March 25, 2020

Campfire Talk

I do want to get back to the Big Switcheroo series of posts from last spring’s travels from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back, but the miscellaneous collection of items I’ve wanted to mention in “Reflections” has been growing.  Today’s edition of Campfire Talk will allow me to share a few comments with you before I get back to the series.  Heads up!  This is a long post with no real photos (just a few random, somewhat blurry, adult coloring pages), so it’s time to get a refill of whatever it is that you’re drinking and settle in.  Here we go . . .

March 16, 2020

Investments - A Different Perspective

I’ve never ridden an actual roller coaster in my life.  While I generally don’t get carsick (unless I’m trying to read on a bumpy, twisty road), I do get seasick on a cruise ship in open water or if I need to use the head in the cabin of our 21’ power boat while we’re underway.  I know enough about whatever inner ear issue I have to understand that any enjoyment I may get from an amusement park ride is not worth the dizziness and nausea that will accompany it.  However, this past week, I’ve been on a virtual roller coaster that has more speed, twists and heart-stopping vertical drops than any other roller coaster in the world.  Yup, I’m invested in the stock market.

I know there are plenty of other riders on this coaster that are experiencing the same highs, lows and frightening lurches along the way, hoping that the wild and nightmarish ride will end before we lose our lunch – or much more of our financial security.  As long term investors, Alan and I have always chosen to ride out the wild times.  Our assets are diversified and allocated properly in reference to our ages and our risk tolerance, and we’re fortunate in that we have more than one income stream.  I may be optimistic, but I truly believe that the market will rebound sooner rather than later once the threats from COVID-19 have bottomed out, although it might take a while to get back to the lofty levels we’ve seen in recent times.  So, while our stocks and bonds are embroiled in the volatility that has defined the markets of late, let’s check on my other “investments.”

March 06, 2020

What the Heck is the Folkston Funnel?!

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.  Having just overnighted at Twin Oaks RV Park in Elko, Georgia, Alan and I were on our way to Crooked River State Park in St. Mary’s, Georgia.  This post details our adventure in between the two.

My Dad was a trackman and a machine operator with the old Penn Central Transportation Company which was better known as the Penn Central Railroad or, simply, the Penn Central.  The Penn Central ran through more than a dozen states in the east and mid-west, carrying freight to cities far and wide.  My father always said that “the railroads are the backbone of the country,” and he backed his belief with the purchase of Penn Central stock.  Unfortunately, Dad was a better trackman than he was an investor and, following mergers with several railroads in the late 1960’s, Penn Central filed for bankruptcy in 1970.  Despite the financial predicament of the Penn Central, my father’s belief in the railroad system never wavered.  Having crisscrossed the United States six times, so far, and having seen the number of active freight trains along the way “from Kalamazoo to Timbuctoo” and further down the track, I’d have to say that most people give no thought to and remain unaware of the great volume of products moved by the rail lines and the trucking industry on a daily basis.  But, when Alan and I are out there logging several hundred miles a day, we do see – and appreciate.  I don’t think my Dad was wrong.

Although I wouldn’t consider myself an aficionado, trains were always intriguing to me and important to our family as they provided employment for my father until the day he retired.  So, what does all this have to do with the Folkston Funnel?  I’m getting to that; please be patient.  Regular readers probably know that I consider trip planning an Olympic sport and take it quite seriously.  When I was scrutinizing travel guides and reading articles in preparation for our trip down the east coast of the United States to Florida, I stumbled upon what, to me, was an obscure little gem called “the Folkston Funnel.”  Once I learned what the Funnel was, I knew we had to add it to our itinerary.

February 28, 2020

Twin Oaks RV Park - "Halfway to Everywhere!"

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.  With the exception of the first photo, all the pics in this post were taken at Twin Oaks RV Park in mid-May of last year.

As regular readers know, Alan and I are huge fans of our country’s State and National Parks.  We began checking off National Parks and Monuments that were on our bucket list within a week of our marriage back in 1979 during our honeymoon – a month-long, cross-country camping trip to visit a number of National Parks out west.  Since then, we’ve made three more cross-country National Parks camping trips, and have checked off many of the Parks that were on our “must see” list.  We would have managed to cross more off the list, but some of these Parks are just so spectacular that, prior to our escape from the workforce, we used up vacation time to return to Parks we had already visited – Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Teton.  What can I say?  They keep calling our names.

At this point, both Alan and I have been to most of the National Parks that we felt we absolutely must see, and we’re finding that our trips are ranging a bit beyond the boundaries of the Parks to encompass all kinds of other experiences.  Our prior stop in Nashville was a good example, as was the next stop: an overnight stay at Twin Oaks RV Park.  Actually, Twin Oaks has been on my bucket list for a while.  Here’s why . . .

February 22, 2020

Nashville Sights & Sounds – Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry & Opryland Hotel

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.  You may want to grab your favorite beverage at this point and settle in for a time.  I realize this is a long post, but I didn't want to split up our Nashville visit into too many posts.  We still have a lot of miles to cover on this trip!

Alan’s and my most recent memories of Nashville date back approximately 23 years to when our son Ryan was just two years old, and our daughter wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  During that visit to Music City, we were traveling with my Mom and her niece, my cousin, Annie.  At the time, the Opryland theme park was still in existence, our visit to Nashville coincided with the holiday season, and we enjoyed a wonderful (but brisk) walk through Opryland to take in the lights and shows.  Unfortunately, we happened to be there during a cold snap, and I can still recall the wicked temperature of 17 degrees on the evening of our excursion through Opryland.  (It was not a problem that a large mug of hot chocolate and the pleasure of being with family couldn’t fix.)  On that trip, our budget allowed for one night at the Opryland Hotel and, rather than drag Ryan’s camper crib in for just a single night, Alan and I decided that we’d let him sleep in the bed with us.  Big mistake.  We discovered that our two year old traveled about 4.5 miles in his sleep at night, and Alan and I woke a number of times with Ryan’s various body parts in our faces or poking us in the back or belly.  Lesson learned.  Never again.

February 16, 2020

A Musical Journey - from Dean Martin to George Strait

This isn’t exactly another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back - but, rather, a prelude to an upcoming post about our experiences at the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame.  I thought a little background about my journey through music might first be in order.

My parents married a bit later in life than was customary for their generation and I have one sibling, my brother Michael, who is 10 years older than I am.  Considering the age spread among the four of us, it’s not surprising that our family’s musical interests spanned a lot of decades.

February 07, 2020

An Inspiring Concept "Prompted" Me to Write this Post

Please note that this post is not sponsored in any way.  I’m not affiliated with, recommending or receiving payment from any person, company or organization mentioned.  I simply wanted to share with you what I consider to be an intriguing concept.

I’m interrupting my own regular programming here by taking a break from the series of posts recounting last spring’s Big Switcheroo journey to Florida and back.  Why?  Because I’ve had some thoughts tumbling around in my head recently that are refusing to leave until they’ve been articulated, and those thoughts are being pretty insistent about it.  This post is going to start off slowly because I need to provide you with the backstory.  Please hang in there; the post is about a concept that I truly believe can enrich your life.  Important note:  If the words “journaling” and “writing prompts” widen your eyes, bring terror to your soul and make you want to give your Nikes a good workout by running immediately in the other direction, just take a deep breath and keep reading.  You can do this.  Really.