Hellos, Goodbyes, and a Whole Lot of Drives

First of all, I feel the insanely strong urge to point out that I really wanted to name this blog post: “Hellos, Goodbyes, and a Whole Lotta Drives.” I tried, really I did.   But I just couldn’t bring myself to keep it that way.  What can I say? I’ve been a homeschool teacher for 22 years with no end in sight.  (In all honesty I only have four more years to go, so there is an end in sight.  That said, the end is way too far away for me to be able to actually see it yet.) Anyways, it seems being grammatically correct is ingrained in me way too deep to change now. (Which is funny considering the fact that the word anyways is not grammatically correct either.)  What can I say, I just gotta be me!  When you read the title though, please pronounce it correctly, er uh, incorrectly!  “…Whole Lotta…”  😉

I know I am wasting time on pointless banter, but frankly I am too overwhelmed with what I want to blog about to even know how to fit it all in.  So I’m not even going to try.  I’ve decided instead to do a couple of blog entries closer together.

I feel like I just stepped off Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and I have not fully recovered yet.  In ten days I have logged a total of 1,976 miles and that doesn’t even include our ‘around town’ drives.  That means I’ve easily surpassed 2k miles since my last entry.  THAT IS A LOT!

Sandy Creek Park/Jasper, TX→Port Arthur, TX (roundtrip) = 202 miles
Jasper, TX→Cowtown RV Park/Fort Worth, TX = 294 miles
Fort Worth, TX→Orange Beach, AL (roundtrip) = 1,382 miles
Cowtown/Fort Worth, TX→Downtown Dallas (roundtrip) = 98 miles

Do the math, I’m not making this stuff up.  Not all of these miles were done with our fiver, aka home.  Actually only 294 of them were logged while pulling our fifth wheel. Our intention is not to log major miles in a short period of time.  If we did that we’d burn out quickly! Most of it was done in a rental car.  For the trip to Alabama that I put in bold above,  I rented a cute little Nissan Versa, left Greg and Elijah at our tiny home on wheels and drove there myself with my oldest granddaughter, Saylor, then I drove back by myself.  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before we left the Jasper area we decided to go down to the Gulf of Mexico and visit the Port Arthur area.  We went to Sea Rim State Park as well as the Sabine Pass Battleground State History Site.  It was quite a fun day trip.  Here are some pictures to prove it:

The next day was Scenery Swap day and time for us to leave Sandy Creek, our first Corps of Engineers Park, and head to Cowtown Rv Park in Fort Worth, our first RV Park.   I’ll blog about our thoughts on RV Parks as well as show you around the Fort Worth and Dallas area soon, I promise.

Next though, we had an unexpected turn of events which resulted in my driving Saylor, back east.  My health has been steadily going downhill since she arrived.  Granted, she is about as easy and well-behaved as a five year old could possibly be and we have been enjoying her visit immensely, but the sheer 24/7-ness of caring for a five year old was really wearing on me.  My oldest was vacationing with his family in Orange Beach, Alabama and he and Greg (i.e. Dad) were talking about it and he generously offered to take her for the rest of the summer so she could spend time with her cousins (my two other granddaughters!)  We also realized that flying her home from Colorado was going to be easier said than done as not only was it going to be costly since I would need to accompany her, but also we simply hadn’t taken into consideration all of the “stuff” that she came with, like her bike, car seat, and more.  Since he was already in Alabama the drive was only 691 miles each way, so although it was a long drive, it was doable.

That means we drove from Jasper to Fort Worth on Sunday; I did all the laundry, grocery shopping and packing on Monday; then on Tuesday morning I picked up the rental car and Saylor and I hit the road. We drove Tuesday, spent the night in Shreveport, then finished the drive on Wednesday.  We still managed to see a few sights during our very short visit at Shreveport, Louisana.  Oh…  And I can’t leave out that on the way out Saylor and I discovered Buc-ee’s and we both fell in love with it!  She even insisted on hugging Buc-ee!  I’ll throw in some pictures of that stop too.

My awesome son booked me a beautiful balcony suite at the Perdido Beach Resort which is where they were already staying in a room next to theirs for both Wednesday and Thursday nights as an early birthday present. (I am turning 50 soon…  But I don’t want to talk about that right now.)  While I was there he even paid for all of my meals and refused to let me spend a dime. Happy Birthday to ME!

My exhausting long drive there ended in celebration as I was immediately greeted at the resort by my generous and loving son, his absolutely GORGEOUS and pregnant with our fourth grandchild wife,  two more ADORABLE granddaughters, as well as a bottle of champagne on ice.  After our toast I was able to relax on my balcony that night to wind down, then I spent the entire next day (Thursday) with the family before heading back to Texas on Friday morning.  It was truly a whirlwind week of precious memories.

I drove the 691 mile drive back home to our current spot in Fort Worth all by myself.  After having Saylor for almost 6 weeks the drive was eerily quiet.   I broke that drive up into two days as well.  As I mentioned earlier, I do have a big birthday coming up and I simply can’t do those long drives all in one day like I used to.

Somewhere along the way I saw this sign and I had nobody with me to share it with.  So you are it!

Bear Crossing, Next 10 miles!!!

We are still here in Fort Worth now through Sunday and I will be writing another blog post before we leave all about Cowtown RV Park, the Fort Worth area, and the Dallas area.  Stay tuned…

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails


Texas Tales and Domicile Drama

We are finally in Texas! Our first stop in the Lone Star State was chosen for the sole purpose of setting up our domicile. “What is a domicile?” You ask. Good question! Your domicile is your state of residence; your address; where you call “home”; or as they say in Texas, where you hang your hat.  Everyone has to have one in order to live legally in these great United States of America.

There are several companies that are in the business of providing these services for full-timers. They provide full-timers with a physical street address, offer a comprehensive mail service, and provide logistical and legal support when it comes to all things full-timing. These companies service many full-timers for their mail delivery, even those who don’t use the address as their domicile. The three states that these particular companies are based in are Florida, Texas, and South Dakota. Although one’s home state could be in any of the 50 states, these three are unique in that they are the friendliest to the full-timing community, have no state income tax, have the the resources (companies that I referenced above) as well as favorable laws and procedures already in place to make this lifestyle doable. I am not going to get into all the details here, but to learn more you can visit the company we are using, Escapees. After all was said and done, we chose Texas to set up our domicile and be our home state. Livingston, Texas to be specific.

You would think that Florida would be the obvious choice for us since I am originally from Florida and since we still have family there; but it’s simply not that simple. There are several factors that each full-timer must consider when choosing a domicile state and deciding which state is best really depends on their specific circumstances. There is no one right answer for everyone.  For us, the homeschooling laws played a huge role in our choosing Texas over Florida.  Furthermore, Texas’ auto/rv insurance rates are lower than Florida’s rates.  And the final bonus for Texas is that the state doesn’t charge property taxes for autos or RVs.  All of these factors played a role in us deciding to become Texans.   Finally, and of upmost importance, once we have seen and done the entire country, we can see ourselves getting our liveaboard sailboat in the Corpus Christi area and keeping Texas as our home base. That’s another big factor in setting up your domicile. It is also where you “intend” on living permanently at some point, even if it’s not until after your travels are over.

As of today, May 20th, this process is still not fully complete nor will it be for another couple of weeks.  It’s been quite a bit more stressful and time consuming than I had anticipated.  Even though we had already set up our address in Livingston long before we arrived, getting our vehicles registered and our drivers licenses has not been as easy or as fast as I had hoped.  I knew we would have to get the truck inspected before we could get it registered, but as it turned out we also had to get our brand new fifth wheel inspected.  That sounds easy enough, but that meant we had to close it all up, hook it up and pull it into town during 9-5 weekday hours for the inspection.  What a time-consuming pain in the derrière!  Also, this is one detail that I had to rely on Greg to help me with and which impeded into his normal work schedule.  Ugh!   I had already had the truck inspected myself, but I couldn’t proceed with registering the vehicles until the fifth wheel was inspected as well.  Greg wasn’t able to pull the 5er down there until the end of our first week here, so that delayed the entire process.  I also learned that Texas processes their vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses at two entirely different offices and you can’t get your Texas driver’s license until after you’ve registered all your vehicles in Texas.  Furthermore, Texas fairly recently added a stipulation requiring  your original social security card in order to get your Texas driver’s license.  Major hiccup as neither one of us has ours.  Greg has no idea where his is and mine was stolen when my wallet was stolen years ago.  The SS office said that I could apply online, but if so we wouldn’t get our replacement cards for 6-8 weeks.  If I went to a SS office and applied in person they said it “should” only take 7-10 days, or 2 weeks at the longest. Of course, it simply couldn’t be that easy and it turns out that the closest social security office is just over an hour away.

So…  on Tuesday (simply because these are not the types of things anyone should ever do on a Monday!) I piled Saylor (my 5 year old granddaughter who’s with us right now and where I go, she goes!) up into the truck to accompany me on the long, long day of major driving and major errands.  We left first thing in the morning and we drove just over an hour west to go to Livingston to register our vehicles since I finally had inspection done and everything we needed.  (Vehicles can only be registered at a local office so it had to be done in Livingston); That went smoothly and quickly so we popped over to the Escapees office and picked up any mail that had come in since my original visit there last week.

Next we got back in the truck and drove yet another hour north to Lufkin, which is where the closest social security office is located; to apply for our replacement SS cards (I took a signed application from Greg as well as his driver’s license and a letter authorizing me to represent him so he that didn’t have to lose an entire day’s work having to come along.)   The social security office was PACKED and run on a number system, so what they told me over the phone “wouldn’t take long at all” ended up taking FOREVER!  After waiting (in the waiting room…  with a five year old…  sitting in an uncomfortable chair….  with my back and neck killing me…  Are you starting to feel my pain yet?!?!) for exactly 1 hour and 7 minutes (my number ticket was time stamped, thus I know exactly how long we waited) my number was finally called and we were able to apply for replacement cards. We now have our SS cards on the way.

By this time it was almost 2pm so I looked on my “Find Me GF” app and was shocked and thrilled to find a cafe called Ray’s Drive-In that said they had gluten free buns and that was only 3 miles away.  It turned out to be excellent and our crazy day turned into a fun adventure from that point forward.

My meal (in the foreground) was totally gluten free (I have Celiac) and totally delicious. Although this is WAY more carbs than I normally eat in a week, I ate every bite. I hadn’t eaten anything all day up to this point and it was worth every single carb.  Saylor’s kid’s meal was huge (way more food than she could eat) and it only cost $3.10, and that even included her drink. This made it much less painful when I had to throw the 70% of it that she couldn’t finish away.

I had checked my reciprocal zoo list and found that there was a zoo that would be free with my zoo membership right in Lufkin.  I told Saylor that since she had been so good for all the driving and waiting I would take her to the zoo.  I had looked up the website for it the night before and it just looked like a small zoo, so I didn’t expect much.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!

After we finished the zoo, we had to drive yet another hour back southeast this time to return home, to Jasper.  Talk about a long day!  It was all worth it though as now our vehicles are registered and our social security cards are on their way.  They are being sent to our home address in Livingston, and we will then have Escapees overnight them to us at whatever campground we are in when they arrive.  Unlike registering our vehicles, we can get our driver’s licenses at any county in the entire state, so as long as we get them within the next 3 weeks, we will be good.

Speaking of Jasper, we are here now, staying at our very first Corps of Engineers campground which is Sandy Creek Park, located on B.A. Steinhagen Lake.  Here are some pictures from our campsite and campground:

Let me not leave out the coolest thing about Jasper, Texas.  The Jasper County Cowboy Church!   I saw it on the main stretch and decided to check out their website to see if this was the church to attend on Sunday. Their website said, “Straight shooting, sinner saved by grace teaching, rounding up the lost, the lonely and them that ain’t got no faith. Come as you are – in spirit, spurs and stetsons. It’s bucking horses and roto-rooter Bibles in the arena dirt or a hard won dollar in a boot on the back table after a searching sermon. No fancy duds. No politicized preaching. No denominational hair splitting.”  That was it…  my kinda church!   It turned out to be better than I expected.  If we did live here, that would be my home church for sure!  When we were leaving I heard my name being called and I turned around to see the only person I know in Jasper.  A wonderful lady I had met and spoke with on several occasions that works at the campground.  (Her name is Pam, so it’s easy for me to remember!) I can’t even begin to put into words how comfortable and welcomed I felt in this church out here in the middle of nowhere.  God is truly awesome like that.

We leave here Sunday for our next destination which is in Fort Worth, Texas.  This time we are staying in our first ever RV Park.  Not our typical style or preference, but it was all that we could find available for two full weeks since everything was so booked for Memorial Day weekend . This RV Park will serve the purpose well though as it has wifi, laundry facilities and even a pool. Honestly though, this particular destination for us will be all about exploring the Dallas/Forth Worth area more than the campground itself.    Of course, I’ll write about that area next time.

I’ll leave you with a few final people pictures…

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

Big Fun on the Bayou

We are spending one week in Louisiana and although it’s been quite the experience, in all honesty, we are super excited to leave on Sunday and finally arrive in Texas!  Yee Haw!!  But, before I get ahead of myself.  Let me tell you a bit about this area.

We are staying in Lake Bruin State Park which is in Louisiana, smack dab  between Lake Bruin and the Mississippi River.  Since we are right near the border of two states, we’ve spent time in both this week.  We were surprised and blessed that it cooled down significantly the very week that we are staying here else I fear the bugs would have been unbearable.  Other than rain the first two days, the weather has been delightful with daytime highs in the 70’s and although there have been more bugs than we have seen anywhere yet, they only come out at night.  We cannot use our outdoor led awning lights here, that’s for sure!  Put it this way, Robby (my oldest) sent me an Amazon gift card for Mother’s Day (Thank you, Robby & Marthann!!!)  and I used part of it to get a table top bug zapper!  We heard it frying buggies all night last night, which was quite entertaining in itself.  LOL

Instead of being directly off the lake this time, we decided to pick a more private site on the other side of the campground because it appeared that this area would give us better T-Mobile coverage (according to T-Mobile’s coverage map).  Well, it turns out that we have ZERO T-Mobile coverage anywhere within miles of this park (like, as in 20 miles!)  We have had to learn the hard way that we cannot rely on T-Mobile’s coverage map.  😕 Thankfully, we have the Verizon Mifi with an excellent Verizon signal, so Greg can use that to work.  After being here for several hours we unexpectedly discovered that the campground has it’s own wifi.  It was so remote and so few state parks have wifi that I “assumed” they didn’t have wifi and never even checked!  Never assume!  (All of my kiddos have been taught what happens when you assume.)  It turns out that they do indeed have wifi and although it is too slow for Netflix or streaming, it’s perfect for all the basic stuff like emails, Facebook, and for wifi calling.  I have even been able to FaceTime my adorable granddaughters in NC on the campground’s wifi. BONUS!  Much to our surprise, we are still well connected even way out here in the boonies. (Put it this way, the closest Wal-Mart is an hour away.)  Speaking of the boonies…  Here is our campsite:

This park has a small water play area as well as a swimming hole. You will not BELIEVE our story about the swimming hole…

Here are some pictures from around St. Joseph, Louisiana,  which is the town where the state park is located.

We decided to visit the town of Natchez, MS which was an hour away from our campground, for two reasons.  First of all, so we could check out the Indian Village and historical sights and so we could take another drive over yet another large bridge on the Mississippi River.  Secondly, to do some grocery shopping.  Especially since that was the where the closest Wal-Mart Supercenter was located and there were no other large grocery stores closer to speak of.  We left Greg at home to work while Elijah, Saylor and I left to explore.  We left at 11am and didn’t end up getting back home until just after 9pm!  Talk about a loooonnnngggg day.  We went to Grand Village of the Natchez Indians as well as Emerald Mound! It was a very pretty area, although still very rural.  Here are some pictures from that day trip:

As you can see, we have enjoyed this area very much.  The people around here have been the friendliest yet.  Everywhere we go people wave and say “Hi” as if they’ve known you for years.  The first part of the week I was feeling a bit lonely, having had no females to talk to (not face to face anyway) in quite a while.  I was just feeling in general a bit sad that this was going to be a lonelier lifestyle than I had anticipated.  I hadn’t even come across hardly any people to even witness to, much less befriend.  I prayed about it and God sent people from all sides!  I’ve literally met at least one new person (that I’ve actually had long conversations with) every day since!  God is so good.  He always hears and answers our prayers.

We are all settling into a new routine with Saylor (our granddaughter) being added to the mix and she seems to really, REALLY enjoy this lifestyle.  She has been about as good as a five year old can possibly be and for that we are very thankful.  That said, she is about as active as they come and simply requires so much more energy than I typically possess.  This week I started her having a one hour quiet time every day, and as of last night we moved her bedtime up to 8pm.  Both of these help me to have some time to not be “on call” and the earlier bedtime is helping her to be even more well-behaved and less whiney.  Kiddos are always better when well rested!  We were keeping her up later thinking that she’d sleep in, but she wakes up at the same time every day anyway.  So we changed our tactics which we can already tell was a smart move.  That said, she is very good in the mornings and rarely wakes us up.  She just plays quietly in her loft until we come out.  Since we are NOT morning people, this is awesome.  God is working out all the details.  He is good and He will provide.  One day at a time.

We are excited to be off to Texas tomorrow.  We are going to be staying in our first Corps of Engineers campground, so be looking for another entry in a week or so to learn about that.  I always love comments, so leave me one if you’d like.

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails.