Happy New Year – Here’s hoping

Seasons in the Sun RV Resort, Mims, Florida

It’s been hard to know what to say about the past five months since my last post. Like many, we’ve adapted our lives to the needs of safety and health. We’ve been lucky to be able to travel and see our family. Unlike millions of others, we haven’t suffered any losses amongst our close family or friends for which we are grateful.

We have travelled to some beautiful and interesting places and taken note of places we might like to revisit when the world opens up and we can return to see what we missed.

Sioux Falls

Following a two month stay with our family in Rochester, Minnesota, we made a short hop to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to get our driver’s licenses and complete the process of establishing our legal residency there. Although our visit was strictly business, we were able to take the time to visit Sioux Falls Park where the actual falls is located. It’s a beautiful park and we were enjoyed an afternoon outdoors exploring the falls.

Indiana Dunes – Over the dune to the lake

After a brief stop back in Rochester to take care of some needed repairs, we began to make our way south. Again we were fortunate to be able to stop along the way to see our kids in Chicago and Cleveland with some outdoor, socially distanced visits. With some cooperation from the weather, we were able to include a couple of day trips and hiking in Indiana Dunes State Park with Josh and Shaina and dinner and an early birthday celebration for Ziv in Matt and Danya’s lovely garage in Shaker Heights.

Beautiful trees draped in Spanish moss in Charleston

We continued on southward with some nice stops along the way: a couple of days near Athens, West Virginia affording us time to hike along Brushcreek Falls; we explored Charleston, South Carolina; Tybee Island, Georgia; and St Augustine, Florida finally landing in Mims. All the while taking note of the things we would like to be able to do if or when we return to those locations — visitor centers, indoor museums, shops and restaurants all off limits to us or closed.

Canaveral National Seashore on New Year’s Day

So here we are, ensconced in Florida for the winter, like the snowbirds we never thought we’d become. We continue make our best efforts to stay safe and keep healthy. We’re looking forward to getting vaccinated some day (vaccine is sold out here in Brevard County through February), learning all about Zoom and online bridge, online shopping, curbside pickup, reading, walking and way too much TV. We did get to see a nighttime rocket launch from Canaveral which was visible right here in the park. Otherwise, life is quiet and we hope it will remain so until the world is ready to open up again.

Our plan remains to be back in Pennsylvania in the spring and then, who knows what the summer will bring.

We sincerely hope this missive finds you and all who are close to you well and thriving as much as is possible in these extraordinary times. We look forward to seeing you and hugging you close.

It’s been a long time and we thought we’d just let you know we’re still here. Frankly, in the past six months there hasn’t been a lot happening to write home about.

January and February were a whirlwind of activity. In January with life continuing as normal, we left Daisy with a sitter and flew from Palm Springs to New York (and back) for a fabulous Becker Family Thanksgiving. At the end of January we started our trek east with some fun sightseeing stops along the way. A visit to the quaint town of Las Cruces, New Mexico; a few fun and musical days in Fredericksburg and Luckenback, Texas; a brief stop in Houston for a visit to the Space Center (worthwhile visit, horrible traffic); a long awaited week in New Orleans – great fun, food and music (and did I mention the awesome food?); we took some time to explore Northern Florida interspersed with a trip to Georgia for a family visit and a side trip to Annapolis for a family Bat Mitzvah; back to Florida for more family time in Jacksonville and a week in Christmas that included an air boat ride on the St John’s River for a closeup look at alligators in their natural habitat.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we did all that in such a short space of time. In fact, it’s hard to imagine we did those things at all. It makes me tired and a little bit scared just thinking about it.

Finally, heading north in March we began a planned a civil rights tour through Alabama. There we got “stuck” outside of Montgomery when the world shut down. Fortunately, we found ourselves in a beautiful RV park just outside the city, near enough to have the availability of food and necessary services, far enough to enjoy the quiet surroundings of woods and pond and plenty of social distancing. We looked around and said to ourselves, “We might as well stay where we are.” We were extremely lucky to be able to hunker down in a beautiful park, enjoy gorgeous weather and everything we needed close at hand. With good Internet service we sat and watched while the world sorted itself out. We discovered services we never thought we’d need like grocery delivery and drop off laundry service. We began to learn how to maintain a balance between safety and sanity. Bridge tournaments were cancelled and the ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) went online. Gyms, hair salons and other “non-essential” services shut down.

We stayed put in Alabama until the arrival of tornado season added stress upon stress so we determined it was time to continue north. Plotting a route that allowed us to keep ourselves safe while providing for overnight stops when so many states had closed campgrounds and were not permitting overnight stays was a challenge. We managed it with some adjustments along the way as circumstances evolved. We made it to Pennsylvania by early May.

In the succeeding months, like you I’m sure, we have focused on adjusting to our new normal, finding safe ways to visit with our immediate family and close friends, and learning about Zoom. Since July we have made our way from Hatfield, to Cleveland, to Chicago to Rochester, Minnesota where Hank and his family have relocated in the midst of all the craziness of the world. Once we have established ourselves as new residents of South Dakota next month, we will again head south to Florida for the winter — traveling safely and with little or no sightseeing along the way.

Our family has been touched by the virus although, as far as we know, we haven’t lost anyone. We are among the lucky ones. Our hearts go out to the millions who have. We hope that by this time next year the world will have returned to some semblance of normalcy. We pray that you and your family are safe and well. Please get in touch and let us know how you are doing in a world gone crazy.

As always, we love to hear from you.

Be well.

I know it’s been a while and I must confess that since I asked the question, I’ve become more adept at being lazy, thanks to some good advice I received from my loyal readers. Just to clarify, that’s lazy in the most positive sense of the word with no negative implication. It turns out that laziness requires some attention and diligence. It can be difficult to sit and enjoy a good book or just close your eyes, relax in the sun and listen to music while quelling the voice in your head that says you should be doing something more productive.

Old Faithful

To be fair, since we left Anacortes on August 5 we have traveled through seven states and visited 17 national parks and monuments. From August 5 until we arrived in Anaheim on October 20, we didn’t stay in any one place for more than seven days, more typically four or five days in each location, sometimes less. It was a grand adventure and quite exhausting. You can see our map of all the places we have visited here.

Sunset at Zion National Park

Some of our favorites included Yellowstone, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks; an exciting helicopter ride over Grand Canyon; Petrified Forest and Painted Desert which has been on my bucket list since I was around eight years old. We also enjoyed an unexpected visit to the corner in Winslow, Arizona. I’m working on posting the many pictures we took of our travels. We’ve had minimal or no Internet service until now so I’m way behind on that.

Petrified logs at Petrified Forest NP

And while we’re at it, we also had the adventure of driving down a bumpy road and glancing in the rear view mirror to discover the side of our trailer flapping in the wind. Since it was a Sunday and no mobile service was available, we were forced to make the remainder of the drive down the highway at 35 mph with cars whizzing past as we prayed not to see the side of our home flying off into the desert. We did make it safely to Holbrook, AZ where we were fortunate to locate Joseph, a wonderful mobile tech who drove an hour twice to help us out and make us roadworthy again. Joseph managed a temporary repair that has held up better than the original work. So much for quality control. That repair will keep us going until we can return to the dealer in Pennsylvania for the permanent fix. Joseph, by the way, turned out to be a fascinating character who has lived in various places around the US and Germany, a former professional ballet dancer who now maintains a farm, keeps horses and teaches ballet to children in addition to his mobile RV service business. The mishaps we’ve experienced on our journey have certainly brought us the joy of meeting some wonderful people. I assure you, there are still good people in the world.

Sunset at Grand Canyon

Experiences such as that and some other minor issues (like discovering that our kitchen cabinets had started to come loose and were in danger of crashing down around us) keep the journey interesting.

We stayed three weeks in Anaheim, California (actually Yorba Linda), resting and catching up with our family there, then moved on to Indio, near Palm Springs, in the Coachella Valley where I am writing now. The park here is beautiful and we’ve so enjoyed the area that we extended our stay for an additional month, cancelling our scheduled month in Tucson. Staying in one place for so long has been luxurious — our longest stop since we took to the road 15 months ago. There is a bridge game available every day of the week and a friendly synagogue in Palm Desert that boasts an interesting and lively Saturday morning Torah study. We have enjoyed regular workouts at the nearby Planet Fitness (although I admit I blew off the workout today and sent Steve without me). The people in the park and around the Coachella Valley are friendly, welcoming and relaxed. The Valley boasts an embarrassment of riches when it comes to shopping, dining, culture and entertainment; traffic isn’t horrible and the weather is mild. As we sit surrounded by palm trees, we can see snow topped mountains in the distance. With all that in mind, we’ve booked a return stay for a full four months for next winter.

We’ve also figured out that planes still fly so Gail flew to Washington to celebrate Chanukah week with the family there. In a couple of weeks we fly to New York for a long weekend to observe our traditional non-traditional family Thanksgiving.

Once we return from that trip we’ll be hitting the road again, heading east with some scheduled sightseeing stops in Texas and New Orleans. Plans for the spring and summer are fluid at this point but we expect to be back in Pennsylvania by early spring.

Home for now

So, the adventure continues. We extend sincere wishes to all our family and friends new and old for a happy and healthy year. Please keep in touch. We’ll see you down the road.

It’s been one year since we dove in to life on the road, and a busy year it has been. We have traveled through 38 states; visited 28 National Parks, National Monuments and National Historic Parks (so far) and numerous beautiful state and local parks around the country; visited with our family scattered across the continent and met interesting people along the way.
We’ve had many new experiences; seen life from 10,000 feet to 300 feet below sea level. From oceans to forests to desert. We have had adventures as well as mishaps that have introduced us to local auto repair shops, body shops, RV repair technicians, one local urgent care clinic and one local hospital ER (Don’t worry, we’re fine). Steve has managed to play in not one but three bridge tournaments including the national in Memphis (although he’ll tell you he’s had not nearly enough bridge), while Gail has enjoyed her alone time.

The moment of “Oh, my God. What have we done!”

The once daunting and stressful tasks involved with picking up and moving from place to place have become routine. We’re more comfortable with driving a two ton diesel truck towing a 7 ton 36 foot trailer. We can be closed up, hitched up and ready to move in an hour.

We’ve learned a lot about living together in harmony in a small space, dealing with sometimes difficult challenges, and more about what we are capable of. We have learned to be more forgiving and more tolerant of each other’s mistakes and frailties. And, by the way, Daisy has also mellowed quite a bit, learning to take things in stride and seemingly to enjoy the mobile lifestyle.

In spite of two years of research and planning, when we took the leap we didn’t know that we really had no idea what to expect of this lifestyle and we are fine tuning as we go.

Since it’s been a year on the road and since Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. Well, we know pretty well where we have been and we have no idea where we are going. Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” We took a leap of faith based on the notion that, when we get to the end of the road, we’d rather regret the things we’ve done than the things we haven’t done. In the meantime, we’re exploring a lot of roads to see where they will take us and contemplating a possible future in which we might settle down in one or two places, if we can only figure out where they might be.

Staying put certainly would have been easier. We sometimes miss our familiar routine. We miss spending time with friends. Stability is comforting and predictable. The truth is, neither of us have been risk-takers in our lives and jumping into the unpredictability of this life represented a huge risk. That said, we agreed then that it was a “now or never” proposition and we felt confident that we could handle whatever came along, as long as we faced it together. On that front I can only say, so far so good.

We hear a lot of comments from people who say, “We’d love to do that.” “We envy you.” “We hope to be able to do that someday.” We said that to someone more than 40 years ago. That was the germ that blossomed into our final decision to take the plunge.

So, as we eagerly anticipate whatever unknown adventures and opportunities the next year will bring, we wish all our friends and family a Shana Tovah, a good year. We look forward to seeing you down the road.

We have covered a lot of territory over the past few weeks both geographically and geologically. It has been a roller coaster ride through time and space. During the past two months we have visited 9 national parks and there is more to come. Each park has its focus not only on a different landscape but a different period in time. I am running out of words for the beauty, grandeur and fascination these parks have to offer and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to experience them.

Crater Lake

Since Mount St. Helens, we have gone back in time 7,700 years to the eruption of Mount Mazama which resulted in the creation of the now pristine and beautiful (although still active) Crater Lake.

View across a lava field at Craters of the Moon

From there we moved forward to 2,000 years ago when the last major eruption of the Great Rift in Idaho left the amazing lava fields, cinder cones, lava tubes and other weird formations now protected in Craters of the Moon National Monument. We also went forward in time to visit EBR-1, the first Experimental Breeder Reactor in the world, now a fascinating museum. Check out our pictures of what a revolutionary and now antiquated atomic power plant looks like.

Active fumeroles (steam vents) at Yellowstone National Park

Then on to today and the alien looking landscape of the many active thermal features of the Yellowstone caldera, sitting atop an active supervolcano. Although there hasn’t been an major eruption at Yellowstone for 664,000 years, the daily geyser eruptions, hot pools and springs and steaming fumeroles present a constant reminder that Yellowstone is still alive and active.

Grand Tetons viewed from across Jennie Lake

From Yellowstone to Grand Tetons to Dinosaurland (Dinosaur National Monument). In contrast to the strange volcanic landscapes we’ve explored, the jagged peaks of the Teton Range reaching to over 13,000 feet, first began to thrust upward 10 million years ago making them one of the youngest mountain ranges in North America.

Part of the quarry wall at Dinosaur NM

Dinosaur National Monument turns our attention from geologic formations to life existent when dinosaurs roamed the continent. Although the monument is relatively small, it has a huge impact. Excavations began there around the turn of the last century and we are fortunate that those scientists had the foresight to protect a portion of the excavation for future generations to witness and learn from. It gave me a chill to see and touch actual fossilized bones from dinosaurs that lived and breathed 140 million years ago.

Back to geology and Zion National Park, one of our favorite parks to date. See our picture page to get an idea of the beauty of the sandstone cliffs created by the seemingly benign Virgin River. Once again Zion is so spectacular that we just couldn’t take enough pictures. The sandstone cliff walls rise straight up on either side of the deep canyon. There is so much beauty here that it defies description.

And, by the way, Zion is a great place for a family vacation. There is something for everyone with walks and hikes from easy to challenging. Opportunities to wade in the river. The town of Springdale which abuts the park to the south has many motels, shops, and restaurants. And, best of all, once you arrive, you can put your car keys away. The free Springdale Shuttle will take you from stop to stop through the town and the Zion Shuttle will take you throughout the park. As far as weather, the best time to visit is in the late spring or early fall. Temperatures during the summer reach close to 100 degrees during the day (as it was while we were here) and roads begin to close for the winter by mid November.

We’re sad to be leaving Zion tomorrow but there are more adventures to come. Life in the slow lane is good as we’ve become fairly adept (most of the time, chuckle) at the routine of RV living and travelling and we continue to hone and refine our planning and scheduling.

We hope to see you down the road and look forward to hearing from you.

I was deeply moved by Mount St. Helens’ story. Yes, we all know there are volcanoes erupting all over the world every day. Many of them are in remote locations and some are in populated areas. When I was in school I was fascinated by the story of Pompeii. How the city was buried in ash, the inhabitants unable to escape. The preserved forms that were unearthed thousands of years later tell the tale of a population that was felled as they ran for their lives. Perhaps that’s why I was so struck by the cataclysm that was Mount St. Helens in May of 1980. It could have happened just like that here if circumstances had been different; if the technology had not existed to provide the early warnings that allowed for evacuations to take place; if the area within the “blast zone” had been more densely populated instead of having been dedicated to national forest and recreation years earlier.

On a clear day, clouds hover above an active volcano

You can look it up and read about it…the early warnings…20,000 earthquakes in the weeks leading up to the blast…the bubble that formed in the north side of the mountain growing at the rate of 5 feet per day as scientists and local residents looked on…the blast when the bubble burst with a force that destroyed everything over 234 square miles within 10 minutes, followed by an ash plume rising 15 miles into the atmosphere during the next 8 hours, covering much of northwest Washington, encircling the globe over the next two weeks…the only road up the mountain completely destroyed…and so much more. With close to 150,000 acres of trees killed along with thousands of animals, only 47 people died. Tragic, yes, for them and their families, but amazing that the death toll was so small.

Then comes the story of rescue and recovery. Helicopters flew in to rescue those people who had remained within the blast zone and somehow survived. The Army Corp of Engineers set about repairing the only bridge and building an entirely new road up the mountain. Logging trucks started hauling away downed trees. And, within days, new life began to emerge as burrowing animals emerged and plants began to poke their way up through the debris.

An interesting experiment is going on there. 68,000 acres destroyed by St. Helens is owned by Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest timber companies. They have an interesting story to tell as well and have built and continue to operate a public education center there. As soon as possible after the blast, Weyerhaeuser began to send in loggers to salvage as much lumber as possible. Then they began to replant. Over the next 7 years, 18 million trees were carried in and planted by hand, one by one. Now, through sound forest management practices, there grows a healthy mature forest. By contrast, the National Forest Service which is responsible for management of the Mount St. Helens National Monument, following the standard practice and policy of minimal interference, has not done any planting (other than a small area planted for comparison purposes) but rather is offering scientists and other observers the opportunity to study how the land heals itself. From a distance, the line between the planted area and the natural area is clearly evident. And, yet, it is also clear that the land is recovering on its own and the opportunities for study and learning are endless.

Now, almost 40 years later, the land is growing green again, animals have returned in full measure, human recreational activities have resumed on the new lake and waterways that were formed by the event, and life goes on with, perhaps, hard earned respect for the power of the mountain. On the one hand, we are saddened by the destruction. On the other, we are filled with optimism to learn how this event and others like it form an integral link in nature’s cycle of growth, death and regrowth.

Next up, more volcanic discovery at Crater Lake, Craters of the Moon and Yellowstone.

and sometimes I just sits.

Question: I’ve been retired now for almost a year. When can I stop feeling guilty about being lazy, doing nothing, relaxing, just sitting and enjoying the view? Ah, well.

The Yankee Drivers on stage at The Heart of Anacortes

We had a wonderful month in Anacortes, enjoying quality time with our family while getting some needed repair work done on the RV and eking out some time to relax a little. We ventured out for a day trip to North Cascades National Park; clapped and stomped at an outdoor bluegrass concert; Gail had a great time at the Anacortes Arts Festival with the kids not to mention lots of Bubbie time all month.

North Cascades National Park

We’re thrilled to have an awning that works; a new toilet and hydraulic system that don’t leak. Until next time… One note of excitement – on our last day as we were closing up to get on the road, hydraulic fluid came pouring out of the hydraulic compartment. That put a halt to everything. Good news is that our intrepid on site tech, Brandon of HQ RV Mobile Services, who had done a great job with all our repairs, was nearby and he got us up and running with only a couple of hours delay. While we waited, we were able to have breakfast with our family one last time. All’s well that ends well.

So, we’re on the road with an ambitious itinerary for the next couple of months that takes us to 12 national parks before we vacation for a couple of weeks at Lake Mead then hop down to Southern California followed by Tucson through to mid-January.

Through the haze – snow covered Mt. Olympus

We’ve already spent last week exploring the beauty and variety of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. Within one relatively small area there are ocean beaches, temperate rainforest and glacier topped mountains. As soon as we have better WIFI, we’ll upload pictures.

We’re currently parked in the area of Mt.St. Helens. We’ve learned a lot already about the devastation caused by the cataclysmic eruption that occurred in the spring of 1980 as well as the amazing regeneration that has taken place since. I’m sure many of our readers will remember that world shaking event. We haven’t actually seen the mountain yet due to extensive cloud cover but we’re hoping for a sunny day tomorrow. Next stop, Crater Lake. It turns out that the Pacific Northwest is a pretty scary place when it comes to active volcanoes. Who knew?!

What’s next? Who knows? Stay tuned.

First, a disclaimer… It used to be that people wrote memoirs. Now it’s blogging. Either way, I always had a notion that this type of activity was reserved for the hopelessly narcissistic. I’ve always blogged, in a way, but only in my head. I suppose we all keep a running commentary of our lives that we don’t share with others. Anyway, as Steve and I embark on this new chapter in our lives (Chapter 3 as it turns out, with Chapter 1 being “establishing a home and raising a family” and Chapter 2, “empty nesting.”), I have discovered that some people seem to be fascinated and others envious of our decision to divest ourselves of two lifetimes (at least) worth of material possessions including our bricks and sticks home and move into our new, as yet to be named, home on wheels. (Yes, Gail S. We are going to give it a name.) What’s more, some of our friends and family have insisted that they want to virtually follow us on the road and read about our adventures along the way. Some have also suggested that writing and posting pictures is as much for myself as for them. Kind of a journal but public, so be careful what you say. Hence this blog. Continue reading “In the beginning…”

As we planned for our big adventure, some of our friends and family said they’d like to read about our travels and mishaps and see photos of the fabulous sights we encounter. So, for what it’s worth, here it is. Enjoy!