End of the Road for 2016

It’s the beginning of December, and time for another change in my life! Last Thursday, I put my RV into storage in Sarasota, Florida, and I’m renting my cousin’s Siesta Key house for the winter.

The past few months have flown by and have truly been a time of transition. Here’s where I’ve been:

Fall 2016 RV Route
Fall 2016 RV Route

I’ve driven about 2,650 miles since leaving  New Jersey on September 20th, and spent $750 in gas.  Campground fees averaged $1,000 per month, even with some “free” time in there for visits with friends and family.  I’ve learned that it’s less expensive, both in gas and campground fees, to stay put in one place for a month at a time.  The per night monthly rate at a campground is often half the daily rate.  And why not?  I’m certainly in no hurry!

On the genealogy front, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the work I need to do.  At the beginning, I thought that a week of genealogy research in one place would be oodles of time. After all, a week was the length of a normal vacation from work.  As it turns out, a week is no time at all. Another reason to stay put in one place for a month!

I found that after a week of research in Washington County, Pennsylvania, a week in Cattaraugus County, New York, and a week in Cortland County, New York, all back to back, and then a couple of weeks in Walton County, Georgia, I have accumulated masses of papers and digital photos which have not been processed.

My pile of papers is similar to this!
My pile of papers is similar to this!

All the papers and photos need to be uploaded or scanned, cataloged, abstracted, and/or transcribed.  Someone once told me that she doesn’t do any more research until she’s processed what she has.  Smart.  Clearly, I didn’t have time to process the first batch of research, when all of a sudden it was time for the next.  Lesson learned!

Obviously there were many lessons learned about RVing, especially since when I started, I hadn’t ever driven one, or towed a car, either.  When I look at the rig, I think it’s amazing that I am actually comfortable behind the wheel.  What a ride!

I remember reading a blog which was recommending that a single person NOT try to hitch a car up to an RV alone.  If anyone reading this is considering towing a car,  my advice is that it’s a necessity to have a vehicle to drive that’s separate from the RV, and a single person can hook it up in a snap.  It’s a non-issue.

Hooking up the Cooper
Hooking up the Cooper

I was also told that managing the awning is a two person job; I’ve mastered that task on my own as well.  It’s been quite a learning experience finding that all these new things are completely do-able!

It was sad to say goodbye to the RV for the winter – I’ll miss it!  It has been my little home, and I’ve grown to love it.  I’ll write more about my winter schedule soon, but for now I’ll just say that I’m planning to get back on the road again in early April.  Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy having a full kitchen, reliable internet, a bathtub, and a laundry which doesn’t require quarters!

Thanksgiving in Cape Canaveral

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!  I hope you are in a safe and comfortable place, enjoying good food and good company.

turkey_png_clip_art_image

Like just about everything else in my new life, the holiday season this year will be completely different for me.  Typically, I cook Thanksgiving dinner at home with the help of my son Kyle, and our small family gathers, sometimes including a local friend or two.

Thanksgiving Past: Chris, Kyle and Mom
Thanksgiving Past: Chris, Kyle and Mom

This year, my family is either gone or scattered, my only home is my small RV with no oven, and I’m in an unfamiliar place.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself – just stating the facts.  It’s an adjustment.

It is, of course, a time to reflect and give thanks.  Sometimes it feels like it’s easier or even more natural to focus on the negatives in life, and all the complaints we might have.  One of the many wonderful aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday is that it reminds us to be thankful and focus on the things we do have, rather than the things we don’t have.

So I’m very grateful to my ex-in-laws, Eric’s mother and sister, for welcoming me into their home in Cape Canaveral, Florida for Thanksgiving. I’m staying at a campground which is directly on the beach, and a short walk to the condominium complex where they live.  It’s wonderful to be with extended family, and I look forward to enjoying our turkey dinner together later this afternoon.

OK, here’s the best part.  Early this morning, I walked a short way from my RV to the beach:

Beach at Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Beach at Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, Florida

I walked barefoot, in shorts and a T-shirt, thoroughly enjoying the smell of the ocean, and the feel of the sand. I’m thankful for the beach.  Sometimes this adjustment thing is pretty easy to do!!

But seriously, I’m so thankful on multiple levels this year.

  • I’m thankful for my amazing children, who both live in Seattle, I’m thankful for their health, I’m thankful for their love for me, and I’m thankful that they both grew up to be bright, caring and thoughtful individuals.
  • I don’t know why I’ve outlived the rest of my nuclear family, but I’m thankful for every day that I’m healthy and able to enjoy life.
  • I’m thankful for my ex-husband and close friend, Eric, and so grateful to him for all he has done for me this year.
  • I’m thankful that I sold my house, and I’m extremely thankful that I was able to retire from my job.
  • I’m thankful that I was able to buy the RV which has been my home, and I’m thankful that I succeeded in learning to operate it and live in it.
  • I’m thankful for my passion for genealogy, because it’s one of the many things which make me excited to get out of bed every morning and start my day.
  • I’m thankful for my closest friends Carol, Denise and Cindy, and for my cousin Betsy, all of whom I love deeply.
  • I’m thankful for the amazing folks running the Bucks County Genealogical Society, and especially for Mary Butash, who happily took the baton from me and allowed me the freedom to move on. They are all second to none.

I feel like I could go on and on!  I am truly blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving, and all the best for the holiday season!  Enjoy!!

Home in Washington County

Chris - happy in Washington County
Chris – happy in Washington County

I’m so happy to be here in Washington County!  As we drove in last Friday evening, crossing the Monongahela River, I experienced a great rush of familiarity, and even an awe of the place.  It is magnificent country, lush green everywhere with rolling hills, and expansive views around every other corner.  And I recognized so many place names, many from my family history research, and some from my childhood visits here to see my grandparents and extended family.

For the first time in over a month, I slept like a log, right through the night.  There’s something about being here….

The last two times I’ve been here have been with my mother; the most recent was five years ago.  I’m so thankful for those visits with her because she was able to show me the location of her grandparents’ farm, which is still standing.

As I’ve said before, the main reason I came here is to bury the cremains of my parents and my two brothers in the family cemetery.   I wanted to take care of that right away, so that’s what we did yesterday.  It was certainly a difficult and sad task, and brought back the pain of losing them all.  But at the same time, it’s closure for me, and a satisfying completion of a task which my mother asked me to do.  So the sadness is mixed with a sense of relief.  My family is finally home, and my mother is near her beloved grandparents, which was her wish.    May they all rest in peace together.

Now I feel like Washington County, Pennsylvania, is more my home than ever before.

The campground where we’re staying has everything we need, including terrific wi-fi, which is why I’m posting so much all in one day!  The sites are close together and there aren’t many trees, but we have full hook-ups, we’re sitting on level gravel, and the grassy areas between the sites means we aren’t tracking dirt or sand into the rig.  We have a picnic table between our two rigs, which we’ve set up with a checkered tablecloth and a large citronella candle.  Add two chairs and a fire pit, and we’re very comfy here!

I’m going to take some time today to plan my research trip tomorrow to Washington, the county seat.  I’ll be starting with the land records, to see what information I can track down about my great-grandparents’ farm.

Washington County campsite
Washington County campsite

Serendipity

two-rvs
His and Hers RVs!

Did you ever have the strong feeling that things are working out exactly as they were meant to work out?  That’s how I feel about this transition in my life.  I desperately wanted to sell my house in 2015 and move on with my life.  I listed the house in April, and by November, I was beside myself with frustration, knowing I would have to spend another winter there, and then who knew how many more?

Well, I am convinced that the timing of it was all meant to be, and mostly because of the way Eric and I have been able to help each other.

On a parallel track, Eric has been going through his own life transition.  He’s five years older than I am, and he had for many years planned to retire when he was 65, and travel the U.S. full time in an RV.  Proceeding on his path, he put his house on the market in early spring of 2016, and closed on his house and retired by May.  He planned to do some traveling internationally before buying an RV, so asked me if he could use my house as a home base during the time he was traveling.  He moved in to my house in May of 2016, and I received the offer on my house in June.

I really have no idea what I would have done this summer without Eric.  He immediately put his own plans on hold, and became my partner in packing up the house, buying our RV’s, and strategizing everything from how we would receive our mail while traveling, to how we would get the oil-based paint from the house to the hazardous waste drop off on the correct day. There were a million details over almost three months that we worked through together, some of which of course involved our children’s items.

All of Eric’s contributions have been huge, but his help with buying my RV was probably the biggest, on the “what would I do without him” scale. I didn’t even know how to drive it, much less evaluate it for purchase. Eric rented a car and took two full days with me to drive 7 hours to Buffalo, NY and back to buy it.

What a coincidence that Eric and I both sold our homes, retired, and bought an RV in the same year!  How terrific that we can support each other and go through the same transition independently, but together!

I really think it was all meant to be.  The timing has worked out too perfectly.

Eric – my Brother, my Ex

I realize that I’ve mentioned Eric in this blog many times, without really explaining who he is.  They say that relationships are complicated, but our relationship is not complicated at all – it’s just explaining it to other people which makes it complicated.

four-hugging
The four of us in May 2016

Eric Roberts is my ex-husband, the father of my children, and one of my best friends.  Actually, he is more than just a friend – he is very much my family and I love him like a brother.  In round numbers, we were married for ten years and have been divorced for twenty years.

Our relationship since our divorce has always been congenial.  We have spent holidays together with the kids and extended family over the years.  Birthday parties and graduations have been joint celebrations, and Eric has always been included in any of our family gatherings.  In the past few years, Eric and I and one or both of the kids have gone on vacation together, or Eric and I have traveled together to visit one of the kids.  We are perfectly comfortable staying in a hotel room together, just the same as if we were brother and sister.

When Eric slipped on the ice one winter and suffered a concussion and hematoma, I took a week off work to stay with him in the hospital.

When my brother Chuck was sick and dying, Eric was absolutely my rock, and was a great comfort to Chuck as well.  When I brought Chuck here from California so I could care for him, Eric paid for us to take a limo to my house from the Philadelphia airport.  For weeks on end, I would sit with Chuck all day in the hospital, and Eric would come at 6 pm to relieve me and do the night shift, staying with Chuck until midnight, or whatever was necessary.  Eric took Chuck to numerous doctor appointments to help reduce the number of days I had to take off work, and Eric was the one to take Chuck’s kids over to hospice for their final visit with their Dad.

Eric was there when my mother died, and managed the coordination with the undertaker when I just couldn’t handle it.

SO, Eric is my surrogate brother, and we’ve recently decided to tell people we meet that we’re siblings, just to avoid the need to explain the relationship!