Monday, April 10, 2017

Christmas 2016 & New Year 2017

Dear Friends:

Here we are, with another perfectly good year coming to a close.  We hope that all is well with you and yours and that 2017 brings much happiness.

This has certainly been an interesting year for us.  After the holidays last year, we decided that the motor home Bill had purchased to travel in by himself was too much of a man cave and not big enough for 2 people to be comfortable.  So we began motor home shopping.  We found “the one,” or so we thought.  We picked it up in Virginia on February 4th.  Within 2 days, we learned that the furnace didn’t work, the water heater didn’t work and the windshield wipers didn’t work.  So it was back to Virginia.  And that was just the beginning of our problems.  Ongoing electrical issues sent us to Lone Star RV Center in Harker Heights, TX for more warranty work.  By this time it was the 4th trip for warranty service and we had only had the coach 3 months.  The folks at Lone Star gave us confidence that they had identified and repaired the electrical issues with the coach and we could be on our way.

The day before we left, we took the coach to a local campground to empty the holding tanks.  Did I mention that the owner was so generous that he provided us with 50 amp electrical service and water while we were parked in his parking lot?  On the way back, a woman was driving too fast on a rain slicked road and side swiped us the driver’s side, taking out 4 luggage compartment doors.  That little distraction took another 6 weeks to resolve.  And we were still having issues with the coach.  But by that time, we had tried to work with the manufacturer enough to know that they were not going to do the right thing and correct the issues.  So, while the Challenger was being repaired from the accident, we had nothing else to do, but go coach shopping. 

We found a leftover 2015 Fleetwood Discovery 40E diesel pusher; and fell in love.  The floor plan is awesome.  It has everything we were looking for, and some things we had not even thought about.  It has a bath and a half, washer/dryer, side by side residential refrigerator, convection/microwave oven, plus a regular gas oven for my baking, a fantastic pantry, a wine bar, 4 TVs, 3 air-conditioners, home theater, an in-motion satellite system and automatic retraction on the patio awning, in case of sudden wind. 

When we finally escaped from Texas, we drove nearly non-stop to Saratoga, WY where we finally started our summer camping experience.  We drove up the Snowy Mountain Scenic Drive and Bill threw snowballs at me in July.  Typical Floridians, we were in shorts and tee shirts and at an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet it was 55 degrees with a cold wind!  Figures. 

We took in Flaming Gorge and camped on the lake.  Met some lovely folks that shared their fresh catch of fish with us.  Took in the wild horse refuge (there were some horses, but they were over a mile away), we stopped at Pilot Butte and hiked part way up.  We also took in Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge.  It was incredible to visit a wetlands refuge along the Green River in the middle of an arid treeless area.  We also explored the area around Flaming Gorge Lake, which is a 96 mile long reservoir.  There was some unbelievable scenery everywhere we went.

From there, we moved on the Northern California.  We were disappointed in our first campground and left before our reservation was up.  We moved further north and into a less mountainous area at Eagle Lake.  Sadly, the effects of the drought had made the area nearly deserted, but we enjoyed the quiet and the friendly chipmunks.  Bill trained a couple to eat out of his hand.  By this time, though, the elevation and being chilled had gotten to him and Bill had developed bronchitis.  So, we made arrangements to move on to Redding, CA, where there is a VA Outpatient Clinic.  After a few days he improved dramatically and after a week, was ready to move on.  Good thing, as we had to go back to Texas. 

We spent a few days in Grants, NM, resting and taking in some sights.  The area is definitely on our list to revisit and spend much more time exploring.  While on a short hike at the Sandstone Cliffs in the El Malpais National Monument, we observed a couple who seemed to be breathing in the air in a nearly ritualistic way.  They came over to tell us that the woman’s grandmother had passed away that morning and they were on the cliffs absorbing her spirit from the wind.  They were eager to share their Native American beliefs with us.  It was an interesting window into their clan culture and structure.

Once in Texas, we travelled slightly out of our way to see our friends in Harker Heights.  They were as thrilled to see us as we were to see them.  The owner is getting ready to retire and we have an open invitation to camp at his ranch in west Texas whenever we want to.

As we were setting up our camp at Lake Conroe outside of Conroe, Texas, a man walked up to Bill and asked if he had been in the Coast Guard.  Bill answered in the affirmative and Brett commenced to introduce himself and his wife Susan.  A couple of days later, as they were getting ready to leave, we stopped to say goodbye.  A brief conversation ensued and we learned that we both had appointments at the Fleetwood Factory Warranty Center in Decatur, IN on the same day in October.  So, we had an opportunity to spend some time with them and become friends.  We hope to meet up with them in Oregon next summer. 

After 3 weeks we left and had to do a quick drive to Florida to get back by the election and some pre-scheduled Doctor checkups.  As we had been listening to the news about Hurricane Matthew, we were of course concerned about the house.  That generated more conversation and “what iffing.”  All of which led us to the decision to sell the house and live in the RV full time.  It was not a decision we made lightly, but it is one that we are excited about.  We feel that we have about 10 years left that we can travel and enjoy the things we are doing now.  Now we are getting the house ready to put on the market after the first of the year.

Our current plan is to leave Florida about the 3rd week of April and head out toward the north.  Then west.  Then wherever the mood strikes us.  If you want to see photos of any places mentioned in this letter, check out our blog and in the future you can keep up with us on:

That’s the year’s report from Roughing it Gently!  All of the best for the new year. 
Bill and Mary

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