Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cabin Fever

And did we have it bad.  We had to get away from this place for a while before we went stir crazy.  We thought about where and decided to stay close.  Cotoctin Mountain Park was our choice for this adventure.  School is back in session so we departed Baltimore on Monday planning to return on Friday hoping that the campground we chose would be sparsely populated during the work/school week.

Cotoctin Mountain Park is a U.S. National Park so our senior pass gave us 50% off the fees.  Another reason we chose it.  Can't beat $10 a night.  This park, also, is the home of the presidential retreat, Camp David.  Our retreat was the Owens Creek campground located about a mile, as the crow flies, northwest of Camp David.

We arrived around noon after a leisurely hour and a half drive.  OK.  Nothing is leisurely about driving around here, but we did make it there without incident.  Setting up camp was easy and quick.  Before too long, the O'Doodle brothers were romping around the site.  Unfortunately, they had to remain leashed at all times due to campground regulations.  They did, however, get to go off leash for a few minutes each evening close to chase each other and burn some energy.  No one was around so we took the chance.

The days and nights were cool and they flew by.  On Wednesday, we made the short drive to Gettysburg and did a small bit of research.  My cousin Jim and I are going there next month to see what both our great-great grandfathers saw when they fought there in 1863, his with the 9th Georgia Infantry Regiment and mine with the 22nd Georgia Infantry Regiment. That, however, is the subject of another post next month.

Our last day brought us rain in the afternoon and through the night.  It was very heavy at times, but we endured it without any problems.  We were lucky this time for it usually rains the whole time we are out. The boys took this time to lay back and relax.  They both slept most of the afternoon and all through the night.  Needless to say, the next morning they were ready to go.

Friday morning we packed up and were on the road by 10 AM.  We took the back roads through the Maryland countryside to stay away from the Friday traffic around Baltimore.  It took us a hour longer, but we enjoyed the slow drive and light traffic.  The boys were extremely excited about getting home.  They went to their toy boxes right away.  They had their fill of camping for the mean time.  The short respite did what we were hoping it would.  We felt better all around and immediately started to make plans for our next adventure.  Look out West Virginia for you are next.

Monday, September 6, 2010

From Then to Now-July Through Labor Day Weekend

May through June was a blur. Before we knew it Independence Day was upon us. The summer was continuing to be hot and dry. We continued to stay close to home, but the urge to travel was nagging at us so we decided to do some camping during the week. It is almost impossible to get to a campground any where within 3-4 hours of here. Too many people, not enough campgrounds and now, the economy. Weekends are booked up months in advance. During the week, however, most campgrounds have room to spare.

We have been tent camping for many years and have all the equipment stored so we can just pack up and go. We also camp in our truck (see Oct 2008 posts), but with the Doodles that has become impracticable. Not enough room. Tent camping is becoming a bit hard for us, too. The tent, although it is quite large, does not have the room we need for the four of us, especially if the weather is bad. Finally, our bones are not as they used to be. How were we going to do this?

We decided to invest in a used pop up camper. We started looking and found the best place to shop was at The campers on Ebay were priced too high. Craigslist had a good selection, they were reasonably priced and it was much easier to locate and speak with the seller. The one problem we did not expect was these used pop up campers have become a premium in the used camper market lately. The economy again. A camper would be posted and within minutes the seller was getting calls. Most were sold the day of posting. After trying and trying we finally located one in Pennsylvania. When we called the seller said someone else was on their way to pick it up. Missed again, but we did catch a break. The prospective buyer backed out and the seller called us back that evening.

We drove up the next morning and brought it back to Maryland. Great! It was perfect. A 1994 Coleman Destiny. This is the smallest model in the pop up series. It can sleep 6, but not comfortably. It can sleep 4 very well. Just right for the four of us. It took several days to re-arrange things, stock it it the way we wanted and to make some very minor repairs, but for the price, it was more than we anticipated. Now a test trip.

Locust Lake State Park lies in the Pennsylvania mountains just off Interstate-81.  This was the destination for our shake down cruise.  We were confident the two of us would be comfortable, but not so sure about the O' Doodle boys.  Guinness has a lot of experience tent camping, but not Rosco.  This would be different than in the RV where all the night time noises are subdued.  It was going to be interesting.

We arrived mid-afternoon, set up and immediately got settled in.  The trip was easy.  We explored the area and we all had a great time in the mountain forest and fresh air.  The temperatures were much cooler than in the Baltimore area and we all felt great.  Rosco and Guinness were having a fantastic time.  Rosco found he could follow a chipmunk, with his eyes, and he became fixated on that task for the rest of our stay.  He loved it.  Guinness had his ball and that is all he ever needs to be satisfied.

Of course, though, the Berrys are camping and what does that mean?  Rain.  We are rain campers.  Just about every time we go, it rains at some time during the trip.  Most often, all the time.  We have gotten accustomed to it and we deal with it very well.  The boys, however, are a different story.  In the RV there is a lot of room and plenty of things to do on a rainy day.  In a small tent camper there isn't.

It started to rain just after we all settled down for the evening, about 9:30 PM.  It was a drizzle at first, but graduated to a tremendous downpour for the rest of the night.  The boys settled right down, thank goodness, and immediately went off to sleep.  They were exhausted and seemed very comfortable and the sound of the rain helped.  We were up several times looking for leaks, but all was OK.  Not bad for a 16 year old canvas trailer.  The rain tapered off just before dawn, but it continued to drizzle for a while and the morning started off very foggy. The next two days were a repeat of the first.  We were thankful the days were dry.

The O'Doodle boys camping

Time for nite-nite

I see you Mr. Chipmunk

Fresh mountain air makes me sleepy

The campground had 282 campsites and most were occupied during this particular week.  We guess it was because it was only a week after the July 4th holiday and a lot of people were still on vacation.  These campsites were very close to one another and that was our concern for the boys, especially at night.  We did not want them to be barking all night at the noises in the park.  We took care of that with our anti-bark collars.  OK.  Before you all get upset, these collars are NOT shock collars.  These spray a fine mist of Citronella if the dog barks.  A gentle "woof" will not set it off.  They, obviously, do not care for the scent so they remain quiet when they have them on.  The collars went on each night and they acted like angels.  Anyone interested can check them out at the company's website (Click here) and order them at (Click here).  We highly recommend them.

When we returned to Maryland we made a few adjustments to the trailer and then covered it until our next planned trip scheduled for the last weekend in July.  During the following two weeks we stayed very close to home and, again, tried to deal with the mid-to-upper 90 degree weather.  Again, it was cooler in Savannah than here in Maryland.

Lori and Dock are great friends and are full-time RVers.  We spend winters close to them in Savannah and summers close to them here in Maryland. During the winter, they are the Ft. Stewart campground hosts and during the summer they kick back in the Pennsylvania mountains just north of Gettysburg and close to family.  If you will remember (see our Dec. 19, 2009 post), their dog Spinner and Guinness are great friends.  We had not seen them since they left Savannah in April, but this trip we would make up for that.

We wanted to try out another state park so we departed a day early to stay the night at Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania before heading to Lori and Dock's campground.  The state park campground was OK, but not great.  Most Pennsylvania state park campgrounds do not have many amenities like water or electricity.  Their bath houses are OK, but most are worn and need repair.  This one did have electricity, but water had to be hauled in from several locations throughout the campground.  And that is OK if you are expecting it and prepared for it.  We were.  It was quiet for there were very few people camping on this Thursday. A lot of state parks in this country are extremely over regulated.  Usually pets and alcohol are always listed as a no-no and the rangers patrol for violators.  They do not look for the drugs, just the wine coolers and kitties or puppies.  Our tax dollars at work.

Arriving mid-morning, Lori met us and showed us our campsite for the weekend.  Neat.  It was under beautiful trees and beside a mountain creek. Good sleeping for all.  The weekend flew by.  Lots of good food, good drink, great weather and great company.  Guinness, Rosco and Spinner ran free and had a great time.  When we started home Sunday morning, they were exhausted and slept all the way back.  Now comes the rest of summer.

August started off like July had been, hot, humid and little rain.  We did nothing of particular interest.  Our time was taken up by vet and doctor appointments, house and yard repairs, keeping the boys exercised and occupied and more house repairs.  Do you see B-O-R-I-N-G here?  Very.  We did attend a Bull Roast with friends one Saturday evening and had great time, but that was it for the month.

Well here we are, Labor Day 2010.  The past week and a half has been rather difficult.  Joyce, Guinness and Rosco are fairing well, but I suffered a rather sever knee injury around Aug 26th and have been nursing it ever since.  This has put us behind schedule in our house repairs, but we are almost there.  What comes next?

Not sure.  A couple of small things planned.  Maybe.  Stay tuned and see.

Friday, September 3, 2010

From Then to Now-May through June

Wow! What a summer it has been. As mentioned in the last post, things have been going non-stop since we departed Berry Oaks at the end of April. Retired life is supposed to be easy going, but I guess it is what one is involved in that makes one's life slow or fast paced. We'll have to look closely at what we are doing and consider readjusting our involvements. That will come later on this month, but for now here's what went on from the end of April to the end of June.
Departing Berry Oaks - April 27, 2010

We spent a total five months on Berry Oaks and we knew we had to return to Maryland in the spring to take care of the house. We were not happy about that. It took a week to police and pack up everything we had put in place to make us feel at home here in Georgia. We could not leave anything for it would be gone when we got back. Everything went into our storage facility in Savannah.

We decided to take a few days off before we headed to Ft. Stewart Campground to attend a Bluegrass festival being held in southeast  Georgia. Hoboken, Georgia, a small crossroads town, is about 15 miles east of Waycross, Georgia and about 15 miles north of the great Okefenokee Swamp. Several times a year the population of this small town triples with the Bluegrass festival events held at the Twin Oaks Music Park. The event area has a covered stage with room for many attendees under and outside the stage area.  What was most amazing about this place is it has camping hookups (water and electricity) for 875 RVs at very reasonable rates. It was huge.

We departed Berry Oaks on April 27, 2010 and stayed our first night at Laura Walker State Park.  The next morning after a short trip (10 minutes) we arrived at Twin Oaks and were greeted by a staff of awesome country folk.  They guided us to our spot and we began to settle in. 

The festival went from Thursday evening to late Saturday night.  There were a dozen or so groups performing throughout the weekend and we were pleased to be able to see each at least once. 
The entertainment was great and the atmosphere was very family oriented.  We will return here often.

We returned to the Ft. Stewart campground on Sunday and began making preparations to put the trailer into storage for the summer.  While cleaning the trailer's roof it came to our attention there was a soft spot near the rear.  Not good.  The next morning we brought the trailer to the Camping World in Savannah to have them look at it.  Not good again.  It seems the seals around the ladder had been leaking for a while and water had gotten under the rubber roof and rotted a portion of it.  The whole rear laminate had become detached, also.  Definitely not good.  It would have to be repaired soon.

We went back to Ft. Stewart and hurried our preparations for returning to Maryland.  On Friday morning we packed up, dropped the trailer at Camping World and headed up I-95.  It would take several weeks for the repairs.  The trip back was uneventful.  Once the trailer was repaired I returned to Savannah (alone), put it into storage and drove back to Maryland.

Once back in Maryland our time was consumed with putting the house back into shape after the terrible winter they had experienced here.  We were sad having to be here and Guinness was upset as to not being able to stay outside a lot.  We began to discuss adopting another Doodle as a playmate/companion for him hoping to make it easier on him and us.  After looking through many websites for rescues, we came across a three year old male Labradoodle residing in a foster home near Dallas, Texas.  We talked it over, made some calls and decided to do it.  We had been stationary for three weeks and we were eager to be back on the road.

We considered driving straight to Dallas and then back, but we came to the conclusion it would be better to take our time and not put too much stress on the new Doodle right away.  We drove back to Savannah, stayed a few days at the Ft. Stewart campground and headed to Dallas on May 31, 2010.  Our intention was to pick up our new addition on Friday, June 4th, however, the foster home had something come up and asked us the day we left for Dallas if we could pick him up on the 3rd.  We said yes.  That was going to be a long drive in two days.  We stayed the first night in a small and very quiet RV park in Marion, Mississippi which was about half way to our destination in Denton, Texas.  The next morning we were on the road early and made it to Dallas just at rush hour.  What a horrible experience that was, but we were pumped for the next day and pulled into the RV park in Denton and relaxed.

________MEET ROSCO___________

Hi All!!

Rosco is a small (35 lb), charcoal, male, 2nd generation Labradoodle.  He was put up for adoption by the family who raised him due to health problems with one of the family members.  Like Guinness, he has a wonderful disposition, well mannered, loves people, especially children and other dogs.  He is a perfect match for for the three of us.  We, especially me, were worried about how he would get along with Guinness and how he would take to our life style of traveling.  We were about to find out.

We remained in Denton that evening and started out for San Antonio, Texas the next morning.  We planned to stay at a campground down the street from my brother, Don, for a few days.  On the way we stopped and visited with a dear friend, Jean, for several hours then made our way to my brother's arriving around 4 PM.  Not a bad trip comparing it to the previous days of travel.

We kicked back for several days, letting Guinness, Rosco and my brother's dogs romp through the house while we all drank a lot of Shiner Bock and ate, ate and ate.  Thanks Bro.  It was good to see the family again.

Monday morning we started the return trip to Savannah this time, though, taking our time.  We wanted to make sure Rosco was comfortable traveling and being close to Guinness.  It turns out he was wonderful on both counts.  We traveled in 4-5 hour hops staying the first night in the Cagle campground in the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas. Staying off the main highways, we found ourselves at Chicot State Park in Louisiana the next night.  Our next destination was the campground at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.  We had stayed there before and we had liked the location right on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  We figured on staying there 3 days before continuing on.  Guinness and Rosco loved the beach.  It was Rosco's first time and he was very wary of the water, however, he slowly got to like it.

What is this place?

Rosco's first swim

Guinness the Water Doodle

Ahhhh!   The Dog's life.

Next was the Atlantic coast.  We stayed at the Mayport Navy Station RV park outside of Jacksonville, Florida for three more days before we made the short trip back to Savannah.  We had stayed here, also, and liked the setting.  Different than Pensacola, but very interesting because the Navy ships come into the station right in front of the park.

Navy Tugboat

See Rosco?  This is how it's done.

We love this life.

We only stayed two days at the Ft. Stewart campground. We wanted to get that 12 hour drive back to Maryland over with as soon as possible and get Rosco settled into the house. We were concerned about him being in the truck for that length of time, but he took it like the little trooper he is.  We believe the several weeks he and Guinness were in the RVs tight quarters made a big difference in their getting along.  They took to each other right away and have since become inseparable.

The few weeks remaining in June were taken up with the house and the Doodles.  The house has been a big pain since every time we turned around something is breaking.  We remained close by and tried to suffer through the summer days.  Long and hot.  It was actually warmer in Maryland than Savannah.  Go figure.

Next post:  July through now.