2015 – Done and Dusted

This past year was one of changes and traveling, some good times and some challenges.  It was a very unsettled year for us; seems like we just couldn’t find the “spot” for us, sort of like Goldilocks looking for the right bed.  Some of our decisions were better than others.  We logged a lot of miles; well, for us, at any rate.  We faced some challenges and had some good times along the way.   

Georgia Rest Area 06282015

I took a multitude of these types of shots at various rest stops during 2015.  Wish I had the patience to go back and tally up the miles we traveled during the year.

Darlington SC 07012015

We started the year doing security work in Darlington, SC.  This was a tough gig.  Night shift did not agree with Dave; he was getting 1-2 hours of sleep every 24-36 hours.  Cycling was dangerous with him being run off the roads, chased by extremely aggressive stray/wild dogs and coming off the bike (crashes) three times.  We had no way to properly empty our tanks and experienced our first ant infestation in 5 years of full-timing (and numerous years of camping before that). The tree over us was unkempt; a storm brought down large branches which barely missed our rig.  We were also experiencing frequent fluctuations in power to our rig, with our “big black box” shutting us down due to low voltage.  This was definitely not a good thing.

Vicksburg MS Visitor Center 03172015

We received an offer to manage a park in Texas, so in March we headed that way.  We took our time and did a bit of sightseeing.  Here we are in Vicksburg, MS.  We stayed at Ameristar RV Park and would recommend it.

KOA Mt Pleasant TX 05022015

While the job itself would have been okay, the circumstances were not.  We resigned our management position but stayed on as workampers for a while.  If we had remained as managers, more than likely we would still be there attempting to run the place by ourselves with extremely limited resources.  Not a good scenario.  We learned a lot from this experience, though.

We stayed at numerous RV parks in 2015 in our trekking around the eastern third of the country.  I haven’t included photos from all of them, just some of the memorable and well-liked ones.

Shady Pines RV Park Texarkana TX 06082015

We really like Shady Pines RV Park in Texarkana, TX.  This was our second stay here, this one in June.

Camping World Anniston AL 06242015

Another second stay at Camping World in Anniston, AL during June.  Skies were threatening and we were treated to an extraordinary light show courtesy of Momma Nature, but it never rained.  I like this photo.

Prairie Creek COE Beaver Lake AR 06132015

We gave a try at being gate attendants at a COE park in Arkansas in June.  A brief try.  The site looks nice, but had many issues, including an uphill sewer connection and a dirt hill right next to our rig which became a mud river during rains.  A quiet park?  Hardly.  A young girl was killed on the lake the day before we arrived.  Weekends were nonstop traffic, to the point of parking being full in all areas.  Law enforcement screaming through the gate with lights flashing at all hours.  People coming up to our rig (when we weren’t on duty) with questions, etc.  It was also a 6-day work week and turns out one had to go the bank and post office on one’s day off.  This was not a good decision and not as described.

Country Boys RV Park Madison GA 06272015

A repeat visit to Country Boys RV Park in Madison, GA in June.  Certainly adequate for 1-2 nights.

We agreed to return to South Carolina and the security gig as the relief team for 3 months.  While we had questioned our decision to leave there earlier in the year, the return visit served as affirmation of that decision. 

Office area 08262015

While in SC the second time, we removed our dining table and chairs (which we rarely used) and turned the area into a workspace/office for me. 

We were there from July 1st until October 1st, at which point we were headed back to Texas.  Changes in our health insurance predicated this move.  I was still working part-time as a virtual assistant, and we were hopeful Dave could pick up some work once we arrived in Bryan, Texas.

Barnyard RV Park Lexington SC 10012015

We planned a 2-night stay at the Barnyard RV Park in Lexington, SC following our security gig.  We thought this would allow us to resume normal sleep patters and chill a bit before hitting the road to Texas.  The stay stretched into 5 nights due to massive rainfall and areal flooding.  We were grateful the park did not flood.  It wasn’t very relaxing, however, as we were in emergency preparedness mode the entire time.  Management was totally accommodating and helpful as we (and a couple of other neighbors) kept extending our stay day-by-day due to weather.

Montgomery South RV Park 10122015

Landed for a week at Montgomery South RV Park, we sort of began catching up on some R&R.  Dave really enjoyed the cycling here; however, the park was infested with loose dogs and, just because of that, we would not return.  Otherwise, it was a fine park in the process of expansion during our stay.

Ever closer to Texas, we stayed a few nights in Beaumont at Gulf Coast RV Resort.  Looks like I didn’t get photos . . . hmmm.  Dave enjoyed the cycling and I enjoyed really relaxing, catching up laundry, etc.  Our friend Rachelle, whom we had not seen since 2010 prior to our embarking on this lifestyle, came to spend a day with us.  So good to see her again, and we really appreciated her making the trip.

Traders Village Houston TX 10182015

From Beaumont, our next stop was Traders Village on the northwest side of Houston.  It was okay, but nothing spectacular.  I couldn’t believe Highway 290 was still under construction.  No, wait, I can believe that, actually.  It was pretty darn warm when we arrived and shortly after landing . . . it was a really warm day . . and . . we had no power to the rig.  Turns out a mobile tech working on the RV next door was terrific and got us powered up again.  Remember that low voltage issue in SC?  He suspected that’s what fried the . . . um . . . I forget what it was but it had to do with the gen set.  Since we don’t have an onboard gen, he just bypassed it and disabled that.  He showed it to us and, yes, it was fried.  Another affirmation that leaving SC was a good decision.

The next day, we headed to Bryan, Texas and what we anticipated as our home for the long term.  I had checked reviews, talked at length with the manager and made a month’s reservation at Primrose Lane RV Park in Bryan.  We didn’t have much selection, as it was football season in Aggieland and nary an RV space to be had.

Primrose Lane Bryan TX 10192015

Primrose Lane long-term site.  Mud pit. Bad “neighborhood.”  Worst place we have ever stayed.  Our front landing gear were sinking.  We asked for more gravel, correction, gravel on the site but it never materialized and we realized after a while that it just wouldn’t.  Standing water all the time around our rig.  Electric shore connection so low to the ground we had to unplug so it wouldn’t short out.  Residents letting dogs run loose and dog “deposits” all over the grounds, including sidewalks.  Ugh.

Good news is that during our time there, Dave secured a seasonal position at Walmart.   I still had my virtual assistant client and had landed a medical editor job.

We had been looking at other RV parks and ended up being third on the waiting list for Aggieland RV Park.  With our November rent almost due at Primrose and not wanting to be there any longer, the owner/manager at Aggieland found a spot for us.  We moved here the early afternoon of November 17, following horrendous storms which got us out of bed around 3:30 that morning.

Aggieland RV Park Site 43 12132015

Concrete streets!  Concrete site!  No mud!  Tidy neighbors!  Decent laundry facilities!  Great owner/manager!  Yay us!

Aggieland RV Park 11182015

The site on our door side is only for short-term and is not used often.  We have an open grassy area on the other side.  Lovely.

We experienced a split (and leaking) gray holding tank in November and it’s been a saga getting the correct tank ordered, etc.; however, we have an appointment next week for installation at an RV dealer less than 10 miles down the road.  I sure will be glad to have my own shower again, but am grateful for the facilities here during this time.

My medical transcription skills are still excellent after all these years away from the profession; however, I found medical editing to be very stressful with a good deal of “extras” one has to do for which one is not paid.  I dreaded each work day, which was totally opposite to my experience with traditional MT work; I used to love my work as an MT; however, the profession has deteriorated and really is not a profession where skills are paramount these days.  The MT company owner called after I resigned wondering why I did, stating “You’re such an MT!”  Perhaps that’s part of it . . . I’m a purist.  Today’s environment just is not a good fit at this time. 

Long and short . . . I picked up a second virtual assistant client which also may be a long-term relationship.  I resigned the ME gig and, upon doing so, felt a great sense of relief.  I now have two clients and really enjoy the work and my interactions with them.  The resulting pay is much better, and I am utilizing my brain and skills.  Yay me!  Minimal stress, maximum rewards.  I’m good with that.

Dave’s seasonal job is turning into a permanent position.  He’s working hard, but it’s certainly not as rigorous as pipefitting on ships or in the mines of Minnesota.  He enjoys his interactions with coworkers and most of the time even the job itself.  Yay him!

Dave works 2-11 PM Thursday through Monday.  I go to work when he leaves a bit after 1 PM.  We both take Tuesday and Wednesday off to run errands and do whatever.  This schedule seems to be a nice fit for us.  We’re both sleeping very well here, and that’s a good thing.

I know Walmart gets a bad rep, but so far Dave and others are treated decently at this store.  He worked overtime around Thanksgiving, but management had a huge dinner spread for the team.  There was a gift discount card during that time, freebie holiday decorations, more food and treats for them at work (and to bring home), etc.  There are other “small” things that have been positive so far, too, such as opening up a check-out lane for Dave when he was purchasing some items on his dinner break.

Dave was a pipefitter with the Royal Navy in Scotland.  He remarked once that he’s gone from working on nuclear submarines, where the lives of sailors literally were in his hands and relied upon his skills.  Now he’s working at Walmart.  But you know what?  At this point in our lives it’s not about our jobs or building careers.  It’s just about having work which pays what few bills we have, putting food on the table and living a comfortable life. 

It’s about our life together, not about our jobs.

We had a delightful impromptu visit this week from two dear long-time friends who live about 60 miles away near Bellville.  Had not seen them since 2010, so it really did my heart good to get some hugs and spend time with them.  Talking on the phone is great, but it’s just not the same as being together.  We hope to get out their way before long, as I used to do occasionally when I lived in Brenham.

Yes, 2015 had its challenges.  Just to end the year with a bang, my bridge failed the other night, so I’ll need to find a dentist after we see how insurance is going to shake out in the coming weeks.  Oh yeah, it’s been a whiz-bang year, alright.

Radar Bryan TX 10242015

This was an all too often recurring theme in 2015.  We believe we experienced more days in rain/severe weather than not.

We made some decisions which seemed questionable at the time, but we learned from those experiences.  We traveled, saw some sights and had some good times.  The end result is that we have landed well back here in Texas with jobs and a comfortable, pleasant environment for our RV home.  (Yeah, well, check with me in July/August when it’s 2275 F outside!  At least the pool is nearby and electricity is included in our rate here.) 

I am grateful for those experiences and for all the miles we traveled in safety and comfort with no breakdowns or accidents and, even in severe weather, we were never in immediate danger.  We try to be careful and alert, but we have also been very fortunate and watched over, I’m sure. 

If all continues favorably with work, our plans are to remain here for the foreseeable future.  We’ll see what 2016 brings, but I’d be good with just “being” right here.

Hope your holiday season has been safe and joyous.  Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

  

 

 

 

Last Night in Alabama

This is our last evening in Hope Hull, AL. We’ll be on the road tomorrow headed to Gautier, MS for one night. We’ve got around 200 miles to go tomorrow. That’s not much for some folks, but it’s a full day for us.

Dave pedaled 51 miles today on his bike this morning, once again thoroughly enjoying the cycling here. He has racked up 208 miles in 5 days here. He has also been taking some photos with his new phone.

Hope Hull Cows 10122015

 

Hope Hull Road Kill Cafe rest stop markers 10122015

From the charity ride, alerting riders of the upcoming rest stop named Road Kill Café. Cute, eh? Each rest stop is named with a theme.

Hope Hull You Kill It We Cook It 10122015

Also for the Road Kill Café, this says, “You kill it, we cook it.” Haha!

Hope Hull route markers 1 10122015

Route markers

The park is full tonight, with 4 rigs parked in the new sites. Those sites do not have gravel yet, but the utilities are functional. We hitched up the truck a bit ago; that’s one less thing to do in the morning.

Maggie was definitely feeling better today and has had a bit of food at reduced amounts. She is certainly more her usual perky and alert self. I am so grateful and am keeping my fingers crossed that she (and I) has another restful night.

Roaming dogs have been less of an issue today, at least so far. Perhaps someone dropped a word or two to their owner down the road?

I am also happy, no, thrilled and relieved, to report that we have had no ants in our rig from day #1 since leaving the work site in South Carolina. Obviously they were coming in from outside. We are both grateful for that and happy to be away from that location.

One other cool thing I have forgotten to mention. When we were getting ready to leave Lexington, SC after the rain event had passed, Dave noticed a wee frog that came out from under our Lynx pad under one of the tires.

Little wee Frog. Good omen. Sent by Cousin Karen, I betcha. Watching over us. Yep. Indeed.

Hope you have had a great Columbus Day. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in Canada!

Thanks for stopping by!

And on the 14th Day . . .

the Sun Did Shine!

We awoke a bit after 8 AM this morning at the Barnyard RV Park in Lexington, SC to actual sunshine. It is difficult to express how wonderful this was after enduring 13 straight days of virtually nonstop rain, including the massive and catastrophic rain system that pummeled South Carolina this past weekend. We rolled out of the park and onto I-20 West shortly before 11:30 AM.

Our first stop was about 60 miles down the road at the Georgia state line welcome center. Yes, there was cheering as we crossed into Georgia from South Carolina.

Georgia Welcome Center on I20 West 10062015

Dig that blue sky!

We munched Pringles (our road trip snack of choice) merrily along until Exit 114, and stopped at the Pilot across the interstate to fuel up for tomorrow’s leg of our journey. Back out on US 129/US 441, we crossed I-20 and cruised down a couple of miles to Country Boys RV Park. This is our third stay here. The park really isn’t much to look at, but it is quite decent for an overnight stay with WiFi that works, cable, good utilities and decent gravel sites. Most of the park is filled with long-term workers, but everyone is friendly and we stop now and then to visit for a bit when we take our strolls around the site loop. We talked quite a while with a young man who is a traveling nurse. I would certainly recommend this as an overnight stay.

Country Boys RV Park Site 59 10062015

Letting our awning dry out a bit here at Country Boys RV Park

If you’ve been watching any coverage of the situation in South Carolina, you’ve heard about dams failing and/or breaching. These have been earthen dams in the area; however, we were never in the path of potential danger from these.

Lake Murray was not too far north from our location in Lexington. The Saluda Dam (or Dreher Shoals Dam) is a large concrete-and-steel dam that is located there. Lake Murray had reached capacity and the dam floodgates were opened at least twice during our stay. This had not happened since 1969, except for testing purposes. South Carolina Emergency Management Division periodically posted reassurances on Facebook that the Lake Murray dam was in no danger of failure, and I certainly did appreciate that. If that dam would fail . . . well . . . we would have been done. Quickly. Period. Truth be told, I feel just flat better being away from there.

Here we have cows lowing in the field next door. Cows have groovy energy.

We traveled 152.9 miles today without incident or discomfort, for which I am very grateful. Tomorrow we’ll be making our way down to Hope Hull, AL, just outside Montgomery, where we will lay over for 6 nights.

Hopefully that stay will be the relaxing time we envisioned for Lexington. Although we were never in immediate danger, the conditions were absolutely uncertain and we never could really let down our guard. I’m looking forward to doing laundry, working my virtual assistant job and transitioning from disaster preparedness mode to enjoying-the-road-trip mode.

Thanks again, everyone, for your continued support and good vibes as we journey along!

Ya’ll stay safe out there!

Thanks for stopping by!

Hopefully . . .

We are hitched up and hoping to make our departure from here tomorrow. I don’t think there are any current issues on I-20 West, but I’ll check in the morning before we head out.

We really could have left today, but there was still some rain and a good amount of wind; we also thought there might be a fair amount of traffic craziness on the highways, so we thought we’d give it another day for everything to settle down a bit. We didn’t have to leave, so we didn’t!

We did have rain off and on today, but nothing nearly as heavy as over the past 36 or so hours. In fact, we were able to get in a few walks, including one that was entirely rain-free just a bit ago.

Four rigs, including ours, are parked – 2 on each side of the street across from one another – up here on this end of the street. All couples were out this morning standing around for a lively visit for a while. I can say that is the one thing that has been a plus in this experience . . . the people we have met here.

We’ve had not only RV’ing in common, but being here through this together. All four couples of us are planning our “getaway” tomorrow, some headed east, some north and 2 of us west.

I’ll also say that Tina (the manager here) has been very helpful and accommodating in extending our stay day by day.  She was absolutely swamped (no pun intended, but there it is) with phone calls and rigs swarming in during the peak of the event.  There were absolutely no flooding issues here and no problems with the utilities. This is a sound park and a good choice for overnight or long-term.

We did venture out earlier today for a couple of things from the convenience store just on the corner. No bread to be found, of course. We’ll pick up some along the way after we leave here.

Columbia has been hit extremely hard. Just talked with a guy in a crew that came in today; they’ll be doing construction/restoration work and I know they’ll be busy for a long time. He said it is absolutely catastrophic – roads gone, buildings flooded, inability to even get into some neighborhoods, National Guard out . . .

We have been extremely fortunate here and for that we are so very grateful.

Except for the torrential rains the past several days and the television coverage, you would not even know all this was unfolding just from being here in the park. Today was the first day we ventured out of the park since (I think) Saturday (or perhaps it was Friday) morning, when I went to fuel up the truck.

Well, short post tonight just to say we are alive and well, high and dry. Tomorrow is advertised as sunny with a high in the mid 70s. That will be absolutely delightful if it happens.

Today was day 13 of rain for us, as we were experiencing it before we left the work site prior to coming here. Day 13. Sheesh.

C’mon Mr. Sun!

Ya’ll be safe out there!

Thanks for stopping by!

It Doesn’t Even Have a Name

This massive rainstorm doesn’t even have a name, although it is certainly worthy of one. I imagine you have heard about the devastating rain event occurring here in South Carolina. We are in Lexington, which is probably a bit under 10 miles west of Columbia, one of the hardest hit areas. We have been very fortunate so far with no flooding issues whatsoever. Turns out our neighbors across the street used to live in Lexington for several years, so they are quite familiar with the surrounding areas. It was great to get some information about what to expect (or not) here and so forth. We exchanged phone numbers this morning and both turned off city water in case of contamination and disconnected sewer hoses from the ground connection in case the sewer system backed up.

Later today, Columbia was advising residents to boil their water. Lexington has not issued such an advisory so far, but better to protect our rig than be sorry later.

Barnyard RV Park break in rains 10042015

This is what we had for about 10 minutes this afternoon, including a wee showing of sunshine. We started on a walk, as did several others in the park, but the rains came on again, so we headed home. That’s us up front on the left.

Yes, Susan (Travel Bug), I have the AccuWeather app, along with The Weather Channel, WunderMap, FloodWatch (USGS service), iDamage, NOAA Radar, Weather Alerts, the Red Cross, FEMA and a Police Scanner app among others on my iPhone. Conditions on the site in New Jersey necessitated that we be in touch and aware of weather and our environment up there, as we were subject to severe conditions such as Nor’Easters and were parked by a river. Thanks for your suggestion!

Dave went to bed last night a bit before midnight, but I was too wired to sleep and wanted to be up to monitor what was happening since we are in an unfamiliar location. I tell ya, the rains were absolutely torrential. Epic. Biblical. My phone kept sounding with alarms. At about 4 AM this morning, I felt confident enough that flooding was not going to be an immediate issue and I was able to get about 4 hours of snooze time in my recliner with Maggie snuggled on my lap.

There were lights on in quite a few of our neighbors, so I wasn’t the only one keeping vigil.

The rain has eased up today but has been fairly steady, and it has been a bit breezy. Our forecast is calling for possibly 1-2 additional inches through Monday. We have decided to stay Monday night and continue our journey westward on Tuesday, which is looking pretty good at this point.

Amazingly, this morning quite a few rigs pulled out during heavy downpours, hoping for better conditions elsewhere. We watched them leave, hoping they would be safe. Advisories were being issued for people to stay off the roads even this morning. I hope these RVers did not run into any issues on the roads. We know some sections of I-20, I-95 and I-77 (I think that’s the one) have been closed due to flooding. There are numerous secondary roads that are flooded and washed out.

We’re just more comfortable with waiting until conditions improve a bit more and we feel it is safer to travel.

I talked with our destinations in Madison, GA (Tuesday’s stop) and Montgomery, AL to change our reservations yet once again. The park in Madison has not flooded; they did not get the rain that we have seen.

The rest of today has been just hanging out and watching The Weather Channel coverage of the events unfolding here in South Carolina.  Since we travel well stocked with groceries, it was homemade quesadillas for dinner tonight. Comfort food!

We so appreciate the messages here and on Facebook and the phone calls I’ve received today from everyone checking up on us. Ya’ll rock! It’s so nice to know so many people are thinking of us and helping keep us safe.

I hope this has made sense. I’m pretty tired tonight. I’ll have shower in a bit and then I am going to actually go to bed tonight. I bet I sleep!

Stay safe out there, okay?

Thanks for stopping by!

And the Rains Came . . .

Today started off with intermittent spells of reasonably light rain. The Barnyard Flea Market next door was actually happening, albeit with fewer vendors and customers than the norm. I went over to stroll through part of it this morning and then returned with Dave after he had breakfast.

Barnyard Flea Market 10032015

We spent a good long while there; it’s covered, so the rain wasn’t an issue. I love flea markets even when not actually shopping; I just enjoy the prowl. This was great, as it gave us something to do.

The rain was intermittent most of the day, so we did manage a few walks around the park.

Barnyard RV Park Site A03 10032015

One of the things we like about this park is the space between sites.  

Around 7:30 PM, the rain became constant and heavier with more frequent wind gusts. It’s now 12:20 AM on Sunday and conditions are the same. Water is ponding here and there, but nothing serious at the present time. I bet the duck pond will be out of its banks by morning, though.

I also extended our stay through Monday night, as the current forecast indicates the first possible day for travel will be Tuesday. We’ll need to monitor road conditions and check with the park in Georgia as to their status. That area is also under flood warnings/advisories/whatever, so we’ll need to make sure the park is open. We do know their overnight sites get 1-2 inches of standing water just with a heavy rain, so I can only imagine what they’re like with all this mess.

I may just doze in my recliner and watch TCM for the rest of the dark hours. Not sure I could sleep with the noise of the rain and wondering what’s going on outside . . . has the pond overflowed? are the streets flooding?

Long-term residents here say they have seen this park flood, but not catastrophically, in the past; they figure it probably will with this amount of rain . . . an amount that no one has seen here.

Part of my unease is that I have not yet been able to locate any real resources for staying informed about what is happening in this town. At least in New Jersey I could get various agencies on a scanner and find out what/where was flooding, etc. The Facebook pages I found for local police and county sheriff don’t seem to be updated as often as one would expect during such an event.  The Weather Channel keeps talking only about Charleston. What about Columbia (we’re just a few miles west of Columbia) and other areas? NOAA reports give the forecast and warnings, but . . . what about the dam at Lake Murray? (yes, I have USGS . . . the tailrace was falling earlier and now is rising, but what does that mean for our location?). At least in Jersey, I could just walk across the parking lot and actually see the river.

I feel like I’m flying blind here. The resources I have been able to tap are limited and don’t give a lot of info. At least not info I’m accustomed to being able to access.

Latest advisory is 2-3 inches per hour until around 4 AM Sunday morning. That advisory covers a substantial area, but we are included in it.

Hence, I’m just hanging out and perhaps will doze in my recliner. Thank goodness for Turner Classic Movies!

Stay safe out there, okay?

Thanks for stopping by!

Hunkered Down in Lexington, SC

We talked about whether to leave here today versus sheltering in place through this rain event, and decided to stay here at Barnyard RV Park. This morning I went to the office pretty much first thing and was able to extend our stay through Sunday night. We are hoping to be able to continue westward Monday. We’ll just have to see what road conditions are along I-20 West after this weather system passes through. I spent a bit of time this afternoon rearranging our reservations onward.

In light of the possibility of seeing 15 inches of rain now through Sunday night, I prepared a few “go” bags and put a couple in the truck already. We did unhitch the truck in case the park floods. I think the rig stands high enough to be okay, but we might have to move the truck.  I also went out and topped off the truck’s fuel tank.

It’s funny, but we both have felt like the inside of our home feels “cleaner” or . . . well, just better since leaving the work site. I know I enjoyed preparing our dinner this evening without having to constantly be on the lookout for ants.

We’re enjoying having cable TV here. The Shining is just starting on AMC; I think that’s a dandy selection for a dark and stormy night outside, eh?

As it stands right now, we’re tucked in and hunkered down here, nice and cozy for the time being. I would not be at all offended if this system did not turn out to be as severe as it is advertised.

Ya’ll be safe out there, okay?

Thanks for stopping by!