remember it for years to come.

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My parents, Elizabeth and Patrick enjoying themselves in Maine.

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While we were in Maine, my dad and I got up early one morning and drove to Quoddy Head to catch the sunrise.

In the fall, we spent seven weeks working our tails off at an Amazon fulfillment center and, although the work was hard and the days long, the time spent with friends made it all worth it.

After a brief stay in Tennessee and Arkansas, we found ourselves back in Texas gathering with family for Christmas.

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Tara as Animal Whisperer at Live Oak Ranch in Texas over Christmas.

Although all of this really only skims the surface of all we did, it's almost overwhelming to think we did it all inside one calendar year. Most people don't do this much in an entire lifetime.

So as I sit here typing, I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Not only is this life a privilege and a gift but I also get to share it with my best friend and love of my life. Not too shabby and I can't even imagine what's still to come in this crazy life of mine. One thing is for sure, it won't be boring.

UP NEXT: Waco!