June 16, 2020

Disney Adventures - Fun-Filled Explorations In and Out of this (Disney) World

It was excruciatingly painful for several reasons, but I believe my blog and I survived the transition to the new Blogger format.  If you have any trouble viewing the post or notice any other type of problem, please do let me know.  Thanks much!

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  It also represents the third post recounting our one week visit to Disney World with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan), and our son’s girlfriend (Anya.)

I’m a cheap date.  Actually, Alan is, too.  Although we certainly do spend money on activities that are important to us, we don’t have to spend much (or even any) money to have a good time.  Picking up coffee and bagels on our way to the park on the river costs about five bucks for the two of us, and the time we spend observing the seagulls and eagles, the commercial and pleasure boat traffic or even just the waves quietly lapping on the shore is time well spent and much enjoyed.  Taking to a bike trail for an hour or two, cruising along and simply watching the scenery float by is an inexpensive way to pass a lovely afternoon.  Or, we just head out to do some “poking around.”  I consider poking around to be our guilty pleasure.  It accomplishes nothing other than allowing us to satisfy our curiosity, take in some gorgeous or otherwise memorable sights and scenery, enjoy each other’s company and pass some time in the most relaxing of ways.

During our week-long stay at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground, Alan and I decided to poke around several of the Disney hotels – more out of curiosity than anything else.  During our past visits to Disney World, we had always stayed just outside the gate in Kissimmee either in a hotel suite or at the KOA there.  We never were the family that would go back to our hotel room for an afternoon nap; instead, we chose to start our days in the theme parks early and finish them early, as well.  Now that we were staying at Fort Wilderness, we realized that we had a perfect opportunity to explore several of the Disney properties that had caught our eye.  Would any of them catch our dollars on a future trip?

June 08, 2020

Campfire Talk


Whatever Happened to The Golden Rule?  Most of you know that Reflections Around the Campfire is all about RV travel and the camping lifestyle, and it’s not often that I venture off the straight and narrow.  I don’t want to turn today’s post into an editorial on the painful state of our country’s difficulties, but I also don’t want you to think that I’m completely oblivious to current events.  Our family is truly blessed in that all of us are physically, emotionally and financially secure, but there are so many others who are not.   My heart and my prayers go out to each and every person who is suffering in any way, whether that suffering is due to a health crisis caused by COVID-19 or another serious illness, discrimination of any kind, unemployment, food insecurity, physical or emotional abuse, grief, fear, hate, anxiety – sadly, the list goes on and on.  These are trying times we’re living in, in so many ways.  So, I’m working especially hard to live by The Golden Rule, treating everyone the way I would like to be treated.  What a wonderful world we would live in if all of us could actually manage to do that!  As our former pastor said many times over, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  Please, God, help me be part of the solution. 

May 23, 2020

Observations & Opinions from a (Disney) World Traveler


This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  It also represents the second post recounting our one week visit to Disney World with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan), and our son’s girlfriend (Anya.)

I have an incredible amount of admiration for anyone with the imagination, creativity, optimism and perseverance necessary to launch a concept the magnitude, distinction and significance of the Disney Empire.  Walt Disney has been quoted as saying, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” and, in the minds of many, he succeeded.

May 12, 2020

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground - Is the Experience Worth the $$$$?


This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  Coincidentally, it was exactly one year ago today that the trip began.

This the first of several posts covering our visit to Walt Disney World and the Orlando area with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan) and Ryan’s long-time girlfriend (Anya).  Since I prefer to cover topics in one post rather than interrupt the flow of the “story,” please consider this your “Long Post Ahead!” alert.  That means it’s time to warm up your coffee or cool down your adult beverage, and settle in for a longer read than usual.  If you’re not a fan of long posts, you could always read through the next ten paragraphs, then come back tomorrow to finish up.  No extra charge.  Seriously, please keep in mind that we camped at Fort Wilderness in May of 2019.  I understand that the Disney experience may never be the same going forward – or, at least, not for quite a while.

My kids call me cheap.  I prefer the word frugal.  Merriam-Webster defines “cheap” as “stingy” (which is further defined as not generous or liberal: sparing or scant in using, giving, or spending“) and “frugal” as characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.”  Oh, yeah.  I definitely prefer the definition of frugal – especially since another definition of “cheap” is contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities.”  Ow, that hurts.  I really hope my kids believe I have, at least, some redeeming qualities.  No matter what definition of “doesn’t like to spend money” you prefer, the fact of the matter is that I think long and hard before I part ways with any of my hard-earned dollars.  That being said, I can be quite frivolous with my funds when it comes to something or someone I consider important.  I save money when and where I can so that I have it to spend on something I enjoy or want.  I’d bet that most people operate on the same principle, even though what we deem truly important in life may differ quite a bit from person to person.

Alan and I will drive a car for more than a decade until it dies on us or it no longer makes financial sense to invest in costly repairs.  But, when we replace it, it will be with a brand new vehicle, despite the fact that we may lose thousands in depreciation as we drive it off the dealer’s lot.  I will happily eat a generic brand of cereal as long as it’s tasty and nutritious, but it will probably be topped (without a moment’s hesitation) with flash frozen berries at over $3.00 per pound when fresh ones are out of season.  I have no problem buying a less expensive brand of ice cream as long as it’s creamy and yummy, but I also have no problem driving an hour roundtrip to my favorite Italian bakery to pick up a couple of their exquisite Napoleon pastries.  (Their French Cannoli are to die for, too.  Just sayin.’)

Now that it’s too late to make a long story short, here’s the point I want to make before I launch into our experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness:  While I am frugal by nature, I will also cough up big bucks for a product, service or experience that I perceive to be a good value relative to my outlay.  Without a doubt, camping at Fort Wilderness is Expensive with a capital E.  But is it worth it?

May 04, 2020

A Rendezvous in Daytona Beach


This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

Throughout the entirety of our marriage, Alan and I have maintained a constantly evolving Travel Bucket List.  When travel was restricted by our employment and the need to plan around an allotted number of vacation days, we added additional items to that list much more frequently than we checked any off.  Alan and I (happily) share the same tastes in travel, and our adventures over the course of 40+ years together have been eclectic, to say the least.  While we have certainly traveled to many places for many reasons, National and State Parks have always represented the majority of entries on that Bucket List, sharing space with tourism hot spots like Myrtle Beach, Disney World, Virginia Beach, Pigeon Forge, Alaska, Hawaii and the Gulf Coast of Florida, as well as quieter, less popular vacation destinations.  As time went on, more and more of the “must see” National Parks were checked off the Bucket List, so that by the end of 2017, the first full year that both of us were retired from the workforce, the scope of our travel plans widened to the point where the focus was not so much, “What’s the next National Park?,” but more like “Where shall we go next and what shall we do along the way?”  Suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless.

April 23, 2020

Cumberland Island National Seashore - Castaways on the Island


This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  Why is this series entitled “The Big Switcheroo?” Alan and I had booked a weeks-long camping loop of the southern states in the eastern half of the country for the Spring of 2019, but needed to change our plans when we found out that our son’s long-time girlfriend was graduating with her Master’s degree in May on a date we would be out of town.  We quickly swapped out the southern states loop for an extended trip to Florida that we had planned for the following year – hence, The Big Switcheroo.

Although Alan and I would have been quite content to simply enjoy some down time at our gorgeous campsite at Crooked River State Park, the main reason we had ventured to coastal Georgia was to explore Cumberland Island National Seashore.  Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island at 17.5 miles in length; it encompasses over 36,000 acres. 

There are no services on Cumberland Island, aside from restrooms and water fountains - no restaurants, no ice cream stands and definitely no tiki bars or craft breweries.  The Island is mostly wilderness with several camping areas, a few historical structures such as the Plum Orchard Mansion, the First African Baptist Church and the ruins of Dungeness, a mansion built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie.  (Thomas was Andrew Carnegie’s brother.)  So, visitors need to be well prepared, packing in (and out) all of their supplies for the length of their stay.  As much as Alan and I loved tent camping when we were young adults, when we saw campers headed to the Island with their food, water, tents and other camping equipment packed in backpacks and rolling carts, we were extremely happy knowing we’d be driving back to Crooked River State Park and sleeping in our comfy bed with the A/C running that night.

April 12, 2020

Crooked River State Park - A Circuitous Explanation and Exploration


This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

Our overnight stop at Twin Oaks RV Park in Elko allowed us to color in the state of Georgia on our camping map of the United States.  Although we had driven through Georgia plenty of times on our way to and from Florida, we had never vacationed there or even stayed overnight – camping or not.  But that stop at Twin Oaks wasn’t our only camping adventure in Georgia last spring.  After leaving Elko, and then stopping to watch the trains at the Folkston Funnel, we had less than an hour to go to our final destination of the day – Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, Georgia.  It’s time to put on your thinking cap because the next couple of paragraphs are, well, rather confusing.