December 13, 2020

Dear Santa . . .

I hope this letter finds you, Mrs. Claus and all the elves well and COVID-free.  I have not seen any pandemic statistics for the North Pole, specifically, but I trust that the isolation of your neighborhood has kept the number of cases down.

I know you receive countless letters every year, and I imagine that some of the lists you get will be especially long and heartbreaking this year.  I don’t envy you your job.  While I hesitate to burden you with a list of my own, there are some things I’m wishing for, and I’m hopeful that you will have the time and the resources to make every single one of my wishes come true.  Please know that my family is safe, healthy and not in need – a blessing for which we are all extremely grateful.  But there are others . . .

November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Reflections

A country in turmoil.  That’s what you get when you combine a pandemic with unending political angst, a lack of respect and tolerance and the unmitigated sense of entitlement that pervades our society today.  The effects of the pandemic are both staggering and overwhelming: the loss of life – so many lives - jobs, businesses and financial and emotional stability.  And yet, from the worst of the worst, the best of the best have risen to spit in the eye of the monster – neighbors bringing meals and groceries to neighbors, volunteers stepping up to man overburdened food pantries, citizens applauding health care providers and essential workers who never stopped delivering medical support, tangible goods and everything else we needed to survive.

Creativity blossomed and our usual routines were replaced with unusual and sometimes uncomfortable alternatives; people with basic sewing skills lovingly created masks to share; technology stepped up to meet the demand for social connections for the socially distanced; those who could did; those who couldn’t were comforted.  Every single day, the citizens of our beloved country are rising to the challenges presented by unprecedented circumstances.  We are a brave and resilient people.  As horrendous and disconcerting as our experiences this year have been, we believe without a doubt that there are brighter days ahead, we hope deep in our hearts that they arrive sooner rather than later, and we plan to celebrate with abandon when they finally get here.

November 08, 2020

Campfire Talk

Over the past couple of months, I’ve come across some interesting tidbits of news which intrigued me, and I wanted to share them with you.  Please note that this post is not sponsored in any way.  I’m not affiliated with, recommending or receiving payment from any of the companies or organizations mentioned.  I’m just sharing what I consider to be informative or useful bits of news with you – you know, the kind of stuff you might talk about around a campfire with fellow travelers.  The photos in this post were taken during our last boating adventure of the season which happened to be on the Hudson River in New York State.

On the Road of Retirement – First up, a little housekeeping.  I’ve been meaning to add On the Road of Retirement to the sidebar because I’ve been reading this blog for quite some time.  John Hinton is the author, and he and his wife, Sharon, are full time RVers.  What I really like about their travels and John's blog is the leisurely pace of both and the fact that John and Sharon often stay in places that Alan and I would really enjoy.  They're big fans of Army Corps of Engineers facilities (just like we are), so I've been able to add a few COE campgrounds to my planning notes thanks to John's information.   Plus, he was kind enough to share details with me about where to obtain the U.S. map we use to denote states in which we’ve camped and how to add it to my blog.  (Thanks, John!)  Not only is On the Road of Retirement a pleasure to read, but John maintains a lengthy blog roll of his own that contains some excellent reading material as well.  You may visit John and Sharon On the Road of Retirement right now (link HERE) or click through from the list of my favorite blogs in the column on the right any time in the future.  

October 23, 2020

Zion National Park – The 1st of “The Mighty 5” (National Parks Trip #2)

This post represents another installment in the series detailing the second of our three cross-country National Parks camping trips with travel trailer in tow.  At the time of this trip in 2010, our son, Ryan, was 16 and our daughter, Kyra, was 11.

I was amazed, astonished, shocked and mortified to discover that the last post from this National Parks Trip #2 series was ten months ago.  I know I have a habit of going off on tangents, but even I can’t understand how I got so distracted this time around.

Our three cross-country National Parks camping trips were all planned based on what I call “the sampler” itinerary.  Although we would have loved to spend months on the road exploring the Parks, the first two of the three trips were taken while Alan was still working a full time job.  His extra weeks of vacation, a benefit of his many years of employment, allowed us the luxury of taking a four week journey.  However, we’d be making a round trip from one side of the country to the other and back, and that travel time lopped off about ten days of vacation right from the get go.  The sampler itinerary precluded visiting any one National Park for more than a day or two, but it gave us the opportunity to visit ten of them on this one trip.  That, in turn, provided us with a huge variety of experiences and enabled us to identify the National Parks to which we’d like to return for further and extended exploration.

October 11, 2020

The Great Toilet Paper Experiment

Sometimes, even though your plate might be full and your days jam-packed, you need to step off the hamster wheel of life and do something ridiculous just for the fun of it.  September was an incredibly hectic month for us.  It included completing our last camping trip of the season (almost two weeks), emptying out the travel trailer for the winter and packing away the camping gear (which felt like almost two weeks), dealing with some medical issues (don’t worry, nothing serious, just tedious), helping our son and his girlfriend move into the house they just bought, and working on projects with them.  (“Hey, what are you guys doing tomorrow?” – a loaded question if ever we heard one.)  Let’s just say that I got tired of “adulting” and simply wanted a chance to play.

September 25, 2020

The 2020 Outdoors RV East Coast Owners Rally - Memorable for All the Right Reasons

This morning, I put on my big kid pants, and I didn't raise a fuss when we had to head home from our last camping trip of the season.  Despite the many restrictions brought about by COVID-19 this year, Alan and I were still able to enjoy almost six weeks' worth of delightful days in the great outdoors, camping comfortably and safely in a number of carefully operated State Parks.  Nature never fails to deliver a one-two punch of peace and pleasure that settles me down and soothes my soul no matter what's going on in the world around me.  I hope all of you have found people, places and/or activities that soothe your soul, too, building resiliency and providing strength for whatever hardships lay ahead.

This is the story of The Little Rally That Could – and Did.  It’s the tale of a small group of health-minded, safety-conscious individuals - loyal RV owners and dedicated campers – who braved a pandemic, in the safest ways possible, and came out winners.  Alan and I hosted the 2020 Outdoors RV East Coast Owners Rally, an event that we weren’t even sure would be held right up until the very last minute.  Before you envision a mob of hundreds gathering in close quarters for a myriad of seminars and activities (which would, understandably, send contact tracers into a full-blown panic), let me set you straight.  Alan and I tend to be conservative with our health risks anyway, and the coronavirus had our safety antenna on full alert.  The Rally brought together ORV owners from five different states in the east, but total attendance came in at under twenty – and that includes our two kids and our son’s girlfriend who were on a family camping trip with us.  I have to admit, though, that the six months prior to the Rally seemed like one long, never-ending, heart-pounding roller coaster ride.  Here’s the story . . .

September 05, 2020

Biscayne National Park & the Florida Keys - The End of the Road

This post represents the final 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.

A quick recap for those of you who might be wondering why this three week, whirlwind tour was called The Big Switcheroo:  In 2018, we had planned a spring 2019 loop tour of the southern states in the eastern half of the country.  Alan and I were hoping to add a decent number of states to the map (in the column at the right) that indicates in which states we’ve camped.  On Christmas Day, 2018, we found out that our vacation plans ensured we would be out of town when our son Ryan’s longtime girlfriend, Anya, graduated with her Master’s Degree in mid-May of 2019.  In January of 2019, we decided to switch our 2019 vacation plans with those we had scheduled for spring of 2020 and it was off to Florida we went, visiting friends and family all along the way.  With Everglades National Park in our rear view mirror, we pointed the truck toward the Florida Keys.  Luckily, the travel trailer followed behind.

August 27, 2020

Everglades National Park - I Can Appreciate the Diversity, But . . .

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.

No, I didn’t drop off the face of the earth.  Alan and I were camping for a full two weeks at our family favorite, Northampton Beach Campground on Great Lake Sacandaga in central New York.  The first week was spent with fellow owners of travel trailers and fifth wheels made by Outdoors RV Manufacturing.  The get together – a small gathering of only 7 ORV rigs – was tons of fun, despite being somewhat restricted by current COVID guidelines.  I’ll be covering that event in a future post, for sure.  The second week was spent with our daughter, son and our son’s girlfriend, and that, too, was absolutely delightful.  Now, we need a vacation from the vacation.

In the last installment of this series of posts, I recounted how Alan and I had spent several enjoyable days at Ortona South, an Army Corps of Engineers campground on Florida’s Okeechobee Waterway.  Our trip through the mid-Atlantic states and along the east coast was winding down, but we were nowhere near finished with the highlights.  Still ahead were Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys.  But first, the Everglades.

August 07, 2020

LP Gas Refills: Camping World vs. Tractor Supply Co. (Opinions Included at No Extra Charge)

I’m taking a quick break from The Big Switcheroo series to fill you in on an experience we had last week in reference to the purchase of LP gas (propane) for the tanks on the travel trailer.  Please note that I’m not affiliated with either Camping World or Tractor Supply Company, I’m not being paid in any way by either one, and I am most definitely not recommending that you buy (or not buy) stock in one or both of these companies.  I’m just sharing our experience with you, and offering my opinions which, by the way, are worth exactly what you paid for them.

After a quick camping getaway for a week or so of R&R, Alan and I found ourselves in need of a propane tank refill upon our return home.  Then, a few days after that errand was crossed off the list, the propane tank for our backyard grill called it quits.  So, it was back to town on another propane run.

If the phrases “frugal shopper,”  “good deal,” or “saving money” appeal to you, I encourage you to keep reading.  If shopping isn’t an Olympic sport in your house like it is in ours, but you’d like to hear my opinion, in general, about Camping World and Tractor Supply Co., read on.  If you think that someone couldn’t possibly write an informative and entertaining post about refilling a propane tank, stay with me and I’ll prove you wrong.  However, if you’re not interested in any of that, please feel free to go grab a beverage, find a good book, and come back for the next post which will be, I promise, a continuation of The Big Switcheroo series, and a recounting of our visit to Everglades National Park.

July 30, 2020

"Locking In" a Good Time at Ortona South - an Army Corps of Engineers Campground

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.

I commented in my last post how much Alan and I enjoyed the slow pace of our relaxing visit with Alan’s brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Joan, at their home near the Gulf Coast of Florida.  That wonderfully slow pace would continue as we worked our way down to the Florida Keys, and that made us happy campers, indeed.

When our all-too-short family visit was concluded, we pointed our truck toward the east and headed for our next destination – Ortona South, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) campground located at the Ortona Lock on Florida’s Okeechobee Waterway.

We were drawn to this campground for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we’re big fans of COE campgrounds due to the well-designed facilities and the low cost of camping.  The second is that, as boaters, we love campsites on lakes and waterways, even if we don’t have our kayaks or power boat with us.  At the Ortona South Campground, our site was right on the Okeechobee Waterway.  But what was more interesting than the fact that we were on the Waterway is what was in it!

July 20, 2020

The Calm After the Storm

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.

We are so blessed; that’s all there is to it.  I have one older brother, and I love him to pieces – even though he tormented me when I was young.  Additionally, one of my cousins is, age-wise, right in the middle between my brother and me, and close enough at heart to be considered a bonus brother.  Unlike my actual brother, he has always been nothing but kind to me, and I love him to pieces, too.    Alan has three older siblings – two sisters and a brother – and Alan gets along fabulously with all of them.  The four of them are interesting blends of their parents’ personalities, and no two are alike.  Beyond the siblings, Alan and I lucked out in the in-law department, as well.  Our siblings’ spouses, as well as my cousin’s wife, are absolutely delightful people, and we all enjoy each other’s company.

So, when we checked out of Fort Wilderness after spending a week at Disney World with our daughter, son and son’s girlfriend, we were really excited about the next stop on our journey – a visit with Alan’s brother, Tom, and Tom’s wife, Joan, on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

July 09, 2020

Dealing with Disney Dollars and Details – Part 2 (Tips & Tricks)

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’s also the fifth and final post regarding our one week visit to Disney World with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan), and our son’s girlfriend (Anya.)  The photos included with this post are of some of the delightful creations on exhibit during the International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot being held at the time of our visit in May 2019.

Now that we worked our way through my favorite Disney planning resources in the previous post, allow me to share a few of my favorite tips.  Keep in mind that changes are ongoing throughout the Disney Empire.  The information below was current at the time of our prior visits, but may no longer be correct or appropriate – especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic.

July 02, 2020

Dealing with Disney Dollars and Details – Part 1 (Resources)

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’s also the fourth post regarding our one week visit to Disney World with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan), and our son’s girlfriend (Anya.)

I thought that this would be the last Disney-related post but, when I finished the rough draft, I knew it was too long for anyone to tackle in one sitting.  So, I’m splitting it into two parts – (1) Resources and (2) Tips & Tricks.  Please note that I’m not receiving any compensation in reference to the products, companies or web sites mentioned below; I’m simply sharing information with you that has proven helpful to our family.  The photos included with this post are of some of the delightful creations on exhibit during the International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot being held at the time of our visit in May 2019.

Saving money is a game to me, and I play it with a great deal of enthusiasm.  (If the focus of this blog happened to be frugality, I’d happily recount my recent score of two plush, terry cloth bathrobes from Lands End for a grand total of $13.34.  Since it’s not, I won’t digress.)  After contemplating the way I feel about travel planning, I’d have to say that I consider it a sort of game, as well, the purpose of which is to glean as many details as possible about a future destination from a wide variety of sources.  With a little luck and a lot of research, the combination of saving some dollars and planning fun-filled activities leads to a vacation that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

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.

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.

February 02, 2020

Nashville, Tennessee - An Excellent Start to our Music City Adventure!


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.  The photos included with this post were all taken at Seven Points Campground in Hermitage, Tennessee.

Westward, ho!  The stretch of blacktop between Bush’s Visitor Center near Dandridge, Tennessee, and Nashville would mark the westernmost leg of last spring’s roundabout journey to Florida for us.  As we traveled through eastern Tennessee, we would love to have stopped to meet Joe and Helen Bruner but, alas, the fates would not allow it.  (Joe blogs over at Easin’ Along which is accessible from the list of My Favorite Blogs to the right.)  As it so very often happens with those of us enthralled with the RV lifestyle, Joe and Helen were off on an RV adventure of their own, and we had to settle for waving hello to their empty home as we drove on through to Nashville.

January 19, 2020

Bush's Visitor Center Amounts to More than a Hill of Beans


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.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”  I don’t know who said it, but I’ve heard that quote quite often, and I do believe it’s true.  So many times, we’re looking ahead to the next thing, the next year, the next smartphone, the next project, the next destination.  I’ll counter with another quote, one that has always struck a chord with me:  “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift; that’s why we call it the present.”  I don’t know who said that one either, but it hasn’t prevented the quote from remaining one of my favorites.  The savviest travelers among us know that, while our destination is the goal, the journey along the way can be just as rewarding.

January 11, 2020

The Big Switcheroo of 2019 - and How it All Worked Out


Around this time last year, Alan and I were suddenly in the midst of swapping out our vacation plans for the spring of 2019.  The year before, I had begun planning a camping loop through the states in the southeastern quarter of the U.S., not realizing that we would be out of town (WAY out of town) on the day Anya, our son Ryan’s girlfriend, graduated with her Master’s Degree after years of hard work.  We consider Anya our “bonus kid” since she and Ryan have been together for more than six years.  After learning the date of her graduation on Christmas Day in 2018, we rang in the New Year of 2019 by cancelling most of the reservations we already had in place for our spring 2019 travels.  Luckily, plans for the new trip – a journey through a number of Eastern states and all the way down to the Florida Keys – not only fell into place quickly, but also felt completely “right.”  I hadn’t yet achieved that level of comfort with the original plans for touring the southeastern states so, it seems, this trip was meant to be.