April 19, 2021

Campfire Talk - Part 1 of 2

It seems like I’m forever collecting little tidbits of news and information that may (or may not) be of interest to others.  None are worth a full blog post but I’ve found that a “Campfire Talk” format provides a good way to share such an odd assortment of items.  Since I’ve recently been focused on completing the documentation of our second cross-country National Parks trip, and since Alan and I spent the first two and a half months of the year renovating a rental house, I have more tidbits than usual set aside to share.  Because I’m a kind and thoughtful person (under many, but not all, circumstances), I’m breaking down this edition of Campfire Talk into Part 1 and Part 2 for your reading (and my typing) pleasure.

Please note that this post is not sponsored in any way.  I’m not affiliated with or receiving payment from any of the companies or organizations mentioned.  I’m just sharing what I consider to be interesting or useful bits of news with you – you know, the kind of stuff you might talk about around a campfire with friends, family and fellow travelers.  The photos in this post represent a recap of the National Parks trip series I so recently (and happily!) completed.  Well, except for the last, very special one.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Parkcade - The National Park Service is in the midst of celebrating National Park Week 2021 which began on Saturday, April 17th, and runs through Sunday, April 25th.  Sadly, many of us don’t live near enough to a National Park to just pick up and go.  (Those of you who do are so very lucky!)  But the National Park Foundation offers a way to enjoy our magnificent National Parks from the comfort of home via activities like Trivia Questions, Coloring Pages, Word Searches, Crossword Puzzles, Guessing Games and Park Bingo.  While many of the activities are geared toward children, there really is something for everyone to enjoy at the Parkcade.  Parkcade provides a way to connect with our National Parks when we can’t visit in person.  Plus, I would think that many of the activities would be an excellent way to educate a child or grandchild about our National Parks or prepare them for an upcoming visit to one.  Hop on over to the National Park Foundation website to take a look (link HERE), but be sure to come back for the rest of our Campfire Talk post!

Gateway Arch National Park

Financial Literacy Month: A Step in the Right Direction – Investopedia.com defines “financial literacy” as the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting and investing.”   Guess when I logged my first mile on the journey to financial literacy.  It was back when I was a kid, and I realized that my parents (who didn’t have much more than two nickels to rub together) bought a two-family house when they got married so there would be rental income to cover the mortgage payments.  (I know it’s all relative, but a $55.00 mortgage payment sounds pretty good right about now, doesn’t it?)  My financial literacy skills improved when Alan and I got married and figured out how to best achieve our goals and enjoy our dreams.  My skills were further improved when the federal savings bank for which I worked was acquired by another large financial institution at the tail end of the 1980’s.  My job went the way of eight track tapes and I suddenly found myself in possession of lump sums for both my pension and my 401K.  That situation lent a sudden urgency to the necessity of improving my knowledge of investing and developing a sound investment strategy.

Financial Literacy Month was organized more than two decades ago by the Jump $tart organization – a coalition of national organizations that wanted to promote financial education, particularly among young people from kindergarten through college age.  Personally, I believe there is a real need for this type of education.  In fact, I believe that a personal finance course should be a requirement for high school graduation.  But, I digress.  I recently read an excellent article on Forbes.com entitled “National Financial Literacy Month: 30 Days to Celebrate, Learn and Share” (link HERE).  The article provides the history and goals of Financial Literacy Month, and offers plenty of opportunities to, well, celebrate, learn and share.  The article also includes a link to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency where you can sign up for a bi-monthly newsletter promoting financial literacy.  The newsletter covers an extraordinarily wide range of topics and provides info on upcoming events and resources.  In my humble opinion, financial literacy pays – literally and figuratively.    

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Can I Retire Yet? – Since we’re already talking finances . . . Aside from being a question Alan asked quite often during the last ten years leading up to his retirement, “Can I Retire Yet?” is a popular blog that was a huge help to me back when I was seriously contemplating my Escape from the Workforce.  Darrow Kirkpatrick, the blog’s creator, is an early retiree who now spends most of his time simply enjoying his retirement - and that includes RVing.  Darrow left “Can I Retire Yet?” in the capable hands of Chris Mamula.  Chris is a young retiree who has continued Darrow’s tradition of posting well-researched, thought-provoking articles regarding many facets of retirement – early and otherwise – often focusing on the financial aspects of this stage of life.  Despite the fact that I’ll be celebrating the 5th anniversary of my Great Escape this week on April 22nd, I still hang out at “Can I Retire Yet?” due to the comprehensive posts and the diverse and respectful community that Darrow and Chris have developed.  So, I was flattered when Chris approached me several months ago to see if I'd be interested in writing a guest post related to RVing for the blog.  It was truly a pleasure to provide “Can I Retire Yet?” readers with an overview of RVing from a financial perspective and Chris published my post a couple of weeks ago.  If any of you are interested in the post, “A Cost/Benefit Analysis of the RV Lifestyle,” you can access it directly (link HERE) or hop on over to “Can I Retire Yet?” via the link in my list of favorite blogs (in the column at the right).  You’ll find my piece under “Recent Articles,” but I encourage you to explore the entire site, too – there is an abundance of information available and it covers quite an assortment of topics.

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the “Can I Retire Yet?” readers who signed up to follow “Reflections Around the Campfire” via email.  I appreciate your jumping over for a look and for extending your stay.  Speaking of appreciation, my sincere thanks go out to Chris for allowing me the opportunity to share his amazing platform.  In his intro, he identified me as a “numbers geek” – which I consider a compliment and a badge of honor.  Chris and his family will be enjoying their very first epic journey via RV this summer, so best wishes to all for safe travel and many memorable adventures!

Mesa Verde National Park

Brand New – the NPS Visitors App! – Timing the announcement to coincide with National Park Week, the National Park Service unveiled the “NPS App.”  The app was created by NPS Rangers to allow visitors access to information on all 400+ National Park Units across the country.  The NPS App not only provides info about Park activities and amenities, but it also allows users “to build personalized trips and save and share information about their upcoming adventure with family and friends.”  The app is available in the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.  Read more about the NPS App on RVBusiness.com (link HERE) and/or the NPS website itself (link HERE).

Grand Canyon National Park

FINALLY! – Anyone who has known our family for a while knows that our son (Ryan, soon to be 27) and his girlfriend (Anya, already 27) have been together for a l-o-n-g time.  In fact, in less than two months, it will be eight years.  So, when the two of them stopped by just after the New Year dawned to announce that they had become engaged, Alan and I thought, “FINALLY!”  Ryan is the first of our two children to tie the knot (Kyra is five years his junior), so this is a brand new adventure for us – and for them!  Ryan and Anya truly are a good fit with similar values, similar priorities, and similar cheerful attitudes toward life.  Plus, they share a love of the outdoors, so we see lots of fun family adventures continuing into the future.  Alan and I are absolutely thrilled for both of them.  We get to see our son happily settled and keep our sweet and special “bonus kid;” they each found an adored (and adoring) partner for life.  Truthfully, they seemed like a perfectly content old married couple after just a couple of years into their relationship.  (That was a compliment, by the way.)  So, there’s excitement in the air and a wedding in the works, planned for the summer of 2022.  I’m betting there will be plenty of “wedding talk” around our family campfires this year.  Congratulations, Ryan and Anya – love you both!

The happy couple!

“Marry the one who gives you the same feeling you get when you see food coming in a restaurant.” (author unknown, but spot on!)

Following my next post which will be "Campfire Talk - Part 2 of 2," I'll begin concentrating on our family's experiences in Acadia National Park.  We visited Acadia in the summers of 2011 and 2014, and it's one of those National Parks that just keeps calling my heart back.  I hope you'll stick around and travel along!



  1. Enjoyed your article. I have debated about an rv, van, suv, or truck for camping for years. I do not get enough off time from work to purchase one at the moment, but will probably just purchase a regular truck, take a tent, and go for it. I am short so I can easily stretch across the back seat of a truck in bear country or bad weather....lol. I am assuming the campgrounds will let me stay in truck in bear country, but I do not know. I want a truck so I can haul stuff around like used furniture when I find a deal. I intend to stay in state and national campgrounds and parks.

    1. Cindy, one of the benefits of camping that I've always appreciated is that it can be enjoyed in such a wide variety of ways. From a tiny tent to a big fancy coach, there are just so many avenues to entering this lifestyle. It can truly be said there's something for everyone. Good luck in your search for the camping option that meets your needs and allows you to enjoy your travels in the best way possible!

  2. Congrats on being invited to write an article for “Can I Retire Yet?” I'll pop over and read it after I leave my comment. I agree that financial literacy is so important and not being taught nearly enough. It's not very sexy but it makes our lives so much less stressful. Also, congrats to the happy couple. My husband and I were together 13 years before we finally tied the knot. I know I written before about the similarities of all the names in your family. I hope - if they choose to have kids - that Ryan and Anya have a name picked out that continues the trend...

    1. Thank you, Janis! Anya invited Kyra and me to go shopping for wedding dresses this past weekend with her and her Mom. It was sweet of Anya to include us and we had a wonderful afternoon. Yes, these names, what a hoot! With (M)ary, (A)lan/Anya, (R)yan and (K)yra in our family, we're thinking that the first grandchild in the family (if there are any) is going to have to be "Mark". Let's hope it's a boy!


Comments are encouraged and appreciated, so please do join the conversation!