Tag Archives: grand design

Back at Big Water Marina – Where It All Began

It all began with a little sailboat we kept docked at Big Water Marina in Starr, South Carolina. Genesis was truly our beginning; or at least the beginning of us actually doing after years of dreaming.

Let me back up a bit… Greg and I have dreamed of traveling and living on a sailboat for most of our married life, but it was really never more than that… a dream.  Something for us to distract ourselves and fantasize about, especially on the many days when the daily reality of life became either too overwhelming or worse yet, too mundane.  It was never more than a fantasy though. Something to look forward to… ‘some day’. Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed our homes (yes, there have been many), our kids, and our lives in general… but there was always that niggle at the back of both of our subconscious minds – an itch really… to travel… more. 

I remember at one point when our now grown kids were still quite young, Greg got on a kick for us to get an RV and travel the country with all of the kids. After all, he was self-employed, I was homeschooling the kids… why not? At that point, I was the one stopping us. I simply could NOT wrap my head or heart around it.  My health had been gradually declining since the age of 26 and furthermore I was in the nesting phase of my life. Not only that, I was deep in the throes of raising and even more overwhelming, homeschooling three, soon to be four kids at that time. We got bored and antsy easily so we moved a lot (26 homes in our first 21 years of marriage) and at that point I wanted nothing more than stability and security.  Furthermore, I absolutely thrived on our homeschool community and the resources we always had at our fingertips.  Finally, neither Greg nor I possess a calm, quiet, or chill personality.  We are both a bit (okay a lot!) on the loud side and having produced equally loud offspring, the mere thought of us all crammed into a tiny RV was simply inconceivable to me.  So the question of “why not?” was quickly and easily answered and that kick was kicked straight to the curb. 

Fast forward quite a few years after God brought me back from a major health crisis of being paralyzed from multiple sclerosis.  I was no longer paralyzed and my perspective on life had totally changed. I had the live each day to its fullest mentality and I absolutely enjoyed the little things in life…  like walking… especially without a cane! My new motto was “seize the day and live it to its fullest”! Unfortunately, that event had done more than paralyze my body, it had also paralyzed all of Greg’s dreams for our future.  While I continued to improve, he seemed stuck in a mid-life crisis of sorts and was living as if simply biding his time, waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’ when it came to my health. One day, after much prayer in how to get him out of his funk, I had an epiphany. I walked up to him and declared, “How are we ever going to live on a sailboat if I have never even learned how to sail?”  This one question was the spark it took to fire him back up and get him out of his funk and dreaming again. Within months we found a great deal on a 26’ sailboat that we both instantly fell in love with at, you guessed it, Big Water Marina. We named our beloved sailboat, Genesis as the first book of the Bible starts “in the beginning…” and that is exactly what it was for us. The beginning. The first step of our dream becoming our reality.

I instantly fell in love with sailing with an exuberance that almost exceeded Greg’s. We spent much of the next four years driving back and forth to Big Water every single chance we got. We spent all of our “free” time sailing and exploring every inch (or so it seemed) of the beautiful and expansive Lake Hartwell and all of the little islands it encompassed. I loved (and still love) the freedom and ability to breathe deeply that I have only ever experienced when on the water.  I also thoroughly loved the many times we spent a night or two (or three) sleeping aboard our cozy little sailboat and I easily could picture myself needing not much more than a good ole sailboat to live on. That said, we were still raising our kids and doing that while living on a sailboat wasn’t feasible… yet.

Fast forward to May of 2015 and Greg ended up having quite the health crisis of his own.  His resulted from an accident on his moped in which both he and Elijah (our youngest) were rushed in their own respective ambulances to the hospital. They both recovered fully, but Greg now had a completely different perspective on life.  The perspective I had gained from my health crisis:  Live each and every day to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow will bring. At this point we were down to only two of our four kiddos left at home and our third was leaving for college in August of that same year. Our last one had no desire AT ALL to live on a sailboat, but was excited to travel the country by RV.  So our path quickly became obvious. Live on an RV until Elijah is raised and moves onto his adult life, then get our forever sailboat. By February of the next year we had sold everything, including our beloved little sailboat, and we hit the road to travel full time with our youngest in our brand new 41’ Fifth wheel (RV) and we have never looked back. 

Although we never looked back, we did come back – all the way back to where it all started – Big Water Marina.  Turns out they now are Big Water Marina and Campground!  So we came back to our old stomping grounds and got a 50 amp FHU RV site overlooking “our” Lake Hartwell to spend a full month here getting our youngest and our third (now freshly out of college) set up in a place of their own.  After over three years of traveling across this entire beautiful nation of ours, our youngest and last was very ready to settle back down and to get his own adult life started… in one location.  He loved traveling the first year; liked it the second year; and tolerated it without complaint the third year.  Having spent the entirety of his high school years travelling the country, he was antsy to settle down and stay in one place near his brother, family, and friends. 

Big Water helped in a big way to make the transition not only enjoyable, but memorable.  They made some major improvements during our absence and their new staff made this already special month in our lives even more so.  Not only were we welcomed back with open arms (by new owners, nonetheless) but we were treated like family.  We stayed at Big Water for a full month.  Not only did we enjoy the view out our back window of beautiful Lake Hartwell, we enjoyed their Marina, the beautiful grounds, and we even got in a day on the lake in one of their amazing new pontoon boats for rent.  We also visited with our poor little Genesis, who was still sitting there at the marina as if waiting for us to return.  She looks as if her new owner hadn’t touched her since he bought her from us…  dirty and neglected.  It was quite sad to see her that way, to say the least.

Greg and I have left South Carolina and are now trying to adjust to this new phase they call the “empty nest”.  It’s a bit unsettling and we can already tell that it will take some getting used to. I already miss Elijah, my last one, more than I ever anticipated. That said, we are already planning for our next adventure in life. We both want the boat – but we also both want to spend more time out west before we take to the sea. We realize that once we get the boat and move aboard we won’t be traveling as much across the entire country, so if we want to go back out west (which we both do badly!) then the time to do it is sooner rather than later. We are beginning to get excited about our future plans (notice I don’t call them dreams – they are plans) of living on a boat. Before we do though, we plan on spending the next year or two traveling back out west while praying about and researching what our next home should be… a monohull sailboat; a catamaran; or maybe even a trawler?!?!  

So much to do… So much to see…  So little time. My words of wisdom are the same as always: Don’t just dream it, DO IT! Live each day intentionally and to it’s fullest. And of course – SMILE!

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

Here’s a video Greg put together highlighting our stay at Big Water Marina

3 Years Traveling Full-Time

It’s hard to believe that we began this journey three years ago today – on February 18th of 2016. What’s truly hard to believe is not how long it’s been, but rather the fact that it feels as if we’ve been living this roving lifestyle WAY longer than only a mere three years. In some ways it’s stressful and in some ways it’s downright exhausting, but in most ways it’s nothing short of amazing.

One of our homesites in Advance, N.C. (#69 below). Our Reflection/home is on the left and J.Jay and Elijah are on the bridge. Our site was the best one in the entire campground.

This past year has been the least exciting travel-wise as we have hung out more in the eastern half of the country with not as many new experiences as our first two years on the road. But the longer we live this traveling lifestyle, the more we are inclined to slow down and simply enjoy the journey. We are not in a hurry and are relishing taking whatever time we want and need to spend with our loved ones. Our priority this past year, which will continue far into 2019, has been getting in lots of visits with family and friends until we head back out west again for a spell. We have certainly done and continue to do exactly that! By the end of 2019 we will need to help get J.Jay and Elijah established for the long term as well.

In 2018 we made it a point to spend some extended time with all of our grown kids and our grandkids in both North and South Carolina. In addition, we were blessed to get in lots of visits with friends and relatives in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Michigan. Since we left, we have come to appreciate our friends and family more than ever as absence has indeed made our hearts grow fonder.

Just because it’s been the least exciting travel-wise, does not mean it hasn’t been exciting. In keeping with tradition, we made it a point to see as many sights along the way as possible. Some of the highlights of our 3rd year were: day trips to both New York City and to Washington D.C.; extensively exploring Amish country in Lancaster County Pennsylvania; multi-day visits to both The Creation Museum and The Ark Encounter; beach days at the #1 Beach in the USA in Siesta Key as well as several others on the gulf side of Florida; dancing with the old(er) folks at The Villages, canoeing Price Lake off the Blue Ridge Parkway, kayaking the gorgeous turquoise waters of Rainbow Springs in Central Florida, and more. Also, a very special treat this past year was spending Christmas in Orlando where, since our 22 year old, J.Jay, was with us on his Christmas break, he and our youngest, Elijah, were able to spend 4 days at Universal Studios in Orlando as part of their Christmas present (they each contributed $$$$ as well). Yes, it has definitely been a good year. It has been a good THREE years!!!

As of this writing, February 18, 2019, we are staying at Tampa East RV Resort in our 76th campsite/homesite to date. (To see our first 53 campsites click here: 2nd Anniversary Post) We are wintering in Florida this year and I, Pamela, have been reaping the health benefits of plentiful Vitamin D at the various pools and beaches along the way. Speaking of health, this has also been a year of improving our health. We have all lost weight, upped our activity levels, and all three of us have become healthier versions of our previous selves. I, Pamela, have been strictly keto (short for ketogenic diet) as well as practicing Intermittent Fasting consistently since early June of 2018. As a result, not only do I feel terrific, but also I have lost and kept off 25 lbs. This way of eating has done wonders for my overall health and energy levels and has turned from a diet into a lifestyle for me. Greg has been on and off keto himself this year, depending on circumstances. He definitely feels much better when he’s eating keto consistently. Elijah eats healthy and relatively low sugar and he walks incessantly.

Speaking of Elijah, he has decided that he wants to graduate high school by the time he turns 18, which is November of this year. To that end, we are amping up his homeschool and he’s now doubling up finishing 11th grade and starting 12th at same time. His desire is not only to graduate, but also to move in with J.Jay when he turns 18. Now that he has determined this to be his definite goal, he is quite motivated to do what he needs to do to pull it off. He is still fine with this lifestyle, but he doesn’t love it like Greg and I do. Honestly, he loved this lifestyle the first year, liked it the second year, and has tolerated it this past year. Although he’s not complaining, he’s clearly ready for the next phase of his life and has a strong desire to settle down and begin his life as an adult. I would expect nothing less. One of the things that I have said many times about all of my kiddos is that we are not raising them to be kids, rather to be independent adults. He’s already transitioning into an adult mindset, for sure. Thankfully, he and J.Jay are still very close and they are both on the same page with plans of getting an apartment to share. What a blessing for them as well as for us. Talk about peace of mind.

As I mentioned above, the first two years we stayed in 53 campsites, so that’s an average of 26.5 per year. As of today we are up to campground number 76! So during our third year we have stayed in a total of 23 different homesites. We have been saying that we want to slow down a bit, but these numbers would show otherwise. In keeping with our tradition, below are pictures of each one of our homesites (as I prefer to call them) them during our third year. Again, if you want to see our first 2 years of campsites I linked to that blog post above. Third Year Campsites:

Last year was a year of family and friends and this year will be much of the same, adding in a whole lot of transitioning. Elijah will be transitioning to an independent (hopefully) adult, J.Jay will be transitioning out of college, and Greg and I will be transitioning into empty-nesters. It’s all a bit emotional and even scary for me, but exciting for everyone else. That said, I am excited about transitioning back out west (which I miss more than I ever expected) and ultimately transitioning onto a liveaboard sailboat as well!

We have learned a great deal in these past three years. To live with less stuff and in less space as been a huge life-altering lesson for us. The less I have, the more I realize just how little I need… or want. At this point, the idea of more/bigger almost overwhelms me. We have also learned (and are still learning) to not let the little things define us and not let the stresses this lifestyle brings take away from the excitement and adventure that only a lifestyle like this could afford. Although slowing down sounds better and better the longer we travel, I honestly still can’t fathom actually “settling down” anytime soon. This lifestyle has so many more pros than cons that I, Pamela, don’t have a single regret that we began this journey when and how we did, 3 years ago today. Greg and Elijah may say otherwise, but hey… I don’t see either one of them writing a blog entry! As for me, this traveling lifestyle is a perfect fit and I hope and pray that it is a lifestyle we find ourselves living for many years to come. (Traveling by land, and soon by sea… but still traveling!) It keeps me healthy, happy, and whole.

As I always say, I will try to blog more frequently this next year. That said, I am so busy these days (with no end in sight for this year) that I’m not sure I can actually keep that promise. I do promise to try though. To keep in touch with us as we travel on more frequent basis, follow our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page where we post pictures and updates in real time. Until then…

Here is a map of our travels just since we began our journey 3 years ago. We’ve also been up into Canada a bit (Vancouver) but haven’t purchased the Canadian add-on yet.

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!!!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Back in late February when we were staying in Wildwood, Florida, Elijah and I spent a day at this wonderful state park.  To say that Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park was an unexpected surprise would be a major understatement.  While there, we learned that the Florida State Park’s motto is The Real Florida and they weren’t kidding.  I grew up in South Florida and this felt like stepping back in time to even before my childhood.  Back to an era when there was more to Florida than mobs of people going to (or wanting to go to) Disney World or whatever other theme park hooked them in.  That is the only Florida that most people visit…  this is the Real Florida.  These pictures show that The Real Florida is so much wilder, richer and breathtakingly beautiful than the Florida that most people see.

After spending time in the Orlando area (no, we didn’t do any theme parks this time around.) we have come to the conclusion that we really like the central Florida area.  We were only here to see some friends and family while biding time and trying to stay warm for the last part of the winter.  Having grown up in South Florida and having lived in the state a great portion of my life, the prospect of spending time in Florida didn’t excite me at all.  Boy was I wrong.  Although I’d been to Central Florida, I had never really spent any major time here (other than theme parks) and had no idea how pretty and full of wildlife The Real Florida was!  We are already making plans to return.  We have since left Florida and have now come full circle to end up back in South Carolina for some extended visits with friends and family, (no, we aren’t settling down – we are only here for 6 weeks, then North Carolina for another 6 weeks.  Can you say “GRANDKIDDO TIME”?!?!?! (I know, I didn’t say it… I yelled it!)

Remember, not all who wander are lost.  Until next time…

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

2 Years – Over 50 Campsites

 

I’ve decided to do a special Second Anniversary Celebration Blog showing every single campsite that we have “lived” in since we began our journey on February 18, 2016.  I originally thought this post wouldn’t be too difficult, until I counted my journal entries from my Home Site Diary.  Do you realize that we have stayed in over 50 different campsites since we started?  I sure didn’t. We’ve stayed at a total of 53 locations in the past 2 years, including our old driveway as the first one.  Enough talk, let’s take a visual tour….  shall we?

Wow!  In the two years since we set off, not only have we stayed at 52 different campsites (not including our old driveway), but we have stayed in a total of 18 different states! We had our oldest granddaughter, Saylor, living with us for a total of 7½ months of this time and our full-time college student son, J.Jay, for a total of 2 months.  We were able to fly him to visit us during his college breaks on 3 different occasions to 3 different states: California, Arizona, and Texas. It’s been an amazing two years, but it’s not all perfection.  Not by a long shot.

While this has been an exhilarating and wild ride, and one that we have no intention of getting off of anytime soon, we are finding it all a bit more bumpy and stressful (and expensive!) than we had originally anticipated.  Looking back and realizing that we have averaged a new campground every 2 weeks for 2 whole years has been quite eye opening.  We do not want to crash and burn, yet trying to continue at this pace while working and homeschooling may be a recipe for just that… burnout.  To avoid that happening, we have made a conscious decision to be more intentional about relocating less often during our next two years, which is much easier said than done. We are still learning how to slow down a bit and enjoy the journey.  If we were retired it would be different as we could go sightseeing every day or so, but that’s simply not the case.  We are in this for the long haul and with Greg’s work and our homeschooling we really need to be more intentional about taking more time to explore God’s creation at a slower pace.

We have also confirmed what we anticipated when it comes to how the weather affects my health.  The lack of humidity out west made an even bigger difference in how I felt and how well I functioned on a daily basis than even I realized.  It’s recently becoming even more evident as my health slowly began deteriorating once again as soon as we hit the beautiful yet cold (at least it was this past winter) and humid state of Texas. Unfortunately, my overall health is back to being less than ideal more often than not as we continue to make our way back east. That said, we are past due for some some serious extended visits with our grown kids and grandkids as well as other family and friends, so I will just have to deal with it.  Although I really should know better by now, I am still taken aback at how intensely and negatively something as simple as the weather can affect me. I’m already dreaming of returning to Arizona and doing some serious hiking!

Although this lifestyle has been a good and growing thing for the three of us as a family as well as for each of us individually, I must admit that I seem to like it the most of the three of us. Greg and Elijah like it as well, but they both on occasion fantasize about returning to the way things used to be when we didn’t relocate our entire house on such a regular basis. Thankfully, their fantasies are generally fleeting and tend to occur only during particularly stressful or down days.  I, on the other hand, am quite addicted to this nomadic lifestyle and am praying that slowing down just a bit will make their occasional fantasies a thing of the past.

I’ve said it so many times before, but I do plan on blogging more frequently from here on out.  Hopefully my plans will become a reality!  Until then…

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

P.S.  As I hope you’ve already noticed, I have completely revamped our blog/website.  In addition to changing the overall look and feel, I also added more content in the main menus, especially the “Our Rig” section.  If you’d like to see our sweet setup, including some pictures of the inside of our home, click on the “Our Rig” menu option above.  Hope you enjoy the new look and feel!

Living Life to The Fullest

It takes a lot of time and energy to live life to the fullest. This is the reason I haven’t written a blog entry since August!  Part of me feels guilty for not blogging more often than I have this past year, but it’s only a tiny part.  A teeny, tiny, teeniny (no, that’s not a typo…  it’s my word!) part at that!  It’s hard to feel guilt or regret when I realize that the reason I rarely blog is because I’m so busy living and enjoying each day.  That is the story of my life lately, too busy to blog – I consider it a very good problem to have. I know I have said this a zillion times, but we are soooooooo not retired!  In many ways we are busier living daily life in this lifestyle than we were before, but it’s a good busy and one that I truly enjoy.  That said, I have been posting pictures and updates on our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page regularly as that is much easier and faster to just post in there each day rather than to take the time to sit down and write.

As you saw from my last post, we spent this past summer in the Pacific Northwest.  Since my last post, we explored much of the state of Washington, spending a total of 8 weeks there in all. We then spent time in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and are now wintering in various areas of our “home” state of Texas until the end of January.

Though we have seen and done a lot of memorable things these past few months, some things are more memorable than others.  One of the most memorable being our whale watching excursion in the San Juan Islands out of Anacortes, Washington.  We saw two different pods of Orca’s (along with other wildlife) but were also blessed when three of them (a mom and her two calves) swam right up alongside our boat so we were able to enjoy them up close and personal.  This was truly an experience that none of us will ever forget.

Another incredibly memorable experience for us was our visit to Yellowstone in September.  This was a first for all three of us and again, something none of us will ever forget. We stayed just outside the park for a week so we went in several times.  The first part of the week were were in short sleeves, but the end of the week brought their first snowfall of the season. This meant we got to enjoy the park as if it was summer (without the massive crowds) and as if it was winter!  We couldn’t have planned it any better.  We saw bison, mountain goats, elk, geysers, and more…  all up close and personal.  Yellowstone was one of our absolute favorite National Parks.

Since my last entry we also saw moose in Wyoming, spent time at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and revisited Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, which is an old favorite from our first year on this adventure.  We did so much more than I can possibly write here and all while working (Greg has been working even more hours than usual the past several months!), homeschooling, and all things that need to be done in everyday life in our tiny yet perfect-sized rolling home.

As I said above, we are spending the bulk of this winter in our home state of Texas.  Elijah turned 16 less than a month ago so we were finally able to visit the DMV and get his learner’s permit.  Our plan while in Texas is to take care of all those things like DMV, vet visits, and other such necessary appointments.   We are currently staying about 1 hour east of Houston in a campground off the Colorado River.  We spent Thanksgiving here and will have been here three weeks this coming Sunday. Our next “Scenery Swap Day” is Sunday and we are going to be relocating to a campground off Medina Lake which is 40 miles  northwest of downtown San Antonio.  This is where we will be for four weeks, to fly J.Jay in during his college Christmas break and to spend our Christmas here.  Fun times are always ahead!   The end of January we will start slowly making our way to Florida, and then to end up in the Carolinas for the Spring of ’18.  The key word here is slowly. We are still learning (after our whirlwind fall trip from Washington down to Texas) that slower is better and definitely a great deal less stressful when it comes to this lifestyle.

If you haven’t already, like and follow our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page to follow us more closely on our journey.  I will definitely continue blogging, but I’m not in a hurry about it.  I’m quite sure that by the next time I write it will be 2018 – a brand new year!

Happy Trails, Sunny Sails and a Very Merry CHRISTmas!

A Year and a Half into our Journey and We’ve Found Our Groove

I haven’t written a blog post in almost three months, as we’ve been cRaZy busy. But since we are quickly approaching the 18 month mark of this journey, which will occur on the 18th day of August, I figured I was past due for some reflecting on life in our Reflection. (Pun intended.)

I do want to make sure you all know that I made a new Facebook page for Wheels and Sails and that is another reason for my less frequent blogging.  I find it much easier and faster to post pictures there instead of saving them until I try to find time to update my blog.  To that end, although I fully plan on continuing to write my blog, I don’t foresee writing it as frequently as I did our first year.  We are simply too busy living, working, homeschooling, playing, and exploring new areas, for me to blog as often as I did when we started out.  To that end, please continue following our blog AND follow us on Facebook by clicking here: Wheels and Sails Facebook Page. Make sure you both “Like” and “Follow” our page, and furthermore go into the settings by clicking on the little ∇ button on the “Follow” tab to set the notifications of our updates as you so desire.

I last left you with pictures from beautiful Bryce Canyon in Utah.  After spending three uplifting weeks in Utah, we spent three idyllic weeks in Idaho as we continued to make our way up to our summer destination being the pacific northwest.  For June and half of July we spent six outstanding weeks in Oregon;  three in Bend and then three on the coast in the Seaside area.  Absolutely gorgeous! Next we headed up to the wonderful state of Washington where we are spending the remainder of our summer.  By the time we leave this state, we will have spent a total of eight weeks here.  We were in the Silver Creek area first, which is about two hours south of Seattle, we are now in the San Juan area for three weeks, after which we head to the Spokane area for our final two weeks in Washington.  We are then super excited to be heading to Yellowstone in September, but I’ll leave that for a future blog.

Since I last wrote, we have been not only to the areas I mentioned above, but also to: Ketchum, Sun Valley, Bruneau Dunes State Park, Ernest Hemingway’s gravesite, Hemingway Memorial, Shoshone Falls, Crater Lake, Mount Bachelor, Deschutes National Forest, Benham Falls, Lava River Cave (spelunking!), Tumalo Falls, Pilot Butte State Park, Sunriver, we drove the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (and visited many lakes along the byway), Cannon Beach (Haystack rock!), Astoria (where The Goonies movie was filmed), Ecola State Park, Mount Hood, Fort Clatsop, Long Beach, Hood River & Columbia Gorge, we crossed the Bridge of the Gods, Tillamook Trail, Seaside Aquarium, Cape Disappointment & Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, Pirate’s Cove,  Rockaway Beach, Portland, Columbia River Maritime Museum (and was able to board and explore the lightship Columbia), Tillamook Cheese Factory, Fort Steven’s State Park, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Silver Lake, Olympia (and capitol building), Hoodsport, Hood Canal, Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier, Seattle, Anacortes,  and we had our first ever beach bonfire on coast of Oregon.  These are listed in no particular order as I try to rack my memory, so hopefully I haven’t forgotten much.  I’ll post some highlight pictures below, but if you want to see all of our awesome pictures, go to the Wheels and Sails Facebook page that I linked above.

So far we’ve had an amazing summer here with the best summer weather one can ask for.  Greg has been looking the most forward to the exploring the pacific northwest area more in detail and he has not been disappointed. I honestly think he would live here full time if not for me and my lack of tolerance for cold temperatures.  The highlight of our summer so far was when Elijah’s friend, Ian, flew out to Portland while we were at Seaside for a two week visit. The boys got along perfectly and truly seemed to have a blast during his visit.  It was overdue for Elijah to be able to spend some extended time with a friend face-to-face as opposed to only on the phone and online.  Ian took to everything about our lifestyle like a duck to water.  I do believe I see full-timing in his future, or tiny living at the very least.  Not long after Ian flew back home, we had a Scenery Swap day and then Greg flew out of Seattle back east as well to visit our grown kids and grand-kids.  That was another overdue visit that he enjoyed immensely.  As you can see…  we have definitely been a bit busy lately!  This should help you understand a bit better why I haven’t written in so long!

As I alluded to in the title, all three of us (four if you count Popeye) really seemed to have found our groove in this lifestyle.  The newness and stress of all the unknowns lingering constantly in the back of our heads like “where are we going to stay next” and “what if we can’t find a campground to stay in” and “what if we blow a tire” and “what if something major happens to our 5th wheel” and “what if we don’t have cell service for Greg to be able to work” and on and on and on…  are no longer nagging at us.  Not that these are never potential issues, but we realize from experience that God always has our backs and none of these are unsolvable problems.  Also, our Thousand Trails membership coupled with our RPI membership has made a huge difference in the ease, planning, and cost associated with finding and booking campgrounds.  I can’t imagine full timing without it! As of now, we are booked up until mid December.  We can change whatever we want, whenever we want, but it sure does help my stress levels to be booked out in advance and know where we will be when and to simply not have to worry about it.

Honestly, I don’t think any of us realized how much stress these unknowns were adding to each of us in different ways until they started slowly disappearing as we have become more and more comfortable with this lifestyle.  It’s like we were holding our breath in a sense and didn’t realize how much so until we slowly but surely began to breathe easily again.  I guess the big difference now is these unknowns are no longer scary, stressful unknowns.  We’ve now gone through enough to know that although we still never truly know what tomorrow will bring (who does?), we do know for an absolute fact who holds tomorrow.  We have experienced and lived the reality that we truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!  It’s not that “we’ve got this” so much as “He’s got this” and he’s proven Himself time and again to be so very faithful to us throughout this entire journey.  So we have (or speaking for myself, I sure have) grown in our trust and faith in Him.  He’s got this.

We are definitely more busy in this lifestyle than we were before we left, but it’s a different kind of busy.  We are not only doing everything  that we were doing on a daily basis before we left on this journey,  but we have added onto that our perpetual quest to see and do as much as we can to take in, explore, and enjoy whatever area we are in at the moment.  Almost every day at “quitting time” we jump in the car to go for a ride to hunt for wildlife, or just drive back roads, or check out somewhere that we haven’t been yet.  And every single weekend we use at least one of the days (usually both) of Greg’s time off to go on longer day trips to see and do the bigger, more time consuming and often farther away attractions (usually national or state parks)  in our given area.  Also, we always do our Scenery Swap Days on Sundays, so those are long days in and off themselves.  Although we are busy, as you can tell, I for one am much less stressed in general in this lifestyle.  I tend to have a somewhat worrisome/anxious personality which does not bode well for my multiple sclerosis.  My stress levels in general have been lower than they ever were before we left on this journey which has resulted in better health and significantly less flare-ups for me.   I have felt better and have had WAY fewer flare-ups these past 18 months than I’ve had in any 18 month time period since I was in my 20’s!  That fact alone is major in itself.  I think the reasons for my lower stress levels are a result of various factors of this lifestyle and my health was one of the reasons we set out on this journey in the first place.  First, with tiny/minimalist living I simply have far less “stuff” to have to clean, maintain, or worry about.  This fact alone is very freeing since unfortunately I am one who tends to “worry” about “stuff” naturally. Second, the weather affects my  health big-time and we are always on a quest to go where the “weather suits our soul” or my  health, anyway.  I do best with warm temps and lots of sunshine.  Extreme cold temps or extreme humidity really messes me up and almost always results in a flare-up.  We have been able to avoid these extremes entirely since we left and I am 100% sure that this fact alone has played a major role in my good health of late.  Thirdly, I am generally getting more exercise than I ever did before we left.  Not only do I take (or try to take) walks in our campground daily, but also we try to go on hikes as often as we can, but usually once a week at least.  Add to that walking around and exploring towns and areas in general and I am much more active than I was back at the house. The last reason is the one that I didn’t anticipate. I call it the beauty factor, but it’s hard for me to stay stressed when we are literally surrounded in God’s beauty.  Whenever I feel stress, I step outside our beautiful home and either sit in my rocking chair or lie in the hammock and within seconds my stress begins to dissipate.  The reality is, our surroundings are absolutely beautiful 95% of the time!  Our beautiful home is currently nestled among big trees and lush ferns, but whether it’s big, beautiful frees, mountain views, lake or river views, palm tree views, or whatever our changing “yard” brings us, it’s always different and almost always beautiful and above all – calming. It’s hard to stay stressed when you are surrounded by God’s beautiful and know that the same God who created all of this, also created and loves me (and you!) with that same perfect love and attention to detail.

All of this to say, this lifestyle really works for all of us, and it works especially well for me!  I actually have had on two different night’s a nightmare (a nightmare to me anyway)  wherein we are living in some house and I look out the window and see a fenced backyard and I literally start crying and screaming and freaking out in general.  Both times I went on a rant yelling, “What?  Why are we here?  Where is our 5th wheel? No!!!  This can’t be real!” and both times I ended up “losing it” in my dream, only to wake up right back where I belong in my own comfy bed, in my own comfy 5th wheel, which is my comfy-est and homey-est home of any of the homes that we’ve ever had.  (And we’ve had lots!)   This is just another confirmation that wherever we may be, I am always right where I belong and feel at home.  Now for our highlight reel in no particular order…

Don’t forget to follow us on our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page.  Until then…

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is right up there as one of our absolute favorite national parks.  Honestly, we love them all and they are all so different that it’s getting harder and harder to decide which ones we like best.  The truth is, they are ALL on my list of favorites!  That said, Bryce was definitely a top five.  This was a day trip for us, so we left just after 9am and didn’t return to our tiny rolling home until almost midnight. We wanted to try to get some nighttime sky pictures, but it clouded up as the sun dropped so the stars were covered.  We were able to get different lighting though.  As you will see, the pictures towards the end were taken closer to dusk, so the lighting is different which changes the feel of the entire canyon.  It was a beautiful place.

As you can see Utah was a major hit for all of us.  We visited four different national parks during the three weeks that we stayed here and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.  We are now in Idaho and are again daily awed by the beauty of God’s creation.  He really has blessed the U.S.A. more than most people realize.  Stay tuned for my next post to see some Idaho beauty.

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!

The True History of the Treatment of Japanese Americans in WWII

While in Delta, Utah, Elijah and I saw a couple of small museums in town.  One was named “Topaz Museum” and I thought it was about gems and artifacts of the area.  I decided to google it to see if it was worth a visit.  Wow, was I glad (and sad) that I did!  I found the website at www.topazmuseum.org and here is the first paragraph that I read about this unique little museum:

The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII was one of the worst violations of civil rights against citizens in the history of the United States. The government and the US Army, falsely citing “military necessity,” locked up over 110,000 men, women and children in ten remote camps controlled by the War Relocation Administration and four male-only camps controlled by the Justice Department. These Americans were never convicted or even charged with any crime, yet were incarcerated for up to four years in prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

This intrigued me. My dad fought in World War II thus the topic has always been very close to my  heart.  Elijah is very into the Japanese culture lately, he even wants to learn Japanese beginning next year as his high school foreign language.  Due to both these things I knew this was a must do field trip for us.  Elijah and I went and we were both blown away.  Honestly, I had read and heard about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but I had no idea the extent of it, nor the horrible conditions they were forced to live in.  It was appalling to say the least.  This is true history of what our government did to it’s very own citizens during the war.  Yes, 2/3 of the Japanese-Americans locked up in these camps were actually American citizens! I thought I knew this aspect of history, but I didn’t know the truth.  Now I do and as sad  as it is, I want every single American citizen to learn this part of our country’s history.  We are not exempt from mistreatment from our very own government.  Only if we know the truth about history can we be better equipped to guard against history repeating itself. The internment camp in Delta was opened on September 11, 1942.  It consisted of shoddy and only partially finished barracks barely fit for animals, certainly not humane for families, many of which included small children. Japanese-Americans families were forced to leave their homes, jobs, and most of their possessions, with the exception of only what they could carry in a suitcase.  Each person was tagged (like animals) and sent in mass by train like cattle to various internment camps throughout the United States.  As stated in the quote above, over 110,000  were locked up in these camps.  Just over 11,000 in total were sent here to Topaz in Delta, Utah from it’s opening in 1942 to it’s closing on October 31, 1945, with the peak at one time being over 8,100.  The ones sent to Topaz were all taken from the San Francisco Bay area.  Just imagine, they left behind homes, businesses, jobs, friends and  practically perfect California climate to be forced to to a desolate prison-like camp of partially unfinished and barely furnished barracks surrounded by barbed wire fencing and under the rule of armed guards. The climate in Delta made it even worse which exceeded 100 degrees in the summer and dipped below zero in winter.  They had no air conditioning and only a coal stove per barrack room for heating.  And they weren’t even completely finished so air came directly into the barracks with no insulation.   The only furniture they were provided with were army cots, mattresses, and blankets.  They were not allowed to cook in their barracks (had to line up at specific times for meals at the mess hall) and they had to go outside to communal latrines for the bathroom duties.  Did I mention the majority of these Japanese Americans were U.S. citizens?!?!

After visiting the museum Elijah and I drove the 16 miles to the location of the actual camp itself.  It was eerily desolate, yet haunting.  By visiting the website I learned why it was so barren.  “After Topaz closed in 1945, the U.S. government dismantled the camp. The wood from the buildings was either stripped for recycling or the buildings were sold. Half of a barrack was sold for $250 and half of a hospital wing for $500. Utility poles were removed as were the water pipes, leaving ditches where they once were. The original barbed wire fence remains, although the four strands of wire sag in places. Still, the area reminds visitors of what was once the fifth largest city in Utah. The camp still has the outlines of where the barracks stood, rock gardens, and pathways. The Topaz Museum Board owns 634 acres of the site which will be preserved for historic and educational purposes.” Here is what it looks like today.

After I returned home in a state of shock and sadness I took Greg back up to the museum so he could experience it as well.  And an experience is what it is.  He was equally moved.  All this to say, please share this post.  Show your kids, show your spouses, show your friends.  Research where the other internment camps were and learn the stories behind each.  This needs to be a topic of conversation and an event for us to all learn from. We must learn from history so as never to repeat it.

My next blog post will be about our visit to Bryce Canyon, so stay tuned for that. Our travels are to many beautiful places, many unique places, and many historical places.  This museum and the camp itself was one of the most memorable of all the places we’ve visited.  I want to dedicate this entire post to the plight of Japanese Americans.  As I said above, please feel free to share this post.  My heart is heavy to spread the word.

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails

P.S. One last fact, I kept wondering why it was named Topaz if it is located in Delta.  I researched it more and learned that the original name of the camp was Central Utah Relocation Center. The name had to be changed to Topaz to accommodate the U.S. Post Office because the original name was too long to fit on their required forms. Since post office names could not be duplicates, the camp couldn’t be named after Delta.

 

 

 

 

 

Utah Rocks!

Utah has welcomed us with open arms and has turned out to be an instant favorite for all of us.  I know, I know…  we have a lot of favorites.  Seriously though, we really like Utah.  It rocks….  literally!  There are rocks everywhere, but I am pleasantly surprised that there is so much more here than just rocks.  There is an abundance of farm lands, snow-capped mountains galore, forests with beautiful green deciduous trees, arches, canyons, gorges, lakes, and even waterfalls.  And of course, rocks! But not just red rocks…, there are also white rocks, grey rocks, brown rocks, green rocks and black rocks! As far as wildlife, just having been here less than a week we’ve already seen several herds of both elk and deer, jack rabbits, squirrels, and some gorgeous birds.  We even have a striking resident Black-billed Magpie who has a nest right here in our campground.  Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to get a good picture of him.  We really need a camera with an optical zoom so we can get some better pictures of all the amazing wildlife we get to see!  Speaking of wildlife, we had no idea that there are moose that live all around here as well!  How exciting is that?!?!  We are now back to taking nightly drives (just like old times) on the hunt for wildlife.  We really, REALLY want to see a Moose in the wild.

We are staying at Butch Cassidy RV Campground, which is in Salina, Utah. We are only staying here for two weeks as this is a RPI campground and that is our limit. RPI stands for Resort Parks International and is another campground membership that came with our Thousand Trails upgrade.  We can stay in RPI affiliated resorts/campgrounds for $10/night.  Some have a resort fee which can add $3-5 per night.  So at most we would pay $15/night.  Here at Butch Cassidy we have a huge 50 amp site with full hook ups (meaning sewer as well) and we are only paying $10/night.  There is a limit of two weeks that we can stay at most RPI campgrounds at that rate, but that’s fine with us.  Since there are no TT campgrounds anywhere in the states of Utah or Idaho, we are using our RPI membership as much as we can to still be able to stay at nice campgrounds for very little money.  After we leave here, we are relocating to another RPI park for one more week before we head up to Idaho as we want to have three full weeks to explore Utah.  Here are some pictures of our campsite and campground.

Salina (pronounced “Sa-line-ah” by the locals) is a small town with not a whole lot to offer except an adorable tiny grocery store, an excellent T-Mobile signal, and 360° of breathtaking scenery.  Perfect. As I said above, we are back to taking nightly drives looking for wildlife and considering that 67% of the land in Utah is federally owned land, there is BLM land to drive on and explore galore!  That was one of our favorite things about Arizona (which is 42% federally owned), but Utah has even more options for spotting wildlife in their natural habitat.  Here are some shots from around this area.

And now I’ve saved the best for last.  This campground is a good day trip distance from several National Parks.  Since everyone really wants to go to Bryce before we leave and I really wanted a day to myself, I decided to drive to Capitol Reef National Park for my very own day drive.  This was not one of the parks on the top of the list for neither Greg nor Elijah and it’s 81 miles away.  With Zippy, that’s not only doable, but fun! This is the farthest away I’ve yet to venture on my own, and boy am I glad I did. What an amazing place! When I went into the museum, which is the old homestead house, I was talking to the volunteer there and it turns out that he is Dale Gifford, the grandson of  the most recent owner! He grew up there and didn’t move away until he was in high school.  He showed me a picture in the museum of himself when he was only about 4 or 5 years old.  He showed me all the memorabilia and how and when they used it.  He said this is the first and only day he’s ever volunteered there.  What a privilege that I came on the very day that he was there!  Check it out:

Just a couple more pictures that I want to share:

My next blog will be about a park we have been looking forward to for a long time and are VERY excited about…  Bryce Canyon National Park!  Stay tuned as that blog post will be coming soon.  Until then….

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails from Moses, Exodus, Zipporah (aka Zippy), Greg, me (Pamela), Elijah, and Popeye.

The Pull of The Old – The Thrill of The New

This past month has been one of the most stressful ones yet, thus I haven’t written in a while.  The stress hasn’t had to do with our travels as much as various family issues/events.  Before I go into all of that though, let me get you caught up on our travels.  After staying in Benson, Arizona for 5 weeks (which is a long time in one place for us!) we were able to get back into Verde Valley (my personal favorite Thousand Trails campground) in Cottonwood, Arizona for another 2 weeks to extend the warm temperatures a bit longer. We decided to stay here again for two reasons.  First, to be closer to the Phoenix airport.  Secondly, we were biding time in Arizona to allow for the states farther north of us to warm up a bit more.  As I mentioned previously, Saylor has been very antsy to go back to her Mom, so we booked flights a few weeks ago out of the Phoenix airport for her and I to fly back east so she could be reunited with her mom the last week of March. We wanted to time it while we were staying in Cottonwood so we were still close enough to drive to the Phoenix airport. I also wanted to see my other grown kids, my new grandson, my mom & stepdad, sisters, a friend or two, etc. so we were thrilled that Cottonwood was able to get us back in there for two weeks during their busy season.

The week prior to our flight back east was a very stressful one with various events occurring in the life of my daughter which culminated in Saylor and Brittney (my daughter) not yet  having a stable place to live.  My son, Robby, graciously offered to open his home to them which was a major blessing that I hadn’t seen coming.  Saylor and Brittney are now living with my oldest son and his wife along with their three kiddos in the Winston-Salem area for the time being.  And when I said that was a major blessing, what I really meant was that is a MAJOR blessing!

Just before our flight took off, I got word that my stepdad in South Carolina had been rushed to the ER.  By the time I arrived in North Carolina he had been admitted to the hospital and was not doing well…  at all.  He is 82 years old and his health had been slowly but surely going downhill for quite some time.  On Tuesday, March 28th, the day of our flights, Greg drove Saylor and I the one hour and forty minutes from our campground in Cottonwood to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.  Saylor and I then had a four and a half hour flight to Charlotte, where we were met at the airport by Robby, Brittney and my other granddaughter, Nai’a. From there Robby drove us another one and a half hours back to his house in Winston-Salem. To say that I was tired at that point was an understatement, but it turned out that this was only the beginning of a week of nonstop go-go-go for me.  I got up early the next morning  (the three hour time difference helped me pull that off!) to get in a little playing time with my grandkiddos; Nai’a, Sereia, and Fisher, before leaving just after 9am to drive the three hour trek to Greenville, South Carolina.  (Robby let me drive his car down there…  THANKS, ROBBY!) I drove straight to the hospital and then spent most of the day there visiting my mom and stepdad.  I was blessed with an invitation by a special friend, Anna Lisa Haskell, to stay at “Hotel Haskell” for that night (Wednesday) and I was thrilled that although I was pushed for time I was still able to get in a nice visit with her and her family before I hit the hay.  (Actually, it was not hay, but rather a very cool murphy bed and a comfy one at that!)  I returned to the hospital the next day only to learn that they were releasing my stepdad (way prematurely, as he is back in the hospital again even as I write!) so I spent most of that day (Thursday) at their house trying to help out. He really needed (and still needs) twenty-four hour care that is impossible for any one person to pull off, much less my 79 year old Mom who deals with health issues of her own.  That was an exhausting, back-breaking and stressful day in itself which l won’t go into, but one that left me with more empathy for my Mom than I ever imagined and more sadness for the state of health of my stepdad than I can even put into words.  His name is Newberne and my mom is Lucille and they are both still in much need of prayer. Although I was not able to get in all the visits that I had planned on and wanted to while in South Carolina, I am grateful that I was able to see J.Jay at college (took him to dinner and visited his dorm room, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of us!); all three of my sisters; and one of my nieces, Allyse, during my visit as well.

I drove the three hours back to Winston-Salem late that Thursday evening so I could spend some more time visiting with my grown kids and my granddaughters and my ‘still new’ grandson, Fisher, who had just turned four months old shortly before my arrival there.  Finally, I flew back to Arizona early that same Sunday.  To say that that was a very full five days is an understatement!  Less than forty-eight hours after arriving home I came down with a nasty cold that unfortunately I have still to this day.  Not a biggie, just a head cold with an ongoing sore throat and feeling more tired than usual.  The only bummer is it’s now been almost two weeks and the annoying cold still lingers.   All of that said, neither the extreme stress nor my immune system being compromised by this cold, has led to the typical result (for me) of a multiple sclerosis flare up.  Looking back I realized that prior to this cold, I have not been sick at all for over six months! (A broken nose from my fall does not equal a sickness.) Being full-time travelers has enabled us to spend this entire winter in a dryer, warmer climate which resulted in the first winter in ten years (yes, I counted, TEN) that I have NOT had a single multiple sclerosis flare-up…  not even one!  I have had a few ms-y days and issues here and there, but not one true flare-up.  As I deal with the recurring guilt of not living back east to be there as often physically for my grown kids and for my aging parents, I realize that if I was still living back there I would not be able to be much help anyway! I’d be spending most of my winter the same way I spent the last ten – down and out, in ongoing pain and miserable in flare-up after flare-up. The pull of the old is strong and the guilt of being so far away from loved ones as we travel is something that I  personally deal with regularly.  That said, I remember how miserable I felt each and every winter and I am honestly and selfishly grateful to be able to winter in warm, dry climates at least for the time being. I also pacify my guilt with continually reminding myself of the fact that I’ve flown or driven back east a total of four times since we left; and we’ve flown J.Jay, our son who’s a full-time college student, out to visit us two times just in the first year since we left!  Although that frequency can’t possibly continue to be the case in the future (we simply can’t afford it!) that reality of this past year still has to count for something!

That was a great deal of detail having very little to do with our travels, but having everything to do with why I haven’t blogged in over a month!  After my return ‘home’ we finally left the state of Arizona and are currently staying in Las Vegas, Nevada at Las Vegas RV Resort for two weeks.  This is honestly not an area we like nor want to spend much time in (it is nicknamed Sin City, need I say more?!?!) but it is a sensible means to an end.  There is a Thousand Trails RV park here that with our membership only costs us $3/night for a 50 amp site.  After having spent so much money of flights and other family related issues (such as a new engine for J.Jay’s car!) the ability to utilize our TT membership whenever we can and spend less money on campgrounds is a blessing.  Also, we are continuing to bide our time until the weather in Utah really does suit our soul.  The temperatures are still a bit too low there for us to head there too soon.  We needed to stay in Nevada as a good halfway point and to have a couple more weeks for Utah to warm up, for my health’s sake.  While here we are mainly hunkering down to get some much needed work done (not only Greg, but me as well as after having had Saylor for six months I am behind on literally EVERYTHING!), we have ventured out a bit to explore some of the beautiful sights in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas.  So far we’ve visited the Valley of Fire State Park as well as Lake Mead Recreation Area.  Both of which were impressively beautiful, to say the least.  Apparently there is more to Vegas than the strip.  Check it out…

We did, of course, check out the strip.  The area has been cleaned up a lot more than the last time we visited many years ago (17 years actually), especially during the daytime. It’s definitely a sight to see…  just not my cup of tea.  Here are a few pictures we took…

As I said above, we are staying here for only two weeks at Las Vegas RV Resort.  It’s very tight and crowded, but it serves the purpose.  Here are some pictures from our campground (if you can call it that) and the surrounding area:

I recently read an article in an RV magazine wherein someone answered the question as to why they like to travel often with, “I’m in love with the thrill of the new”.  This resonated with me deep down to the depths of my being.  Although we travel full time for several reasons, I realized right then and there that I too am completely and totally in love with “the thrill of the new”.  This is one of the reasons why I am especially excited about our upcoming summer as most of it will be totally new territory and new adventures for all three of us.  We are heading to Utah in one week and will stay there for a month, then we head to Idaho, then Oregon for June and part of July, and then we’ll round off our summer the end of July and August in the state of Washington.  The thrill of the new is calling our names.  Stay tuned as I promise to blog more and share our new adventures as we experience them.  One state at a time…

Until then, from me (Pamela), Greg, and Elijah… Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!