Albany, New York

For the last two weeks, I’ve been at this lovely little campground on the Mohawk River in Schenectady called Arrowhead Marina and RV Park.  It’s about a half hour drive from Albany, my primary research target.  Here’s a visual:

View of Mohawk River from Arrowhead RV Park office.
My camp site at Arrowhead

The campground is beautifully maintained, with lots of grass and trees. The sites are a bit too close to each other for my taste, but thankfully the neighbors are all extremely quiet.  I try to take a long walk every day; there’s a nice little walking path across a bridge over to the other side of the river.  I took this photo of the campground from over there:

View of the campground from the other side of the river

The day after I arrived, I drove (in my car) to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for a follow-up lung scan, about four hours away.  It was excellent news:  my lungs are completely clear!  Whew!!  Now I’ll just have annual scans to screen for lung cancer.  After the appointment, I visited with my friends Agnes and Cindy in Bucks County, and then drove back to Schenectady the next day.

The agenda for the rest of the week included catching up on all kinds of things:  my online classes, my personal bookkeeping, my travel planning, this blog, scanning my genealogy files, and preparing for my Albany research.  It’s amazing how much time it all takes, and I’m so glad I scheduled a month here!  I tend to procrastinate on a few of these items (i.e. bookkeeping, scanning, classes), so I told myself I couldn’t do any more research until I caught up with everything else.

During the second week, I spent six full days going to various archives, libraries, courthouses and historical societies.  We have slews of ancestors throughout the state, but my primary research focus is to solve a couple of mysteries about ancestors on my mother’s side, who lived in Albany, Troy, Clifton Park, and various locations in Rensselaer County in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  Much more on that later!

I’ll be making another side trip to Bucks County again next week, which will be my last opportunity to offload excess baggage in the RV.  I won’t be back there again until next May, but I also need to consider the fact that my RV will be in storage in California until next October. So, if I think I’ll need something next summer and fall which is currently in the RV (perhaps for the cruise, for example), but that I won’t be taking to England, then I need to leave it in storage now.  Jeez, it makes my head hurt!

But here’s the real reason I’m going to Bucks County for another visit:  my son, Kyle, is moving back to Newtown!  He received an offer he couldn’t refuse – he’s going to be a real estate agent for The Cosack Team with Fox and Roach.  Kyle graduated from college last year and then drove out to Seattle, where his sister has been living for many years.  Although he enjoyed it there, it just wasn’t a fit for him.  He’s beyond excited to start this new career!

If you’re wondering whether or not Kyle’s news has an impact on my long term plans – you bet it does.  I’ve made no decisions, but I certainly need to consider where my kids are living when I ultimately settle down.  We’ll just see how it all plays out!

My Adirondack Adventure

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one sums it up:

Getting ready for a ride! Wheeeee!!

Yep, the truck overheated going up a 12% grade on State Highway 9N heading east into Elizabethtown, New York.  So it turns out that my anxiety and my hand-wringing were well founded, and I should have heeded those instincts more closely!

On the way up the hill, I knew the engine wasn’t happy, but the gauge wasn’t showing it was hot.  I was chugging along, trying to maintain 25 mph, and got to the top where I thought things would calm down a little.  Then the engine just stopped.  You know how the power steering and brakes go out when the engine stops?  Scary.  I felt lucky to be able to get over to the side of the road and park on the teeny tiny shoulder, before the highway made a big downhill run which might have been disastrous.   I have to admit that my heart was pounding.  Some of you have called me brave to do this?  HA!

And once I’d pulled over, I looked at my phone to make a call – and there was no cell service.  Murphy’s Law at work.

The good news is 1) I was able to unhook my car, which might have been impossible because I was on a downhill slope which can create too much forward pressure on the hitch, 2) I have a roadside assistance policy for the RV with Good Sam, which includes towing, and 3) I’m in a gorgeous part of the country – there are worse places to break down.  Always trying to look at the positive!!

As planned, I had taken the scenic route, which starts on Route 3 out of Carthage, NY, and winds through the Adirondacks to Saranac Lake.  From there, I took Route 86 and then 73 to Keene, and then got on 9N to Elizabethtown, headed for Vermont.   I was doing really well and feeling rather cocky that I’d made it across the Adirondacks, when I hit that steep grade.   I thought I would at least be able to make it to the town to stop and get checked, but it was not to be.

Actually, I made it to Elizabethtown with my car, and fortunately, Verizon cell service worked great there.   It was probably about 10:30 am when I broke down, and about 3 pm by the time the tow truck got to my rig and hooked me up, ready to head about 40 miles to Saranac Lake – back the way I came.

The RV arriving at the shop.

I felt fortunate to find a room at a cheap hotel right near the garage.  There was no mechanic on duty yesterday, but I walked over to the shop this morning (Monday).  The long-awaited call came at 6 pm this evening, reporting that they had to replace a clamp.  The engine had severely overheated, and the old clamp failed, which released the hose and all the anti-freeze.  They test-drove it, and the engine is just fine now.  Whew!!  It certainly could have been far worse.

So now the question is:  which route do I take to Vermont?  Well, I did my research, and found a terrific resource – an e-book  for $25 called Mountain Directory which outlines all the above-average grades on roads across the country.  And yes, that little stretch of road where I got stuck is in the book.  So I was able to plan my 100 mile trip tomorrow to avoid steep grades, and I’ll know better for next time.  Wish me luck!!

Breaking New Ground

When I left Pittsburgh, I realized that from then on, I’d be traveling on roads and staying in campgrounds which are new to me.  Most of my routes this year  – Georgia to Bucks County to Pittsburgh – have been routes I’ve traveled before, and I’ve even stayed in the same campgrounds.  But now, I’m breaking new ground, going into upstate New York and Vermont.  And this makes me just a little anxious on travel days.

The thing is, I never want to get into a situation where I might take a wrong turn, and get stuck.  I have to study my route closely to avoid it.  And Eric taught me that I always have to know my escape route – I can’t pull into a place without knowing how I’m getting out – so I work very hard in advance to minimize the possibility of a mistake.  Thank goodness for Google Earth!

For every trip, I plan where I’m going to stop.  If you’re in a car, you just go until it’s time to stop for gas, and you find a gas station, right?  Not so for me and my rig – I have to know EXACTLY where I’m going to stop.  You can’t always tell from the road whether or not there’s an exit route once you pull in to the pumps, so I need to do major reconnaissance.

I know about how many miles I can comfortably go on one tank of fuel, so I plan my gas stops accordingly.  And, my general rule of thumb is to drive about 120 miles (2 hours) before I need to stop for a stretch and a bathroom break.  So when I start out a day of driving, I have to know how much gas is in the tank, and how many miles I can go before needing fuel. Then I can decide whether that first stop should be a rest area or a gas station, or if I’ll need gas sooner than my normal two hour stretch.  Once I know that, I search my route on Google maps to see where I’ll be in about that many miles.  And then I look in that area for a place to stop.

This process is more difficult and time consuming than it sounds.  My objective is to find a gas station near the highway with an approach to the pumps which is parallel to the station’s building rather than perpendicular.  Or, if it’s perpendicular, it has to have a pump at the end of the row which would allow me some sort of exit strategy – either going around the back of the building, or another driveway to the street.  Here are some examples:

Gas station with poor RV access

Above is a gas station layout which I would never want to stumble into by accident!  I would have to enter the pumps nose first, perpendicular to the building, and then pull up pretty far to get the RV’s gas tank to line up with the pump.  Then when finished,  I would have to try to turn sharply enough so I miss the building and any cars parked in front of it, while at the same time hoping that the RV’s rear end and towed vehicle don’t crash through the pump.  Not a good option for me!

Below is one that would be OK.  The pumps are perpendicular to the building, which isn’t ideal, but the gas station is roomy and on a corner.  I could probably pull into the far pump and then exit out the other driveway.

Perpendicular approach with an exit

The configuration below is the one I prefer.  See how the entrance and exit is so easy when the approach to the pumps is parallel to the building?  But it’s amazing how long I have to search sometimes to find one like this on my route.

Parallel approach

Rest areas are easy – as long as they’re available along the way, they’re perfect for me.  They always have an area for trucks, and I pull in right there next to them!

That’s me feeling very safe at a rest area between two trucks!

In addition to scoping out rest stops and rest areas, I carefully examine the map to make sure I know exactly what exits to take, and where to turn.  No wrong turns allowed, cause I can’t easily un-do it!   I download campground maps from the website so I’m very familiar with exactly where I need to go to register, where I can unhook my car (need a straight and flat spot), and where to find my campsite.

Sometimes a campground is remote enough that neither Google Maps nor the GPS can find it.  For example, the address for  my campground in Lowville, Lewis County, NY was a highway name and a town, and, alternatively, latitude and longitude.  Google Maps recognized the campground name, but when looking at the satellite image, there was no campground to be found.  When I plugged in the latitude and longitude, there was still no campground.  After playing around with it for a while, I found it up a side street, two turns off the main highway.   So I don’t just rely on the GPS – I spend the time to do my research.

This system has worked very well for me so far.  Since leaving Pittsburgh, I traveled about 300 miles to Hamlin Beach State Park near Rochester, New York, for four nights, and then another 200 miles to Lowville, Lewis County, New York where I’ve spent the past week, all without incident.

Today, I’m planning my 200 mile trip to Salisbury, Vermont.  I have a GPS which is specifically programmed for RV’s.  Supposedly, it will put me on the best route to avoid low bridges and other big-rig hazards, and it has a preference for interstates.   The GPS tells me that the best route from here to Vermont is along Route 3, which is a scenic route through the Adirondacks, past Lake Placid.  I’ve gone through much hand-wringing, trying to decide whether or not to take the chance that my rig will struggle with the hills on that route.  The other alternative is to go way south and then north to stay on interstates, which is longer but seems much safer.

Well, I’ve decided to be brave and take Route 3.  I’m leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning (Sunday, July 16th).  I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!

 

Back in the 215/609

I’m just about wrapping up a two week stay in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, my former home.  I’ve had ties to the 215 and 609 area codes since I was 16, when my family moved from the south shore of Long Island, New York to Pennington, New Jersey.  I left at 18 for college, went west, and then returned in 1997 at age 41, settling across the river in Bucks County.  So it’s natural that being here stirs up lots of memories.

Like, my father and my brother Jamie died in the 609.  My mother and my brother Chuck died in the 215.

I really AM trying to dwell on the positive.  This is where my children grew up – there were certainly many happy times.  And I’ve SO MUCH enjoyed seeing friends I’ve missed greatly over the past nine months.  I’m truly thankful for the many warm relationships I still have here, but those sad thoughts creep in just the same, triggered by familiar landmarks in the area.  It’s definitely been bittersweet.

One of the highlights was a three-day side trip to Long Island to visit my lifelong friend Carol.  No RV, just my little car.  We went to the resort-y town of Greenport, way out on the east end of the island, to visit her new grandson, and then had a wonderful night out.  I love her like a sister!

My beautiful friend/sister Carol with her grandson, Michael
Chris and Carol out on the town!

Another highlight was getting back together with my friend Agnes.  She was my BFF for twelve years, and then we had a falling out around eight years ago.  Now we’re just looking forward, and it feels soooo comfortable, natural and – well, just fantastic all the way around.  She took me out to dinner on my birthday last week, which was a real treat – any time spent with Agnes is special.  Here we are, “back in the day” –

Agnes and Chris, circa 2009

Speaking of birthdays, I was excited to turn 62 and qualify for the National Park Service senior pass…well, kind of excited…  But you should know that the price for a lifetime pass is increasing from $10 to $80 sometime this fall – so if you’re 62 or older, get yours now!

I also spent time with friends from my former workplace, my genealogy buddies at the Bucks County Genealogical Society, and my girlfriends Cindy, Denise, Kim, Else, and Nancy.  It was wonderful to be with them all, and I hope it made them feel good to be with me, too.  I’ll carry that feeling with me for a long time.

I’ve done so much socializing that I’ve hardly done any work – that’s a good thing!!  But even with all the hugs and kisses going around, I did still have to get things done.  I met with a genealogy client, and a new one came along that I’m very excited about.  I completed some of my online self-paced genealogy classes, but I’m still one class behind (I take two per month – I haven’t finished one of my May classes, and it’s already June!).

I was also hoping to do a bunch of scanning of my genealogy research files while I’m here near my storage.  I need my files with me as I do my research, but of course I don’t want to lug them around.  I did get SOME scanning done, but not all.  I have a little reprieve because I’ll be making an unexpected (but brief) trip back to Bucks County at the end of July, so now my plan is to scan the rest of them over the next two months, and return a box of files to storage then.

I was able to off-load some stuff from the RV back to storage: a couple of tubs of genealogy files which I’ve already scanned, and a huge tub of books which is VERY heavy (what was I thinking??):

Tote full of HEAVY books!

There are several genealogy books which I need to have and will keep, but for pleasure reading I’ve started buying used paperbacks at book sales, and will recycle them back to Goodwill so I’m not carrying around books I’ve already read.  I also installed an Amazon Kindle on my laptop, and I can get free or very inexpensive downloads from Amazon and other sources.  Slowly trying to change my habits to accommodate my new nomadic lifestyle!

I love the campground here, and except for Memorial Day weekend, I had it pretty much to myself:

A nice, quite campsite
Empty campsites all around

But now it’s time to say goodbye to the 215/609 – except for that quick trip at the end of July, I won’t be back until May of 2018.  Returning to a place I used to call home after being away for so long sure puts a different perspective on life in general.   I’m expecting that next year, with more time behind me, the acute sadness I’m often feeling in this place more than others, will dull a little more.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to simply enjoy the good memories, and all the people still here who I love.  Now, on to the many adventures in store for summer of 2017!!

Medical Stuff

People often ask me how I manage my medical care on the road:  how do I get my prescriptions refilled, what do I do for health insurance, what happens when I need to see a doctor?  I’m very fortunate to be a generally healthy person at the moment, which makes all of this much easier.  Since I’m back in Bucks County right now taking care of a bunch of medical “business”, it’s very much on my mind and a good time to write about it.

First, health insurance.   When I was working, I was contributing about $600/month for medical insurance for me and my son.  It was platinum coverage – co-pays were generally $10 per doctor visit, and there was no deductible or coinsurance.  When I first retired, I stayed on the same plan through the retiree group at a cost of $1,300/month for just me (my son graduated from college and went out on his own), but I knew it wasn’t sustainable.   I had three and a half years to go before Medicare would kick in; I needed to find a less expensive solution.

So I decided to check out Obamacare.  As you probably know, the exchanges are state based.  Although I was a resident of Pennsylvania when I first retired, I planned to become a resident of Florida shortly thereafter.  So I started out with the expensive retiree group coverage through my former employer for the first few months, and then switched to a high deductible, low premium plan on the Florida state exchange once I became a resident there.

On the Florida exchange, I had a choice of over 50 plans offered by several insurance providers.  I was especially concerned about coverage while traveling, so in addition to cost, I focused on how the insurance company defined in-network versus out-of-network medical providers.

I was thrilled to find a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plan with a nationwide network, which costs me about $275/month, with a deductible of $7,500.  If I’m healthy, I save a tremendous amount in premiums.  If I’m sick, I figure that the monthly premium plus the deductible is still less than the premiums for the retiree group plan through my former employer.  And perhaps most importantly, BCBS providers are all over the country, so I can go to doctors in any state and still be in-network.

Second, prescriptions.  For years, I went to my small neighborhood pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled.  So I had no idea that large national pharmacies offer very high-tech services, which are essential while traveling.  They allow customers to monitor the status of their prescriptions online.  You can see exactly when you’re due for a refill, which doctor ordered the medication, and how many refills you have left.   The very best part is that, with just a few clicks, you can have your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy closest to you, and it can be a different location every time.  It’s all done electronically, and it’s so quick – hit the “EASY” button!!

I started with CVS but I’m with Walgreens now – both have the same service. I take just two daily medications, and the cost for those is very low – about $10/month.  But, this time I needed a prescription filled for a tube of cream I use occasionally, and that cost me $48!  So I’m still feeling my way through what things cost, what’s covered, and what’s going toward my deductible.

Third, doctors.  As I said earlier, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be generally healthy.  I haven’t needed a sick visit to a doctor as yet.  If I did, I would go to the closet Urgent Care, first checking online to find a facility in the BCBS network.

For my well visits, annual checkups, and cancer screenings, I’m keeping the same doctors I had when I lived in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, they’re all in the BCBS network.  I’d rather retain continuity as long as possible, so I’ll plan a trip to Bucks County once a year for for these “well” doctor visits.  I will eventually settle down and find doctors in my future location, and I don’t want to make multiple changes.

One of the reasons I retired early is my very strong sense of how short life is, mostly because both of my younger brothers died before me.  None of us knows how long we have, but I feel like I have extra risk factors.  Three of my four immediate family members had cancer, and I smoked cigarettes for thirty years, which puts me at high risk for lung cancer.  So my lung health is my number one concern.

I’ve been seeing the pulmonary specialists at Fox Chase Cancer Center for a couple of years because of lingering issues from two episodes of pneumonia.  Last May, they declared my lungs stabilized, and now I’m in a program which provides annual screenings for lung cancer, for which I’m very grateful.  This week, I had my first one.  No cancer, thank goodness, but there is a little glitch.

There seems to be an infection and/or inflammation in a new area of my lungs.  They want me to have another scan in two months to see if it’s resolved itself, and meet with the pulmonary specialist. I’m not worried about it, but I’m glad they’re monitoring it.

In two months, I’ll be just starting my stay in Albany, about 200 miles away from Bucks County.  So, I’ll plan to leave the RV at the campground in Albany, drive down to Bucks County in my car, stay with a friend overnight, and then drive back to Albany after the appointment.

If more scans will be required, then it will get a little more complicated – and a lot more expensive as I travel farther away in my RV.  Hopefully, this strange infection will resolve itself by the time of the next scan, and I’ll be good to go!

 

 

 

 

 

NGS Annual Conference

It’s an incredible feeling to be in the same room with 2,000 other people who share your obsession with genealogy. The first time I attended the National Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference was in 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina, and I remember very clearly the initial thrill of being with so many like-minded people.

The following year, in 2012, I chose to use my vacation time to go to the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh instead.  In 2013, I was taking care of my sick brother.  In 2014, I attended the NGS Conference in Richmond, Virginia, which was also fabulous. In 2015, my mother had just died and I was putting the house up for sale. In 2016, my son was graduating from college the same weekend as the conference.  So I spent this week in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017, attending my third NGS Annual Conference, and I’ve been extremely happy to be here!

National Genealogical Society’s 2017  Conference Banner

The four day conference was jam-packed with classes from 8 in the morning till 5 at night, with visits to the Exhibit Hall in between.  There were lots of options for group luncheons and dinners, but I didn’t sign up for anything extra (frugal me).  I would have enjoyed them I’m sure, but they’re pricey and could easily double the cost of attendance.  I have my cool little pink lunchbox that I take with me on research trips, so that’s what I did here, too!

Raleigh Convention Center

J. Mark Lowe presented the Opening Session, which was extremely inspirational and moving.  Among other things, he spoke about his work with a high school history class.  These kids did genealogy projects which involved creating presentation boards, including QRC codes to access recordings of the students telling their favorite story in their own words and voices.  It really inspired me to consider working with young people in the future.

Lately I’ve preferred taking classes which involve technology because I feel that’s where I need to learn the most – DNA, using Google maps, scanning and organizing digital photo files, and that sort of thing.  I also like to attend presentations by nationally known speakers, including top genealogists Elizabeth Shown Mills, Thomas Jones, and Judy Russell.  And depending on the other choices in a particular time slot, I attend lectures on German research, since I have generally avoided those branches of my family tree!

I have to say that the conference overall was nothing short of incredible.  The choices of high quality lectures made it difficult to choose just one to attend.  It always amazes me how many extremely intelligent people are involved in genealogy – many of the speakers had PhD’s or were Certified Genealogists.

I think the sessions I enjoyed the most were the DNA lectures with Blaine Bettinger, Judy Russell, and Diahan Southard.  They all packed the room – I think DNA was the most popular topic at the conference!

I’ll miss next year’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, because I’ll be over in England for the winter and early spring (more on that later).  In 2019, the conference will be held in St. Charles, Missouri, the same place it was held in 2015.  They say it was a great location, and that’s why they’re holding the conference again there so soon.  I’ll definitely plan to be there, especially because for years, I’ve wanted to go the St. Louis NARA location, where all the military records from World War I and II are kept – at least those which survived the 1973 fire.  It’s on my extended calendar!

It was NOT a great week from a camping perspective.  The closest campground to the downtown Convention Center was at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.  It was just not a very attractive place.

My site at the North Carolina State Fair Campground

There was virtually no shade, and I wasn’t able to get my awning to work to create some.  Fortunately,  I wasn’t “home” very much, the weather cooperated by not being too hot,  it was a terrific location for my daily commute to the conference, and the price was right at $210 for the week (versus the cost of a conference hotel at $120 and up per night), so it absolutely served its purpose!

Tomorrow I’ll drive about 200 miles to my cousin Betsy’s house near Richmond, Virginia, where I’ll stay a week in her beautiful home, and have some much-needed “sister time” – can’t wait!!

Time for some fun!!

I truly love being able to spend loads of time doing my genealogy research. Mostly, I’m either researching on-line, at a courthouse or an archive, at a cemetery looking for gravestones, or I’m on the computer processing digital images from the courthouse or the cemetery, or taking online genealogy classes.  I’ve spent many, many days doing nothing but these activities.  I love it, but there are two major downsides.

The first is that, too often, I’m on the computer all day long.  And the second is that I’m alone.  Even though I enjoy it tremendously, sometimes it feels more like work than fun.

So, when a friend let me know that she and her husband were heading to Georgia in their RV, I was more than thrilled.  I met Sandra when we both lived in California, while taking our babies for a walk in their strollers around the neighborhood – and our daughters are now 27 years old.  In a complete coincidence, Sandra and Bob also retired last year and began living in an RV, and they’ve finally made their way to the east coast.

I didn’t even realize how much I was missing being with friends until they arrived.  They stayed at my Georgia campground for three nights, so we had two full days together.  We went out to eat (which I don’t do by myself), went on a couple of lovely hikes, had dinner and wine together at the campground, and sat out at the picnic table until after dark.  It was fantastic!!!

My campground was planning to move me to a much less desirable campsite for the last 5 nights of my month there, so instead, I decided to leave Georgia early, and meet Sandra and Bob in South Carolina.  I had to give up some of my Georgia research time, but frankly, I needed a break!  It was wonderful to be away from the computer and spending time with these very dear friends instead.

It was just a two hour drive on a gorgeous sunny day up to South Carolina’s Table Rock State Park, just near the North Carolina border and about an hour away from the artsy mountain town of Asheville.

My rig arriving at Table Rock State Park, South Carolina
View from the Visitor’s Center, Table Rock State Park, South Carolina

We set up camp in wooded, adjacent sites.  Bob and Sandra are avid hikers, so that was the primary daily activity.  On TWO of the next four days, we hiked TEN MILES each time, and I capitalize those words because I’m amazed that I was able to do it TWICE!  One of the long hikes was particularly difficult because there was a long uphill climb.

A waterfall along the way
The view at the top was worth it!!

We had fabulous dinners together every night, played Cribbage in the evenings, spent a day in Asheville, and even had S’mores over a campfire one night!  We also went to a local seafood buffet (think frogs legs and catfish) with a live gospel band – the whole experience was extremely entertaining.

It was a terrific break “off the grid” – there was no cell service or internet access there – and I loved being with Sandra and Bob.  We’ll be planning to rendezvous again soon, as we make our way up the east coast this spring, and around upstate New York and New England this summer.

Back to my serious genealogy world this week, as I attend the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina – lots of fun in a different way!

Florida to Georgia

After lots of packing and cleaning, both the RV and the Sarasota house, I’m back in my little traveling home.  Last Sunday, I drove 500 miles from Sarasota, Florida, to the Athens, Georgia area, where I’ll stay for a month.  It’s the perfect place to get re-adjusted:  I’m familiar with the campground because I stayed here last November, and there’s a truly amazing mobile RV mechanic here who doesn’t mind when I call him on a Sunday with a stupid question!

Before I left Sarasota, I took the RV in to a local dealer to have them inspect the engine, do an oil change, replace the little awning topper on the slide-out, and flush the water system.  Everything checked out, and we were both rarin’ to go!

The trip took me about 8 1/2 hours, including three quick stops along the way.   I love to get on the road really early on a Sunday morning, like 4:30 or 5 am – that way, before I hit any traffic, I’m already halfway there.  Maybe I like to do it that way because it’s what my parents did when we did car trips as a family, and it worked well.  I get to my destination well before dark, with plenty of time to set up camp and put dinner together.

After a four month hiatus, I was kind of worried that I would forget everything Eric taught me about operating the RV.  I had to do everything slowly and deliberately at first, but it all came back to me just fine.  I knew I must be pretty comfortable with it when I was deep in thought, and then suddenly realized I was going 75 mph and passing a huge truck!  And I set up camp just fine on arrival in Georgia, including slapping on some stickers which my thoughtful son gave to me for Christmas:

My son knows his Mama!!

I love it here!  My little campsite faces a pond so I have a lovely view and lots of privacy.  Spring is here and the weather is PERFECT, in the 80’s during the day and 50’s at night. I keep all my doors and windows open so I can hear the birds all day, and the crickets and frogs all night.  Probably about ten times a day, and also when I wake up during the night, I find myself saying out loud, “OMG, this is so friggin’ awesome!!”.

My happy home in Georgia
View from the front door

During the day, I work outside under the awning at the picnic table or in my comfy chair.  I take long walks around the campground, chatting with people here and there.  I’m in the middle of reading a long novel.  I spent one day this week doing deed research at the Elbert County Courthouse in Elberton – more on that in another post.  And I’m trying to finish up a series of genealogy classes toward earning a certificate, which I started a few years ago.

So, to quote my favorite Native American saying, my heart soars like an eagle these days.  I get to be outside as much as I want, and do genealogy all day long – I am one lucky lady!!

Spring 2017 Schedule

I checked on my RV the other day – it’s been in storage since December 1st – and it started up just fine.  Seeing it generated a flood of great memories from my travels last fall, and I realized how much I miss it!  So I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road in early April after my trip to Seattle and China beginning next week.

My first stop will be at a campground near Athens, Georgia, where I’ll stay for a full month.  I was there for about three weeks last November, and barely scraped the surface of the research I need to do in Walton and surrounding counties.  That’s partly because Eric and I had the agenda of cleaning up the family cemetery and visiting places from Eric’s childhood, which was great fun.  But this time, I’ll focus on courthouse research.

Eric’s family goes back more than 200 years in Georgia, and the campground’s location is central to various county seats I’ll need to visit.  The weather in Georgia will be stunning, with all the flowers in bloom which we don’t see until May in the northeast.   And it’ll be really helpful to have my first stop be a full month, so I can get organized for the season, which will include several visits from my new BFF, the local mobile RV repair man!

In early May, I’m heading up to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend the annual National Genealogical Society conference.  I’ve been to a few of them over the years, and always enjoy it tremendously.  I especially love the feeling of being with thousands of my “peeps” – they’re all just like me when it comes to genealogy!

After a week in Raleigh, I’ll go to a little town north of Richmond, Virginia to visit my cousin Betsy for a week (the same special cousin who lets me stay at her house in Sarasota).  I visited her last fall for a few days, but we both decided it wasn’t long enough!  She has a lovely home and sheep farm and I just feel so comfortable there.  If I want to, I can visit the fabulous Library of Virginia in Richmond to do some genealogy research.

Next, I’ll be going back to my former home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for two weeks, spanning Memorial Day weekend.  I have some annual doctor appointments scheduled, and will hopefully spend time with people who I miss very much, including my wonderful friends at the Bucks County Genealogical Society, and my former workplace.   And, I’ll do an RV clean-out, dropping some things off at storage and picking other things up.

When I leave Bucks County at the beginning of June, I’ll head out to the Pittsburgh area, where I’ll stay for a month, through the 4th of July weekend.   On the way there, I’ll stop at the home of my second cousin, Melody, for a few days – that’s a whole  ‘nother  exciting story which I’ll share when I get there!  Melody will join me in the Pittsburgh area, where we’ll do research together, visit the family cemetery, and spend some time at her mother’s house in Belle Vernon, going through photos and boxes of family memorabilia (Yay!! I can hardly contain my excitement!!).

Last fall, I ordered a stone for the grave of my parents and my two brothers, and it’ll be installed this spring.  So the trip to the cemetery will be especially meaningful for me.

At the end of June, just before leaving Pittsburgh, I’ll attend a week-long class at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (“GRIP”), held on the campus of LaRoche College.   I registered for a course called “Mastering Genealogical Documentation”, taught by Dr. Thomas Jones, one of the top genealogists in the country.  I attended GRIP in 2012, and intended to go each year since it was low cost, and easy to get to from my home in Bucks County.  But, it just never worked out – there was never enough vacation time, especially since I used every day of accumulated time off to take care of my brother in 2013.  So, I’m extremely happy to be finally attending GRIP again!

I’ll post more details about my summer plans when the time gets closer, but generally my path will go through upstate New York and western Vermont, looping back to Pittsburgh for another conference at the end of August, and then I’ll head west after Labor Day.

I’m so excited about every single stop this spring.  At the risk of sounding extremely trite, the truth is that Willie Nelson’s song keeps invading my mind:  I just can’t wait to get back on the road again!!

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!