Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 5, 2015 – January 06, 2016 

Another month is gone and Christmas 2015 is over!  We are going to make 2016 a better year.  Patty’s health has been changing faster than our continuously changing plans.  It seems that we just can’t get ahead of the health curve.  This year, 2016, we are going to change our plans so that Patty sees her doctors more often throughout the year.

In 2015 we did quite a bit even though we had to cut our travel short by a month due to Patty's health. Highlights of our 2015:

  • We took the RV on the ferry between NJ and Delaware
There we are squeezed in on the main deck.
  • We added 5 states to our states we have stayed in: Delaware, North Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, and Maryland.

  • Attended the first RV-Dreams Family Reunion Rally

  • Visited Washington DC.  

POTUS EMT helicopter as first responders to Patty fainting near the Washington Monument.

  • Family Reunion, Patty and I

  • My High School Reunion
Southmont High School Class of 1975

  • Houston Space Center

  • Bought an annual RV lot in Texas

  • Installed a new sink in the RV

For 2016 we had originally planned to travel up the East coast into Canada.  We are now thinking that may be way too ambitious for us.  I’m not sure what our new plan will look like but I think we need to be back here in TX every 3-4 months and get Patty stabilized before heading out again.  We will still do our usual friends and family trip of Indiana, New York, and New Jersey but not stay as long.  Maybe we include New England before heading back to Texas.  We can then stay a month or so and head out again before returning here at the end of November.  It’s only just a plan.

Just after the last post our propane furnace quit working.  It has not really been that cold but some of the mornings are around 50 so we turn on the furnace to quickly warm the RV up.  Well, the last time it didn’t come on.  The blower comes on and but the gas doesn’t ignite so it shuts down due to an error.  I did a little trouble shooting before giving up and getting a service tech out to look at it.  I removed the basement wall and took off the vent cover under the inside steps to get at the furnace.  I found that the diagnostic light (idiot light) told me that the furnace had shut down due to an error in the system.  I did some internet research and found that I really need to get inside the furnace to diagnose further. 

The RV Tech arrived!

That's where the furnace was!

Getting access to the inside of the furnace required that the furnace be removed from the RV.  Removing the furnace was something that I was not comfortable with so I called the tech.

The tech I use is the same that a lot of the people here use for service.  I used the guy last year when one of our grey tanks decided to drop down out of the RV.  I watched the tech take the furnace out so now I could do it if I need to in the future.  Removing the furnace required that the washer drain pipe be cut away so the furnace could slide out.  We don’t have a washer so we don’t use that pipe anyway. After a few tests he determined that the gas valve needed to be replaced and he didn’t have one, it needs to be ordered.  We leave for our northern Christmas trip in just 3 days and he can’t have the part by then.  No big deal, we just set a date after we are back, January 9th, 2016 to install the valve.

The RV furnace is actually very small!

We stayed the night before we flew from Brownsville TX to Philadelphia at a Comfort Inn in Brownsville.  Our plan was to ask to leave our truck there for 21 days while we were gone.   We did this a couple of years ago and the hotel let us.  Well, not this time.  The Inn has a very small parking lot and the new manager didn’t want to fill it up with non guest parked vehicles.  I can understand this but just how busy is this place during the holidays.  Oh well, we parked in the airport lot for $5 a day, not that bad.

We went out for dinner at Red Lobster and then we went to Dick’s sporting goods to look at drivers for Patty and me. The Dick’s in Brownsville is really cool as they have an indoor computerized driving range.  We both hit some balls and looked at drivers.  The computer tech in the golf department was not in that night so we didn’t get any real analysis of our swing.  I did however learn that my swing speed is pretty slow at around 80mph. That tells me that I need a driver shaft that is very flexible, like a senior shaft.  

The next day we flew on my favorite (NOT) plane, an RJ to Houston TX.  I had the very first seat so as not to be as tight to quell some of my claustrophobia.  I have to say that I didn’t really feel anything bad this time.  I was able to keep the panic attacks under control this time.  I just kept pushing the feelings out of my head when they just started.  I had just a little brief issue (2 seconds maybe) when we had to wait on the ground in Houston for another plane to clear our skyway. I was very happy with myself.  The flights went very well with us just being about 10 minutes late in Philadelphia.

Now the real fun begins!  Patty made the reservation for a car that was not in the airport and for earlier in the day.  We went to the airport rental site to find out the reservation was not there.  The place we did have a car was closed now and that since we didn’t pick the car up our reservation was canceled!  

So we got a room near the airport giving Patty enough time to get us another car reservation.  It all worked out with the exception that we lost a day of our trip.  She was able to get another car for the same price; we just had to go to center city Philadelphia to pick it up.   

A view from behind our hotel in Philadelphia.  This is looking north up the Delaware River.

We ended up with a Volkswagen Beetle! We wanted a larger car but they didn’t have one so we took it.  This was the first time I have ever drove one of these.  Not a bad little car to drive.  

We headed up to Keyport NJ to stay at our friend’s house, Cindy and Rob.  They were having a Christmas party the next night with a lot of our friends so it was nice we could attend this year.

Patty, Santa, and Debbie.

Nice fire at the party.  I (Mark) was here a lot of the night.

We had a great time at the party and staying with them.  It was a quick stay of only 3 nights and we were off to Indiana on Sunday.  It really didn’t feel like we were up North though, it was 72 degrees when we left NJ heading the 700 miles to Indiana.

We drove 350 miles or half way and stopped for the night. And, since it was so warm, I had forgotten my jacket in NJ. So the first thing at this stop was to find a Walmart and get another jacket.

The next day we drove the remaining distance to Indiana. Our first stop in Indiana was to my brother and sister's house in Acton IN, a Southern suburb of Indianapolis.  We only stayed one night to have dinner and catch up some with them.

The next day we made the 40 mile trip to Crawfordsville IN to see my son’s family and the grandkids.  We decided this year to stay in a close hotel with a pool.  We have a couple of reasons for this, first being that we like having our own space and we don’t like moving the kids around to make space for us.  Also the fact the hotel has a pool is great for some entertainment for the kids.

My son's tree this year.  They are moving into their new house around
Christmas so they needed a portable tree.

Granddaughter Alivia is in the gray sweater facing the striped dress.
We were so happy that we got to attend her school Christmas function.

Livy after the school program.

Granddaughter Savannah is on the end closest to us.
We got to watch her cheer and we saw a couple of good games of basketball.

All three girls in the hotel pool.

Opening Christmas gifts.
While in Indiana my son closed on their first house!  We were very lucky to be there when this happened and we got to see the house.  It's a big house on a nice size lot and is in the Crawfordsville school district so the kids won't need to change schools.

After a few Days in Indiana and having a Christmas gift exchange with the grandkids we traveled up to Buffalo NY to visit Patty’s family.  We decided to make the decision to drive the whole way of 550 miles in one day after we got on the road.  

We got to Erie PA which is only an hour away from Buffalo and it started to snow very hard; lake effect snow.  That pretty much made up our minds then to get off the road and stay the night.  

The only snow we saw the entire time up North, but it was a good one!  We drove right out of this just 10 miles up the road.

We made the last hour trip in the morning when the snow had been plowed off.  Actually, there was very little snow just 30 minutes up the road!  What a difference the snow plowing is in PA versus that of NY! In New York the roads were completely cleared of snow and PA still had ice and hard packed snow on them.  We could see the difference at the border.

A main reason to travel to Buffalo is to visit with Patty’s dad. He lost his wife, Patty’s mother, last year and lives in an assisted living community in East Aurora NY.  We stayed at Patty’s sister Cheryl’s while we were there.  Our time there was made even nicer as Patty’s brother Tom was up from Philadelphia for a visit. 

These reindeer were just outside of where were having lunch in East Aurora NY.

Patty and I with Patty's Brother Tom.

While in Buffalo we exchanged the small Beetle for a somewhat larger car, a 4 door Nissan.  We were paying for a larger car so we finally found a place that had one and we had the time to do the exchange.

After our Buffalo visit we made our last long drive on this trip of 350 miles to NJ.  We first stopped at my daughter's, Jennifer, place in Budd Lake NJ. Budd Lake is in the northern part of the state and is on the way south to our final destination in Cherry Hill NJ to visit Patty’s son Chas. 

The last half of the trip from Buffalo to NJ was terrible.  When it got dark it started to rain and hard at times. I do not like to drive after dark  and add rain and the Pocono Mountain roads to it and I really don't like it!  There was also a lot of traffic.  After a 5 hour drive and the last couple hours of stressful driving, we arrived at Jennifer's apartment.  Whew!

We got to Jennifer's and Christian's apartment around 6 pm. We talked and caught up a while before heading our for dinner.  They suggested a restaurant on NJ 206 near Cranberry Lake called the Stonewood Tavern for dinner. This area where the restaurant is was our old stomping grounds when we lived here.  Wow, has it changed!  I still can't get over the removal of a landmark restaurant called the Lockwood Tavern.  This restaurant dated back to the revolution and was a stage coach stop.  The restaurant is now gone and has been replaced with a huge CVS drug store!  Jennifer told me that the removal was very controversial when it happened.  I really hope the building materials were saved and restored somewhere. 
What a shame!

We had a nice dinner and lots of talk.  I don't see Jennifer too often but we get do together a couple times a year.  She reads our blog and we talk on the phone so it seems we are pretty well connected.  Anyway, even after a few months it seems like we just talked a few days ago.  She is a great daughter and I love her a lot!  Thanks for dinner Jennifer and Christian!

Christian and Jennifer

Our last stop, Cherry Hill, is about 2 hours south of Jennifer. Jennifer and Christian offered for us to stay with them the night but we decided to stay at a hotel just up the road.  It is just easier for us in a hotel. 

On Christmas Eve we headed south to Cherry Hill NJ to visit with Chas on Christmas. This is the first Christmas since we left NJ 4 years ago that Patty has been with Chas on Christmas. 

The weather in NJ was back to being warm again just as we left it a couple weeks ago.  On Christmas day the temperature was 72 and sunny!  I went for one of my 5 mile walks with Chas’s girlfriend Lisa in shorts and a t-shirt! Actually, I managed to make 3 of those 5 mile walks with Lisa while there.  The walks were not unusual for me but to walk them consecutively was unusual for me.  I usually alternate resistance training (elastic bands) days with walking. Anyway, I felt the walking after the 3 days for sure.  It was really great to have that time with Lisa too!  She is very easy to talk to.

Patty and Chas

Patty, Chas, and Lisa

While visiting Chas and Lisa we also met Lisa’s mom Edie, her brother Brian, and her Aunt Sharon and Uncle Tony.  On Christmas day they were all over for a Prime Rib dinner.  A couple of days later we all went to Philadelphia to a small restaurant for dinner.  It really felt we have known everyone for years and it had only been a couple of days.

Out for dinner in Philadelphia at the Couch Tomato

View from the Couch Tomato

Chas, Lisa, and Tony looking over the beer menu

Dessert at the Insomnia Cookie

Well, the time finally came for us to leave and make trip back to south Texas.  We had been gone for 21 days on this holiday's trip.   We have made this trip every year except last year since we have been full time RVing.  Every year we ask ourselves if we will do it the next year and this year is no different.  A lot of people think we are nuts to make this trip and sometimes we think we might just be nuts!  The thing is, what else are we going to do at the holiday time?  It is nice to hang out with our friends here in the warm south but it is just not the same as being with family at this time.  We will continue to evaluate this and make a decision about the next year.

On the 29th, Wednesday, we took off to the airport after saying our goodbyes.  Our flight was at 10:30 am and we were 30 miles away.  However, the 30 miles were from NJ to Philadelphia during rush hour.   We are familiar with rush hour in north Jersey but not here in the Philly Metro area. This was also a holiday week so usually this makes the traffic lighter.  We left at 7 am to just make sure we arrived with enough time to make the flight.  

The traffic was very, very light, we arrived at the airport by 7:45 am and that was fine.  Now we had plenty of time so we were not rushed.

The Philly airport was extremely busy and our plane to Houston was over booked by 22 passengers!  That is very unusual to be over booked by that much, maybe a few like 5-6.  We came to find out the reason for the over booking was due to the bad weather the past few days in the midwest. They couldn’t get planes here so there was a backlog of passengers.  United pulled all of the reservations for passengers who made reservations in the past 2 months to accommodate the backlog!  We made our reservations a year ago so we were safe.

We got on the plane and settled in for a routine flight which this portion was to Houston. We even had plenty of time to get to our next flight to Brownsville so this was a very relaxed flight.  We were feeling very relaxed and just getting ready for our final flight back as we walked to the gate in Houston.  As we approached the gate area they have a large status board showing all of the flights in this terminal.  Two of the flights were cancelled and one of them was ours!  Also, the other flight was the next one that day to Brownsville!  

After standing in line for over an hour we found out the cancellations were due to fog in the Brownsville area. Since this is weather related cancellation, United would not do much for us.  United rebooked us as stand by on another flight in the morning.  The only other thing they offered was to give us a discount rate at a hotel.

We decided to rent a car and drive the 350 miles to our place in Elsa TX.  It was already 4 pm so it was going to be a late night of driving.  We arrived back at our RV around 11 pm.  It sure was nice to be back!

The weather tuned very cold here as we arrived back.  It seems it followed us from up north.  New Year's Eve the temperature was around 45 and lightly raining.  

We went to the New Year’s event here in the park and won the 50/50 of $142 dollars!  It was a nice night but Patty was not feeling so good so she left me just before midnight.  I was thinking, this is the 4th New Year in a row that Patty has been sick.  She has been sick every New Year's Eve since we have been RVing full time.

Since New Year’s Eve it has been cold with off and on rain here.  We have basically been hibernating after we got back. The weather is supposed to be better this week starting today, it is now 71 outside with 80s by Friday!

That is about it for this installment of the blog.

Stay tuned!